I watched Simon Amstell’s new sitcom Grandma’s House on iPlayer yesterday. Amstell essentially plays himself; the first scene sees him tell his mother he’s thinking of quitting his job presenting Never Mind The Buzzcocks.
The opening five minutes is embarrassing, and not in the way this cringe-com intends. Amstell’s acting is awkward, to say the least. His character is meant to feel uncomfortable, but it’s obvious he doesn’t have much previous experience. The chameleonic Rebecca Front, as Amstell’s mother, is terrific, and the quality gap in the two performances is all too noticeable.
That said, once you get over Amstell’s stilted display, there’s a lot to enjoy. About ten minutes in, I chuckled at one particular line, and from there on in, it got funnier. Whether Amstell’s confidence improved, or whether I just got accustomed to his unusual performance I’m not quite sure, but the laugh lines seemed to hit harder, and the appearance of Clive, his mother’s new boyfriend, seemed to take things up another notch. “He calls me captain!” sighed Amstell, expressing his distaste at his future father-in-law, while the revelation that Clive once accidentally ran over a homeless person led to a string of darkly comic moments.
I’ll certainly be tuning in again this week. I’m not convinced I’ll ever be entirely at ease with Amstell’s curious non-acting, but it’s a lot harder to fault his scriptwriting than his acting.