I don’t seek out Simon Amstell. Honest. But that hasn’t stopped him from popping up now and then in my life. Most of the time he’s on my television screen (as previous host of ‘Popworld’ and ‘Nevermind the Buzzcocks’) but of course there’s also the time he brushed past me on a Parisian street and, less pleasantly, the time I made a complete ass out of myself by drunkenly trying to chat him up at Popstarz (unsuccessfuly).
For the last three weeks I’ve accidentally managed to catch each episode of ‘Grandma’s House’, the new BBC2 sitcom starring Amstell and co-written by himself and Dan Swimer. It’s on at a good time for me, 10pm on a Monday, right after ‘Dragon’s Den’ on a night when I’m doing all the things I told myself I’d do on the weekend. I’m sure that’s why I’ve seen every episode so far and nothing at all to do with some latent lingering celeb-crush.
Yes, that sounds plausible.
Ironically, last night’s episode features Simon (the character, not the actual person) with his own celeb-crush on a serious thespian, played with hilarious unintelligibility by rising star Iwan Rheon (Misfits, Spring Awakening). Rheon’s character, Ben, finds himself sipping tea with Simon’s mad family via his old drama teacher (Pam Ferris) who, as it turns out, instructed Simon’s mother (the amazing Rebecca Front) years ago. Cue plenty of luvvie behaviour and send ups of drama school speak: “You have to reveal yourself…or it’s death” or “[Acting] takes years, you can’t just plough in like a rapist.” I felt like I was back at RADA.
In this third episode of the series I detected a real sense of the show finding its feet. The central characters have been established, we know the set up, and now everyone’s getting down to the important business of making me laugh. Which they succeeded at. Several times.
Much has been made of the theory that the show features so many brilliant comic actors to disguise the fact Amstell himself can’t act, that he’s essentially just being himself with a script while Front, Linda Bassett, James Smith, et al do the heavy lifting. Well if that’s true, so what? That didn’t stop Jerry Seinfeld from having a successful, funny, ground-breaking sitcom in the 90s.
So keep up the quality work team GH – so far so good. And Simon…see you at Popstarz?