Brendan O’Carroll shares vow with fans after Mrs Brown’s Boys backlash

Brendan O’Carroll shares vow with fans after Mrs Brown’s Boys backlash

The BBC show’s New Year’s Day episode has faced heavy criticism from both viewers and TV critics

Mrs Browns Boys creator Brendan O’Carroll has vowed to continue the divisive series as the show faces widespread criticism after its New Year’s Day special was aired on Monday.

In a new interview, O’Carroll said that the team behind the show plan to keep making more festive specials, adding: “As long as the BBC keep asking, we’ll keep making episodes. It’s down to what the BBC want and what we can plan around.”

“We are definitely making more specials,” he added. “Whether we do another full series or not depends on dates.”

The comments come as viewers sat down to watch the New Year’s Day special, which sees the Irish actor star as the loud-mouthed titular matriarch in the slapstick comedy series.

In the episode titled “New Year, New Mammy”, viewers watched Mrs Brown take on a tough new health and fitness regime as a mysterious visitor to Finglas raised some difficult questions for her close friends, Agnes and Winnie.

Mrs Browns Boys was first aired by the BBC in 2011 after beginning as a radio programme. The show was once extremely popular with viewers, but after 12 years of series and festive specials has more recently been maligned by critics and viewers.

Many have branded the show, which also stars Jennifer Gibney, Paddy Houlihan, Eilish O’Carroll, Dermot O’Neill and Pat Shields, “unwatchable” and “excruciatingly terrible”, with some calling for the BBC to decommission the programme.

Brendan and Eilish O’Carroll in ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ New Year’s Day special(BBC Studios / Elaine Livingston)
Brendan and Eilish O’Carroll in ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ New Year’s Day special (BBC Studios / Elaine Livingston)

The show reached a peak audience of 11m in 2012 and 2013, but its viewership has also declined in the decade following. In 2017, it was the most-watched show on TV on Christmas Day with 6.8m viewers.

On Christmas Day 2023, however, Mrs Browns Boys did not make it into the Top 10 leaderboard for Christmas Day ratings.

Critics have long derided the series. In his zero-star review of the 2023 New Year’s Day special, The Independent’s TV critic Nick Hilton wrote: “Observing that Mrs Brown’s Boys is unfunny is rather like observing that the sea is wet.”

He continued: “And so, I’m giving the Mrs Brown’s Boys new year special – “New Year, New Mammy” – zero stars, for two reasons. Firstly, because it is sufficiently bad that it offends the notion of star awarding. But secondly, and more importantly, because it exists in a liminal space outside of critical scrutiny or contemporary cultural mores.”

In another recent interview, O’Carroll said he’d learnt not to take the criticism of the show “too seriously”.

“I’m well aware that comedy is very subjective,” he told the BBC (via the Radio Times). “What some people like, other people just detest. So I don’t take it too serious.”

O’Carroll said that what was far more important to him was the response from families with autistic children who said that the show had helped them over the years.

“When we started… by about the fourth or fifth episode, we got a couple of letters from people who had autistic children,” O’Carroll explained.

“It started as a couple of letters and it’s now been over 3,000. And they said that their kids watched Mrs Brown and they heard them laugh in context for the very first time. One woman said she was in the ­kitchen and heard her son laughing for the very first time.”

He added: “So when you get a ­letter like that, I don’t care what the critics say. That’ll do me.”

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