Friday Night Dinner criticism is missing the point

Ian Sandwell
Photo credit: Channel 4

From Digital Spy

Friday Night Dinner is back for another six helpings of Goodman family antics – and six seasons in, it's still business as usual.

Robert Popper's brilliant Channel 4 sitcom has been criticised over its run for the fact that every episode plays out the same, with Adam and Jonny arriving for a dinner they'll never eat due to a series of increasingly chaotic events.

But that criticism is missing the point as it's exactly what makes Friday Night Dinner such a hit.

Photo credit: Channel 4

The best sitcoms often work because fans know what to expect and the show gives it to them. While Friday Night Dinner might take this literally with its familiar beats, that's what gives Popper's sitcom its extra seasoning.

With the impending knowledge of disaster coming, an episode of Friday Night Dinner isn't just spent laughing at the Goodman family and their weird neighbour Jim (Mark Heap).

Instead, you're always on the lookout for the carefully-calibrated events that will lead to the ultimate disaster that caps the episode. While you might think you know how it'll unfold, Popper delights in taking it to extremes you'd never think.

It's like a dinner version of Final Destination, just with the gruesome deaths replaced with domestic chaos instead.

And season six is no different in this regard.

Photo credit: Channel 4

The excellent opening episode 'The Caravan' revolves around Martin's (Paul Ritter) beloved new purchase of a truly terrible caravan, one that Jackie (Tamsin Greig) refuses to step foot in.

They are only communicating by walkie-talkies when the boys arrive, so you get a steady stream of gags of Martin getting increasingly desperate at getting Jackie into the caravan, even stealing the soup for dinner.

Jim enters the picture (RIP Wilson), and because Jim's house has been flooded with sewage, they let him go in the caravan. Can't go wrong, right? A truly disgusting moment follows that you won't see coming – and will find hard to forget.

There's still time for Martin to reveal an unexpectedly sweet tribute to Jackie in his caravan before that, inevitably, leads to more chaos.

Photo credit: Channel 4

Other episodes in season six revolve around Martin's obsession with a plastic bag stuck in a tree, Jonny and Adam bringing their girlfriends (or "females" as Martin puts it) round to meet the parents, and Jackie's sister Val having to cook Friday night dinner for once.

Season six again highlights that Friday Night Dinner boasts one of the best comedy ensembles on TV.

Tamsin Greig, Paul Ritter, Simon Bird, Tom Rosenthal and Mark Heap are just so finely attuned to their characters that they make the familiar fresh, with them all sharing a winning chemistry.

It makes the show such an easy watch, and we don't mean that in a backhanded way. Every episode feels like you're checking in with family over the road – and their weird, but lovable, neighbour.

Photo credit: Channel 4

And just because these episodes follow the well-established structure of Friday Night Dinner, that doesn't mean there won't be surprises ahead.

As fans know from the devastating death of Wilson in the season five finale, Popper isn't against doing the unexpected.

Thankfully, season six doesn't have another Wilson Moment, but it ends with a couple of surprises that'll have you itching for another season. Despite reports to the contrary, it seems as though this isn't the end for Friday Night Dinner.

To that, we can all say in true Jim fashion... shalom!

Friday Night Dinner returns for its sixth (and probably not last) series this Friday, March 27 at 10pm on Channel 4.

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