Review: Frank of Ireland 2021 TV Series
Laughing at awful characters who make everyone around them miserable is one of the joys of television. They could be good people who are just awful sometimes, like Frasier Crane, or people who are awful but their some degree of comeuppance or are made aware of their awfulness, like David Brent. But what about the characters who are awful but don’t think they’re awful and the world owes them something? Can they be funny? That’s the question we asked as we watched the new Amazon series Frank Of Ireland.
The Gist: Frank Marron (Brian Gleeson), a 32-year-old semi-musician that lives in his childhood home with his mother Mary (Pom Boyd), wakes up and sees the note he scrawled on his hand “Don’t sleep with Àine.” He looks over and there’s Àine (Sarah Greene); her grandmother has just died and apparently she looked to Frank for some comfort, even though they “just broke up” according to Frank — six years ago. She tells him that she’s dating a doctor who’s into MMA, and Frank keeps thinking that the guy is into MDMA, something completely different.
He cites Taxi Driver lines to a nonplussed cab driver as they go to fetch Frank’s best buddy Doofus (Domhnall Gleeson), who is in the middle of his work shift at the convenience store, to help him pass out their band’s CDs at the wake for Àine’s grandmom. There, Àine’s dad Padraig (Pat Shortt) asks if Frank will play the funeral. He’s ecstatic over the “gig”, but his happiness is short-lived when he meets Àine’s boyfriend Peter-Brian (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor). After criticizing him for being into MDMA, Frank is reminded that it’s MMA the doctor is into.
After being upbraided by Àine, Frank decides it’s time to learn some MMA; he and Doofus go to a gym and have their asses kicked by a trainer named Nicola (Liz Fitzgibbon). Frank is so turned on he asks her out. They meet for drinks, and they soon get messed up on — you guessed it — MDMA.
The next morning, after Nicola drenches Frank in wine while in bed with him, he drags her to the funeral to act as a date/bodyguard. He gets up to sing the agreed-to song (agreed to after he catches Padraig sleeping with his mom) and completely goes off the rails.
Our Take: Brian and Domhnall Gleeson wrote Frank Of Ireland along with Michael Moloney, so it’s certainly written towards the brothers’ sensibilities. We’re just not sure what the Gleeson brothers were trying to accomplish. Create an inherently unlikable main character who has entitlement issues and a lack of self-awareness? Check. Make supporting characters that seem to put up with the character’s immaturities and disruptiveness no matter how bad his tendencies get? Double check. Make his disruptiveness funny enough to make him at least watchable? Well…
That’s really the problem with Frank Of Ireland. Does Frank transcend his shittiness enough to make us want to watch him embarrass himself and everyone around him in episode after episode? Do we want to see him humiliate and degrade his supposed best friend, Doofus, because the laughs are just that good? The answer to both is no. There were a few funny moments in the first episode, to be sure, but not enough of them to get us past the notion that Frank is a really, really awful person we don’t want to see any more of.
It’s not like the characters around Frank are saints. Mary turns out to be the awful tree from which Frank’s awful acorn fell, as we see when she essentially ignores Prdraig as he asks her out after the funeral. She’s also the only one who seems to enjoy citing the dirtiest lines from Taxi Driver with him. And Àine, who on the surface seems like she’s done with Frank and wants nothing to do with him, still has him in her life and occasionally sleeps with him. The fact that Frank’s not mature enough to see that it’s not a sign of a reconciliation isn’t her fault, but she’s not exactly cutting him out, is she?
So when Frank starts singing inappropriate limericks at the funeral, then getting fishhooked by Nicola, who in turn is fishhooked by Doofus, you almost wonder if Àine and her father deserve to have this man in their lives. Either way, it’s not a formula for a series we want to continue watching. While we’re all for cringe comedy, there’s a fine line between an effectively cringey character that gets some degree of comeuppance (David Brent in the original version The Office is the prototype) and one that just keeps shitting all over everyone. The former is very watchable; the latter really isn’t.