All Round to Mrs Brown's review – a mix of crassness and old-fashioned sweetness

Jennifer Gibney and Brendan O’Carroll - BBC
Jennifer Gibney and Brendan O’Carroll - BBC

The inevitable latest chapter in the Agnes Brown Expanded Universe, season two of All Round to Mrs Brown’s (BBC One) kicked off in a blaze of saucy patter, single-entendres and caught-in-the-headlights celebrity guests. 

This chatshow spin-off of Brendan O’Carroll’s blockbuster sitcom had materialised via an unlikely flash of Hollywood glamour last year with Pamela Anderson the first semi-willing interviewee. The line-up was more geezer than crowd pleaser second time out as professional likely lad Danny Dyer squeezed onto the settee alongside boxer / I’m A Celebrity survivor Amir Khan. 

The real draw, however, was O’Carroll’s blend of coarse laughs and full-pedal sentimentality. Alongside puns that made Benny Hill sound like Beckett – a segment featuring wildlife presenter Kate Humble hinged on the hilarity of a character confusing dog training with “dogging” – this was a series that wore its heart on its plus sized apron. 

The contrast between the bawdiness and the schmaltz was striking and sometimes unsettling. Especially bizarre was a duo of fictional priests ruminating in utter earnestness about the royal wedding and the enduring power of love. It was Father Ted slathered in sap, without the jokes or self-awareness.

Agnes fancying the pork-pie hat off Dyer was the big running gag. With his forcefield of blokey bonhomie the EastEnders star was beyond embarrassment and lapped up the attention (his mum Christine, dragged on as auxiliary guest, likewise had a blast).

Khan, by contrast, reddened visibly as O’Carroll and co-host Cathy Brown (the comedian’s onscreen daughter as portrayed by his off-screen wife, Jennifer Gibney) brought up the I’m a Celeb “strawberry-gate” controversy, in which Khan helped himself to a stash of fruit and then tried to blame a team-mate. 

The best TV shows on Netflix
The best TV shows on Netflix

As interviewers, O’Carroll and Gibney made Graham Norton look like Jeremy Paxman in his imperial phase (“where were you when you lost your virginity?” Agnes asked Danny). They were on firmer ground interacting with the public, such as when an audience member was called down for the “mammy of the week” mini-gameshow (featuring rubbish prizes straight from the Seventies, including a barbecue and cinema tickets). 

Thus we arrived at the contradiction whirring at the heart of All Round to Mrs Brown’s, a series that pushes crassness to its limits while radiating old-fashioned sweetness and optimism. The formula may strike newcomers as mawkish with curlers in. But for those with a taste for O’Carroll’s no-brow irascibility, his latest serving will have gone down a treat.