There’s a ripped-from-the-headlines quality to Everyone Else Burns (Channel 4, Monday, 10pm), a sitcom about a family of evangelical Christians bumping up against the norms of secular society. But while it may set the antenna of Irish viewers tingling, the Channel 4 comedy doesn’t land its punches. Or even make clear where those blows are directed.
Is it a parody of religion? A derisive chuckle at American-style born-again puritanism? It is possibly both. Alas, the endeavour is hobbled by the fact writers Dillon Mapletoft and Oliver Taylor seem to find the idea of religious belief ludicrous.
They are poking fun at something they do not understand, which robs it of bite. There is also the question of whether this entirely fictional story of a domineering father, cowed wife, resentful daughter and brainwashed son is suitable for lampooning in the first place. Look under the hood and it is not funny in the least. That patina of silliness betrays a misunderstanding of the subject matter. And of the degree to which an almost cloistered upbringing can warp lives.
The Inbetweeners actor Simon Bird stars as the head of the family, David. The sort of fanciful creation that could only exist in sitcom land, he’s devoted to his bowl-cut hair. And to waking the family up before dawn in the pretence that the apocalypse has finally arrived. (It’s just a trial run.)
‘I miss breakfast rolls and the sense of humour but our life in the US has been as normal as anyone else’s with young kids’
His zeal is in contrast to the world-weariness of his put-upon wife, Fiona (Kate O’Flynn). She just wants a new TV so she can forget her woes with some binge-watching. (David poured water over their last telly in outage over a kissing scene.) She endures David’s insecurities about his prominence in the church, where he has a keen rivalry with an affable elder. But she would much rather spend time with her deadpan neighbour Melissa (Morgana Robinson) and her functioning television.
We are also introduced to the couple’s youngest child, Aaron (Harry Connor), who cannot tell prophecy from reality and expects to wake up to find the sky raining hellfire any day now.
These portraits are cartoonish in the extreme. Amid them, the only character to ring true is Rachel, their daughter (played by the Irish actor Amy James-Kelly).
She’s a straight-A student who wants to go to college. Her parents are confused. “I was a smart girl. I could have gone to uni,” says Fiona. They urge her to consider her future. Rachel is aghast: she’s the only person here who understands she’s starring in a horror rather than a comedy.