Love it or hate it, Mrs Brown's Boys has 15 million viewers around the world. They can’t all be wrong..!
What’s it about?
In a nutshell, it’s a glimpse into the life of ‘Mammy’, straight-talking Dublin widow Agnes Brown and her 5 grown-up children. Agnes constantly interferes and tries to solve all their problems – especially those she creates for them!
It’s very rude!
Not only is it full of innuendo, smutty, lavatorial humour, but the language is fairly ripe, too – with the oft-used F-word, or the Irish equivalent replacing the U with an E. In fact, it appears 34 times in the very first 30-minute episode!
It’s a man in a dress
Brendan O’Carroll, in drag, plays Mrs Brown, and she’s based on his late mother Maureen.
A bit of history
In 1992, Brendan performed a short radio play called ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’, then in 1999, Anjelica Houston starred in the film ‘Agnes Brown’ based on a book Brendan had written called ‘The Mammy’. He then decided to put together his own family-theatre company, and when the actress he’d hired to play Mrs Brown didn’t turn up, he decided to frock up and play her himself… The rest, as they say, is history!
The BBC bought the rights and it was first aired in early 2011.
Meet the family…
There are five grown-up children: Dermot, Rory, Cathy, Mark and Trevor.
– Dermot Brown is married to Maria, and they have triplet sons named John, George and Ringo. He works for a promoter, and appears in every episode, dressed in a silly costume. Think giant squirrel, penguin and so on…
– Rory Brown is a hairdresser, married to Dino Doyle. It’s no surprise that Mrs Brown is the last to find out her son is gay.
– Cathy Brown moved back to Dublin – and in with Mammy – after she divorced. She spends most of her time looking for Mr Right.
– Mark Brown is the eldest of the Brown children. A carpenter, he’s married to Betty and is father to Bono, Mrs Brown’s much-loved oldest grandson.
– Trevor Brown is not seen that often. He’s a priest who spends most of his time on charitable missions abroad.
Other key characters
– Winnie McGoogan is Mrs Brown’s dim but loveable best friend, next-door neighbour and comedy sidekick. In rollers and hairnet, she spends a lot of time drinking tea in the Brown kitchen and halves with Agnes in Foley’s Bar, the local pub.
– Buster Brady is a small-time criminal – and Dermot’s best friend. He is always up to no good.
– Grandad, Agnes’ father-in-law, lives with her. They have a hate-hate relationship!
…and one who is never seen
Winnie’s husband Jacko is constantly mentioned but never seen – that’s because he’s severely accident prone and always in hospital.
Most of the cast are family members!
Brendan’s wife, Jennifer Gibney, plays Mrs Brown’s daughter Cathy. Buster, the ne’er do well neighbour, is played by Brendan’s son Danny – and Mrs Brown’s son Dermot is Danny’s childhood best friend, Paddy Houlihan.
The family connections don’t stop there! Danny’s wife Amanda plays Mrs Brown’s daughter-in-law Betty, and Brendan’s daughter Fiona plays daughter-in-law Maria. Fiona’s husband Martin plays Mrs Brown’s priest son Trevor, and Brendan’s sister Eilish plays Mrs Brown’s best friend Winnie. Meanwhile, his sister-in-law Fiona plays Winnie’s daughter, Sharon, and his grandson Jamie (Danny’s son) plays Mrs Brown’s grandson Bono.
…but they’re not all family!
Rory Cowan, who was Brendan’s publicist when he stepped in at the last minute for the show’s stage version, plays Mrs Brown’s gay son Rory. He’s not an actor (you can tell!), and he’s only four years younger than the man playing his mother!
Some of the best bits in MBB’s are provided when Rory dissolves in helpless laughter at Mrs Brown’s ad-libbed jokes.
It’s filmed in Scotland
While it’s set in Dublin, the show is filmed in Glasgow in front of a live audience. Gaffs – like the cameramen bumping into things, characters fluffing their lines, or the actors simply dissolving into giggles (when they’re not supposed to) – are edited into each episode.
The critics hate it…
‘Lazy, end-of-pier trash…the worst thing (I’ve) ever seen.’ The Daily Record
‘The worst comedy ever made.’ The Independent.
…but the public love it!
– It’s loved by literally millions – on Christmas Day 2014, the total audience was 9.7 million – a 34.2% share of the total audience. It was the top programme on Christmas Day 2013, too.
– It has the highest audience-appreciation ratings of any BBC comedy.
– It’s won UK and Scottish Bafta awards and National Television Awards for Best Sitcom (voted for by viewers), and many Irish TV awards, too.
Mrs Brown’s catchphrase is ‘That’s nice’. The story is that Mrs Brown’s husband bought her elocution lessons because she used to say ‘F**k off’ all the time. They worked, because now she says ‘That’s nice’ instead.
Now that’s nice!