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Amazon's Frank of Ireland tries the arrested development storyline that has been done too many times before

  • "Plenty of shows have successfully detailed the lives of people without direction or scruples before," says Caroline Framke of the Amazon/Channel 4 comedy starring Brian Gleeson and his older and more famous brother Domhnall Gleeson. "It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, for one, has raised it to an art form, managing to squeeze 15 seasons (and counting!) out of its dirtbag characters. Peep Show, to use one British example of many, similarly makes a hilarious meal of its central pair’s selfish dysfunction. But making a series about bad or otherwise unmotivated characters requires a smarter, more pointed perspective than Frank of Ireland cares to demonstrate. Maybe some people will enjoy turning their brains off for the schadenfreude of seeing some dummies pinwheel into each other to increasingly disastrous effect. Beyond that, Frank of Ireland might have more trouble convincing skeptical viewers to spend their precious time with such hopelessly frustrating people."


    • Frank of Ireland is an opportunity wasted: "There are hits amid the many misses. The chemistry between the brothers warms the experience and gives it a charm it would otherwise struggle to summon," says Lucy Mangan. "Their timing – particularly Brian’s, who has most to do – is immaculate; some of the viewer’s dislike of and frustration with the character may be mitigated by the comic mastery on show....There are laughs to be had, although they tend to be the effect of accumulated smiles rather than direct responses. But, overall, the sense is of an opportunity wasted – especially as the series wears on and there is no sign of any change or enlightenment, apart from tiny, insubstantial flashes from poor, downtrodden Doofus. Still, it will do the Gleesons – rightly established and acknowledged talents in film and television – no harm. You just wish it could have done us some good."
    • Frank of Ireland isn't very good, but the latter episodes have potential: "In a six-episode season, how many episodes need to have potential — without any ever succeeding wholly — to suggest a show has potential overall?" says Daniel Fienberg. "How many jokes in an otherwise inconsistent episode need to somewhat land in order for that episode to be considered as having potential? How are those numbers impacted if the second half of a short season might be more potential-filled than the first? With the exception of the beloved educational format Square One Television, nobody watches comedy with a calculator in hand. So if I tell you that Frank of Ireland isn't very good, but that the third, fourth and sixth episodes at least had elements that made me chuckle, is that arithmetic really going to get you to watch? And why? Certainly, I'm not going to be able to sell you on a description of Frank of Ireland, created by siblings Brian and Domhnall Gleeson with Michael Moloney; it's impossible to avoid making it sound like any of a hundred lazy sitcoms or indie films about boorish man-children, their cringe-inducing misadventures and the friends and family who inexplicably love them."
    • Frank of Ireland has loads of potential: "The series, written and created by the Gleeson brothers alongside their longtime friend Michael Moloney, doesn’t have the awkward teething pains of most introductory seasons, feeling instantly familiar as it bulldozes straight into outlandish plots from the opening episode," says Alistair Ryder. "But it quickly becomes apparent that this familiarity is largely because the characters are written in broad strokes, taking a few episodes to find their footing as more than just sitcom archetypes. And even when the show is at its best, the stories it tells aren’t anything you haven’t seen before. But it’s to the show’s credit that an episode like 'A Few Good Angry Women' (an episode-long detour about Frank trying to derail a gender-swapped stage production of 12 Angry Men, which Doofus wrote the score for) stands on its own two feet despite liberally lifting from various Simpsons episodes and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s musical episode 'The Nightman Cometh.' At this point in the show’s run, the supporting characters start getting fleshed out—and part of the joy from the second half of the season comes from seeing their relationships develop when thrown into familiar sitcom tropes. It’s something of a paradox; the more confident Frank of Ireland becomes in following the footsteps of its various sitcom influences, the more it gets a handle on its own characters. It bodes well for potential future seasons."
    • Frank of Ireland is like a real-life version of Beavis and Butt-Head: "You get the feeling, as Frank of Ireland progresses that it sometimes tries a little too hard to wring laughs from any number of awkward situations a la Curb Your Enthusiasm (sans the mockumentary backdrop) — and you wonder why the surrounding characters don’t take more offense to Frank and Doofus’ disastrous social miscues and mishaps in the series, which was written by the Gleesons and Michael Moloney," says Michael Starr. "At the same time, both Domhnall, 37, and Brian, 33, show a distinct flair for comedy when not forcing the issue."
    • Domhnall Gleeson recalls spending years reworking and refining Frank of Ireland: "I do think we cycled through a few different versions of things that could be and there just came a point where we committed to laughs and we committed to trying to make something that would make you laugh out loud, if possible," he says. "It’s a very difficult thing to do."
    • Brian Gleeson says Frank of Ireland was borne out of wanting to work his brother: "God knows where Frank, the main character, came from, but there's something about Frank not being able to grow up and being stuck in childhood. Myself and Domhnall are brothers, and Domhnall is childhood friends with (co-creator) Michael (Moloney), so there was something about the shared references of childhood or something kind of bleeding into the process in some form, so I think maybe Frank comes out of that in a way."

    TOPICS: Frank of Ireland, Amazon Prime Video, Brian Gleeson, Domhnall Gleeson, Michael Moloney