TV comedy series The Walshes marks new direction for Graham Linehan (3 stars)

Graham Linehan’s new show steers away from the daft and broad work which made his name

The Walshes

After The IT Crowd had turned itself off for the last time, we all wondered what its creator Graham Linehan would do next. Not long after dusting himself down from an ambushed Radio 4 spat with The Guardian’s Michael Billington over his stage adaptation of The Ladykillers, he set about finishing The Walshes. This three-part comedy marks a stylistic left-turn for the Irish writer/director even if some of the content and characterisation is proudly Linehanian (OK, yes, that adjective doesn’t actually exist in the world).

It was once remarked by Chris O’Dowd that his Roy character in The IT Crowd was probably Linehan in his late 20s while Moss (the blithering manchild brilliantly realised by Richard Ayoade) represented Linehan around the age of 16. Perhaps Katherine Parkinson’s Jen would be a symbol for the kind of largely hapless middle manager he would be if he ever got a ‘real’ job. So, what can we make of the fact that in The Walshes, the outsider character is a slightly awkward yet kind-hearted soul called, wait for it, Graham?

Linehan himself had stated that The IT Crowd was his attempt at bringing back the big, silly sitcom filmed largely in front of a studio audience, flying in the face of The Office-led vogue for mockumentary TV comedy. Big silly sitcoms were pretty much his modus operandi given the glorious success of Father Ted, his work on the first series of Black Books and the deservedly short-lived Hippies.

The Walshes is a very different beast to look at and listen to. There’s no studio crowd rolling around in hysterics in a show which might make you think a little of Friday Night Dinner. Replace its North London Jewish family for a West Dublin Catholic brood and you’re almost there. Here we also have a dad cracking dodgy jokes and a slightly uptight mum, while it even shares a creepy neighbour popping up out of nowhere from time to time. The two siblings here are the martial arts-loving Rory (this show’s bumblingly naive Moss/Father Dougal type, played by Rory Connolly) while Ciara (Amy Stephenson) represents something very different for Linehan: she actually seems almost normal.

In the opening episode, Ciara has invited Graham (Shane Langan) over to meet her family but there’s a programme about a goose that dad Tony wants to watch, so he needs the niceties to be over with quicksharp. Meanwhile, mum Carmel (Phillipa Dunne) is fretting about whether her gravy will be too lumpy or overly runny. The first episode is packed full of excellent gags, while the second one is almost bereft. Instead, it focuses on making discomfort out of awkward potential sexual scenarios as Graham is invited to move in beside Ciara when he is summarily shoved out of his bedsit by an awful landlord and Rory becomes the unlikely object of lust for a sassy employee at his dad’s taxi firm.

We can only wait to see whether the jokes make a comeback for the final episode. Whatever occurs, Linehan has taken a slight diversion from his norm which will intrigue (if not wholly entertain) his followers. Maybe making another big, silly sitcom will be back on his agenda shortly.

The Walshes starts on BBC Four, Thursday 13 March, 10pm.

The Walshes: Trailer - BBC Four

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