A ribald new Irish comedy provides all the laughs on Amazon Prime
To call them a “dynasty” might be a stretch at this point. But the Gleesons of Ireland are, at the very least, a family of note in the acting world. Elder statesman Brendan is among the most respected character actors of the past few decades, having appeared in such classics as Braveheart, 28 Days Later, Gangs of New York and, most recently, playing Donald Trump in Showtime miniseries The Comey Rule. His eldest boy Domhnall, meanwhile, has just about matched his old man on the fame front, in the likes of About Time, The Revenant and the Star Wars reboots.
And though many North American viewers probably aren’t quite so familiar with Domhnall’s little brother Brian, they’re about to be, thanks to Frank of Ireland, which features Brian and Domhnall as co-stars/co-creators, along with Brendan as an occasional guest star. (“Dynasty,” here they come!)
Amazon Prime VideoWe open in Dublin, on Frank (Brian)—a profoundly stunted manchild in his early 30s. He fancies himself a rock star... but in reality still lives with his mum, pines hopelessly after his ex and is, all-round, a self-absorbed, self-destructive idiot. He’s got a best pal named Doofus (Domhnall), who’s forever at his abusive friend’s beck and call. This duo, surrounded by an eclectic array of friends and frenemies, bumble their way through life’s ups, downs and absurdities.
“Frank is horrible,” Brian confirms, “but I think what makes him human are the people around him also being horrible—and also they’re not just horrible; I think there’s a kind of a poisoned love or toxic love or co-dependency or something with all of them. They kind of need each other, but they need to move on from each other. And that’s a very true thing about life—that we’re social creatures but there’s always that urge just to be out on your own, to be totally independent, which you can’t be. [The show is] kind of an extreme version of that.”
In addition to recruiting their dad for a guest-star turn toward the end of season one’s six episodes, the brothers co-created this series with longtime friend and fellow Dublin native Michael Moloney. But, as you might expect, getting into business with loved ones can be both fulfilling and a bit trepidatious.
Amazon Prime Video“Of course it presents challenges, yes,” notes Domhnall. “I’m not one of those people who believes that art needs to involve suffering, but I do think you need frank conversations—and sometimes that means having an argument for half an hour. And you don’t want to have an argument for half an hour with your brother... because you’re worried they’ll all add up, and next thing, you won’t really be brothers anymore and you’re not talking. You worry about it. But in reality, myself, Brian and Michael, we navigated it as adults.
“Also, I think it really helps when you’re making something funny,” he continues. “When the object is to make people laugh... if you do it and one of you laughs, there’s kind of no argument with that.”
Plus, of course, getting a chance to mix it up with the old man was a pleasure: “Dad arrived with, like, a suitcase full of costume ideas and fake teeth and mad hair,” says Brian. “Some of my favourite days were just him on set and having fun with that.”
Much as this show is the creative brainchild of Brian, Domhnall and Michael, whatever success it achieves can also be traced to the efforts of Sharon Horgan (star/co-creator of Catastrophe) and Clelia Mountford (There She Goes) as producers, who hopped aboard later in the process, after the boys had hashed out their rough draft. “They have made some of the best comedy of the last few years,” says Domhnall. “They brought [our show] to the next level, in terms of focus... It took a massive leap once they became involved.”
As for exactly what that “next-level” experience entails for us viewers?
“I think there aren’t many shows that are laugh-out-loud funny, or have as much physical comedy, maybe?” Brian muses. “Chatting earlier with Domhnall, we realized that things like Naked Gun, Leslie Nielsen—that type of acting—is kind of in there too, and maybe that’s fallen out of fashion a little bit the last while. But I think it’s due a comeback.”
But the man they call Frank’s real pitch for anyone who’s on the fence about tuning in: “It’s some relief from all the bad news we’ve got over the last couple of years. I think that’s what it’s got going for it: laughter—which we don’t have enough of these days.”
Frank of Ireland streams on Amazon Prime Video