Mrs Brown's Boys is clearly popular – why doesn't it deserve awards?

James Moran
BBC Studios/Alan Peebles

How could this have happened? British voters have landed us right in it, with untold ramifications for our economy, society and international reputation. That’s right: Mrs Brown’s Boys has won a National Television Award – for the 5th time.

The public – the unwashed masses who actually watch the telly – have decided that they actually really enjoy the show this paper once dubbed “the worst comedy ever made”, so much so that they voted for it in their thousands. A commemorative 50p piece is being minted as we speak.

The reaction was predictable. From the howls of online outrage, you’d think the show’s writers Brendan O’Carroll and Paul Mayhew-Archer had actually murdered Phoebe Waller-Bridge. What about Fleabag? What about Sex Education? What about...y’know... proper shows?

It’s telling that in all the outrage, Derry Girls has received much less mention – perhaps because it doesn’t fit the narrative of middle-class dramas shows being beaten by a working-class comedy (arguably, Derry Girls is even more brilliantly bonkers). None of the nominated shows are scared of some honest filth – so why are people so angry?

Mrs Brown’s Boys a family-run show, with lots of the O’Carroll clan involved. It’s warm, rowdy, rude, breaks the 4th wall, they leave in mistakes, and there’s a man dressed as an elderly woman swearing and falling over. It’s an old-fashioned mix of music hall, panto and seaside humour. It doesn’t care about trying to be clever, it just wants to make you laugh. Didn’t like that joke? No worries, there’ll be another five in a second.

Working-class culture has always been seen as inferior. I remember the outcry when Love Island won a BAFTA. “Can you believe that awful show ackshully has a BAFTA?!” people sneered. Yes, I can: it’s incredibly popular, and very well-made. Why, then, is everyone always so besides themselves with anger when a show they hate wins? Just don’t watch it. Nobody’s forcing you (except fans of The Wire when they find out you still haven’t seen it – blimey, they never leave you alone).

If you want something to win a vote, vote for it. Fleabag series 2 got 2.5 million viewers; Mrs Brown’s Boys’ 2018 Christmas special pulled in 6.8 million. Did every Fleabag viewer vote in the NTAs? They probably thought they were above it – but even if they didn’t, evidently a hell of a lot more Agnes Brown fans didn’t.

So good for you all who’ve shouted loudly about how much you hate the show: now we all know what excellent taste you have. I also know not to invite you round for a Love Island viewing party (can you believe Luke T is mugging off Rebecca, by the way? Then again if it weren’t for her, Connagh with a G might still be there, so I say bring on the pie-ing, frankly). The class system is very much alive and well in this country – and you’re giving it oxygen.

Besides, Fleabag will survive this mortal wound. In my opinion, it’s still one of the best shows ever made. Michael Palin won the BAFTA’s Special Recognition Award this year, despite the first ever episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus getting the lowest audience figures and Appreciation Index that week in 1969 – so there’s evidently still room for critically-acclaimed, off-the-wall programming. Hopefully we’ll see more of him soon. Seems like a nice lad.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to set up a petition, because Ant and Dec have won Best Presenter 19 times, and I am outraged.

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