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August 7, 2017 | by  | in TV |
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Grandma’s House

Two hours deep into a Wikipedia black hole last week, I saw that the long-running music themed quiz show Never Mind the Buzzcocks had finally come to an end in 2015. Beginning in 1996, it seemed like a show that would just go on forever, a British stalwart as comforting as a good cup of tea. Formerly one of my favourite shows to binge watch on repeat, my interest petered off around 2010 approximately a year after Simon Amstell announced his retirement. During his tenure as host of Buzzcocks, Amstell became a very special comedian to me, whether he was serving up the perfect balance of macabre humour and pop culture banality, or berating D-list pop stars so relentlessly that they walked off the show. After his departure the show struggled to find a new permanent host who could reach Amstell’s high and abrasive standards, and I lost both hope and interest. If you’ve found yourself in a similar predicament, then have no fear because Grandma’s House is here.

Grandma’s House is blisteringly awkward in the tradition of Peep Show and Curb Your Enthusiasm, made twenty times more uncomfortable because of how familiar it all is — think of every casual family gathering you were forced to attend growing up before you could fob them off with your more pressing adult responsibilities. With each episode taking place within his grandmother’s house, Amstell plays a not-even-very-exaggerated version of himself trying to find his place in the world. If you’ve seen Amstell on Buzzcocks before, it’s hard to tell if his performance in Grandma’s House even qualifies as “acting”, but instead an elaborate form of personal therapy achieved by recreating scenes from his life in a controlled environment and reacting to them on camera. The first episode begins with Simon announcing his decision to quit Buzzcocks, much to the dismay of his mother, whose only joy is getting to tell people her son is on television, and to the rest of his family, who enjoy using his B-grade celebrity status for freebies. When his mother announces her engagement to boring douchebag Clive, a hit-and-run driving alcoholic box factory worker, Simon’s desperation to know the meaning of life kicks into overdrive — does anything really matter, or is it just about living in a reasonably sized mortgage-free house with someone you can put up with 60% of the time? The following two seasons of Grandma’s House ultimately exist as the answer to “what should Simon do next?”, but without coming across as cringey as the kid who writes a speech about writing speeches in Year Eight English class. The supporting cast are infallible in their fully-realised roles as Simon’s family, especially Aunt Liz (Samantha Spiro), who can never do (or wear) anything right, and Grandma Lily (Linda Bassett), who specialises in blackmail with a purse-lipped smile.

If I was ever going to make a television series it would be just like Grandma’s House; snappy, snarky, depressing, uncomfortable, and all about me (but without the handful of rape jokes; honestly, can we please agree to be edgy without that shit?). It’s a quick watch and in being so properly funny, only twelve episodes seems unfair — I laughed, I cried, I hid behind my t-shirt collar, and I commiserated.

Fans of Amstell should also check out Carnage, his recent BBC mockumentary set in the not-too-distant UK 2067, where everyone is vegan and having difficulty coming to terms with their selfish meat-eating pasts as “carnists”.

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