I never really liked Simon Amstell, but I think I always wanted to. Not exactly sure why, but maybe it’s his Dylanesque hair, or maybe it’s the fact that the people he was always ripping into on Nevermind the Buzzcocks were generally even more annoying than he is (is that his real voice btw?). Anyways, I decided to genuinely give his new sitcom, Grandma’s House, a chance because I have always been interested in writers portraying themselves as characters in their own works (he co-wrote the show).
Anyways, when I heard that Grandma’s House is meant to have traces of Seinfeld and The Office, both of which, in varying degrees, apply the above author-as-character storyline, I was intrigued. Would this chap, Simon Amstell, really try and come up with something original and potentially entertaining? Was I right in trying to like him?
Simon Amstell plays himself in Grandma’s House. He is the sarcastic-wiseguy-moralist taking the piss out of everyone. The pseudo philosopher who seeks a life beyond the materialistic pleasures. The warrior of truth, Simon. Most of the time, though, he sticks out in a bad way. It’s as if the show momentarily stops when he starts talking. He imposes his character to such a degree that most of the time it is detrimental to the other characters that are actually quite good. Like Clive, the smooth cliché regurgitator (‘I make a rule of remembering a woman’s birthday, but never her age’).
Another character who at least seems comfortable in her own skin is Simon’s mom who wants her son to be rich and famous. She wants him to be silly, like he used to be (presumably on the Buzzcocks). She seems to value everything that Simon says he hates and the thing is that you belief her because she seems real. With Simon it always feels like he doesn’t quite belong on this show, like he doesn’t fit in. I am sure that the latter sentiment is one he actually wanted to achieve, to appear as an outsider in his family, but any thoughts I have about Simon are always accompanied by an uneasiness, this nagging feeling of him trying too hard to be clever, funny and in search for some kind of deep universal meaning of life. I just don’t buy it.
Sometimes, though, it seems that nobody can hear what Simon is saying and I momentarily think/hope that they have done it on purpose, that nobody actually can hear him when he is speaking, that he doesn’t really exist as a person but more as an idea of what other people want him to be. That maybe he is really taking the piss out of himself, and maybe there is some potential in this show after all. Plus, there is always the end of the show when that nice closing music kicks in and you are slightly overcome by the feeling that you have accomplished something. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now and continue watching the show but I am already feeling underwhelmed at the prospect.