Obsessed with Friday Night Dinner
My husband suggested titling this Friday Night Mishegoss, or Mishpocha Mishegoss but anyone not understanding Yiddish would not get those titles so let’s call them subtitles. (Translation so you do not have to Google: Friday Night Craziness, or Family Craziness) Thanks Gary.
I will start off right here by boldly stating that I am doing you a HUGE favor that you will THANK me for later, in your reading this particular blog. I like to be of service to my readers, and I consider this as a good deed, indeed.
I also have to say that my tastes in movies and shows are not exactly mainstream or normal, so you may not agree with me about this one. I like weird, quirky characters, and I love to laugh out loud at slapstick behavior. Not just physical slapstick, but situational slapstick is a love of mine.
Are you aware that there are people on this Earth that DO NOT LIKE SLAPSTICK? It is torture for these types to watch the Three Stooges, or The Marx Brothers, or Laurel and Hardy. They find nothing funny about lunatic behavior.
Not I. I love to laugh, and slapstick tickles my funny bone. It’s just the way I am made.
There are also people who do not like British humor – meaning any form of British humor, from the drier sort to the slapstick zany stuff. So if you are among those who do not like slapstick or British humor, just skip on by the rest of this blog and discontinue reading. Or you may want to continue to read about what a crazy obsessed person does when she is enamored with something. (That crazy person would be me.)
When I like something, no, when I love something, I tend to gush and gush about it, write about it, talk about it, look up every article online about it, find people who agree with me, and form circles of people who are in the know to discuss it. In other words, I obsess over the “thing” of the moment.
This moment’s thing for me is a TV show – a comedy that appeared on British television for six seasons so far. It is a big hit there, and it actually has acquired a huge cult following, first there, and then around the world. It reminds me of both All in the Family, which was originally based on a British comedy, and an old British comedy from public television that I watched in the 70’s called “Doctor in the House.”
The show is called Friday Night Dinner. It is available in the US on Amazon Prime, but only for the first four seasons. I am chomping at the bit for the other two seasons, but they are not available to me yet.
At first, when I binged through the first season, I thought it was funny, even laugh-out-loud funny, but more than anything else, it was ODD and during the first few episodes, I had to get used to it. I slowly grew to like it through the first season and the characters started growing on me. Although some of the regular “shtick” becomes a bit wearing (such as the brother’s pranks on each other or their rivalry) – watching the characters react in a variety of episodes and seasons was thrilling as I got to know and got attached to the characters. And then, I loved it. It is zany and fun.
The show’s premise is extremely odd in and of itself: it is about a “secular” Jewish family in England, who has a “Shabbat” or Friday Night Dinner at the parent’s home every single week. So each and every episode, with the exception of one or two, is set at the family home in a setting very familiar to observant Jewish people: that is with the candlesticks lit, and a big Challah bread on the table ready for a Shabbat meal. Each episode begins with the sons’ cars pulling up to the house for this occasion.
Other than the candlesticks and Challah as seen in every episode (give or take a few episodes outside the dinner) there is absolutely very little to do about the Jewish religion in this show. In fact, other than the mention of their Judaism by others like their neighbor, a viewer might never know that they were gathering for the Jewish Friday Night Dinner. It could be just the way the family gets together once a week. There are no prayers, and no indication this is a religious observance. But part of the very funny aside in each episode is their neighbor’s thinking of them as aliens or people from another planet due to their being Jewish, and his imagining of their possibly alien rituals.
The characters are in turns wacky, weird, disgusting, pathetic, or utter caricatures, and the situations that come up are unique to their wackiness. There is no telling what an episode will bring. It makes sense that the mother in the series is the only normal person, a very loving and maternal character, who just has to be a party to regular craziness. Her sincere “mwahs” in each episode do not go unnoticed. This matriarch is also the object of an obsessive crush. The Dad, who rivals neighbor for overall weirdness, has a body temperature issue and a psychological condition called Pica – look it up. The acting is FANTASTIC.
My favorite episodes are the most slapstick ones – where there is a frantic chase over something ridiculous, where an over-the-top character causes chaos, or where their insane neighbor finally gets the longed-for invitation to their Friday Night Dinner, and makes hilarious and off-base remarks about the Jewish religion. In fact, at the end of this blog, I will give you my favorite episodes to watch because the great thing about this series is that you do not have to watch it in order to follow it – after the first few episodes of the first season, the characters are set up for you with their typical traits and quirks and lines. So if you do not want to commit to four seasons of this insanity, you can just watch these five or six ultra-hilarious ones to determine if you want to commit.
