TRIBUTE: Paul Ritter, Friday Night Dinner – ‘The Anniversary’ (S3, E4)

In Memory of Paul Ritter.

I can count on one or two hands the number of times that a thing has made me laugh until I cry and lose control of my face: the YouTube video ‘how is prengent formed’ (link) is one, Jim Carrey impersonating Bruce Dern is another, and the outtakes of Reece Shearsmith in Peter Kay’s Car Share is another still… but I’m struggling to remember any more.

The first time I saw the reveal of Martin’s portrait of Jackie in ‘The Anniversary’ episode of Friday Night Dinner is another one of those bladder shuddering spectacles. As a person who insists on making gifts for my wife on those special occasions under the arrogant auspice that my artistic endeavor is more valuable than, say, gold or whatever plant things she likes, I can fully relate to Martin’s offering.

A third season of any sitcom can go one of two ways: either everyone realises quite quickly that they should’ve ended it all after two seasons, or you move into a beautiful phase of freedom with all your main ideas behind you, now free to delve into your creative banks and dig up treasures anew – only, now armed with the experience to tickle every comedic erogenous zone at will, like some kind of tantric humorist.

Season 3 of Friday Night Din-dins appears to fall into that latter bracket. And with ‘the portrait’ Mark Popper pulled out the bag his “I’ll give you a damn good thrashing” moment or his Del Boy falling through that fucking bar hatch over and over again.

The funniest thing about that portrait is that it’s not crudely rubbish. Clearly Martin has taken some time over it and is proud of his efforts, presenting it in a nice frame, and all in all its not a bad effort – for someone who’s not an artist. At least it resembles some human, if not the human it is supposed to resemble (Jackie). One could argue that it vaguely looks like Jackie on account of Jackie being a human, and all paintings of humans vaguely resembling other humans.

The distinct failure to create an artistic masterpiece, in turn, has created a comedic masterpiece.

It’s a great episode. As Martin is explaining he and his wife’s sexual escapades, he delivers the immortal line “If your mother and I had never met all those years ago, you two would never have been produced… Those two acts of penetration” – to the utterly justified disgust of the boys. And at one point, Jim turns up “sedated” having mistaken his dear old Wilson’s sleeping pills for his “funny bottom” pills, and then proceeds to cause unconscious havoc in the house. The term “funny bottom” alone, is enough to bring any episode of anything up to an elite level.

Paul Ritter – Thanks for the Friday Night Memories

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