It surprised the heck out of me how many times I was howling with laughter. My husband, who is not as into this type of humor as I am, could not resist laughing throughout. And as we all know, laughter is good for the soul.
Aside: I absolutely LOVE the signs in the kitchen. The one that says “Mum at Work” is sort of like my sign in my kitchen that says “Balabusta at Work.” (Yiddish term for cook, and homemaker extraordinaire)
I am always debating who is the craziest character – and the two top contenders say and do the same types of silly things each and every episode. With the punchlines too, it would seem that the repetitiveness, of their dinner interruptions as an example, would get tiresome, but the writer has a way to keep it fresh. Mom, the normal one, is the victim of much of the zany behavior but yet she somehow encourages this neverending insanity while providing an anchor and love and nurturing. The visitors are always a hoot and just when you think of the insanity within the family is over the top, a visitor will show you REAL insanity.
***Obsession begins. I started reading about this show after I “committed” to seeing this series through. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 93 percent viewer approval, and Google gives it a 95 percent. That is really high for such an oddball show from England. My obsession has extended to reading everything I can about it, and about the writer and creator, Robert Popper, the original Bobble. I find myself obsessively trying to say Bobble and Jonny-boo in a British accent. I feel like I want to start a USA club for this and practice the catch-phrases together. I feel like I want to discuss the eating style of Brits versus Americans and especially the use of the knife and fork. I want to bake some apple crumble this weekend and share it with someone who will understand the significance. Someone, please help me out with this! NOTE: I now have found Facebook groups devoted to this show so I am happy to have some clubs.
In England, the show has really become popular and has been elevated to kind of Seinfeld levels, where the catchphrases from the show such as: “This is a lovely bit of squirrel,” and “Shalom Jackie,” (which people have actually TATTOOED on themselves in England) are very popular in the culture there and tossed around with great regularity. I know this because I have been researching and reading and reading and reading about this crazy show. Go ahead and Google “Shalom Jackie” if you don’t believe me. This makes me happy because it comes at a time when the world is experiencing a huge rise in antisemitism.
They are about to do a tenth-year anniversary special on British TV to celebrate it, and fans are demanding another season, though the actors are a bit tired of the old schtick. They’ve kind of jumped the shark a bit already, and some of the cast are ready to hang it up. But the point is that this show is beloved. They even had a national contest to rank the best episodes. Many of the winning episodes matched my own. In the beginning, I thought it was my little discovery, but I was wrong. It is a hit show, and popular with people who like or love this crazy brand of British slapstick. Apparently, there is an awful lot of us.
And now, if you are still interested and want to try out some of the funniest episodes, here are ones you should not miss. One more thing: I encourage watching a few first episodes of this first season to understand the characters being set up. The best episodes cannot be appreciated if you do not understand the cast of characters first. Also, keep in mind that my favorites do not include anything from Season 5 or 6 because these are not available for viewing yet in the US.
So here they are:
First, my top three which matched a national contest in England
Now – in season order the ones that are must see.
Season I – Episode 3 – “The Curtains” Grandma’s visit. Drunk Dog alert
Season I – Episode 5 – “The Mercedes” – Grandmom again! Love of Chinese food!
Season I – Episode 6 – “The Date” – Embarassing Baby Photos
Season II – Episode 2 (8th in series) “Mr. Morris.” He is even crazier.
Season II – Episode 6 – “The Mouse” Finally Neighbor wrangles an invitation and his ultimate crush fantasy is realized with the Kiss of Life
Season III – Episode 2 – “The Fox” – DO NOT MISS THIS – my very favorite
Season III – Episode 3 – “Mr. Morris Returns.
Season III – Episode 5 – “The Piano” – Funniest part is the quantities of Food and other items, as Dad discovers a Costco type store. Pay close attention, the Piano is not the funny part.
Season III – Episode 6 – “The Big Day” The. Wedding. Dress.
Season II – Episode 5 – “The Yoghurts” – threw this one in due to some of the physical comedy and mix-ups
Season IV – Episode 4 – “The Pyjamas” Toenails. That is all I have to say
Season IV – the rest of the episodes.
Okay, back to me, let me know what you think and enjoy some good belly laughs.