Stop me when you’ve heard this one before: a hapless adult man living with his mother refuses to grow up or change, but don’t worry. His arrested development might be endlessly annoying, but that’s basically the point — and when push comes to shove, everyone surrounding him finds him too charming to resist, anyway.
Therein lies the premise of “Frank of Ireland,” an uninspired take on one of the oldest stories in the book from Michael Moloney and brothers Brian and Domhnall Gleeson. Co-produced by Amazon and Channel 4, the six-episode series follows aimless layabout Frank (Brian Gleeson) and his servile best friend Doofus (Domhnall Gleeson) as they bumble around their small town, causing grief and havoc everywhere they go. While Doofus occasionally shows some signs of a conscience to make up for his lack of spine, Frank seems to lack a moral compass entirely, instead twisting every situation to fit his nebulous needs. The only real explanation for these chronically gormless men comes courtesy of Frank’s mother Mary (Pom Boyd), who’s similarly cavalier with people’s feelings to the point that she’ll happily fleece whichever willing man crosses her path if it means she can pay her mortgage. Together, the trio presents a formidable force of chaos ready to flatten anyone unlucky enough to get in its way.
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The Gleesons lean on their inherent chemistry as real-life brothers to make Frank and Doofus’ codependent relationship ring somewhat true, and sometimes it works. Domhnall Gleeson in particular finds a couple moments of genuine emotion to mine from Doofus’ hesitant attempts to be his own person. But Brian Gleeson, who’s already played a more interesting version of this character on Desiree Ahkavan’s “The Bisexual,” never finds another level to Frank’s consistent egomania. Watching Frank drag his weak-willed brother around, or whoever else happens to present an easy opportunity to further his own needs, isn’t much fun. Without many good jokes or nuance fueling the characters, it’s mostly just depressing. Why Frank’s ex-girlfriend Aine (Sarah Greene) is so magnetically drawn to him, I truly could not tell you. The only reason seems to be “because that’s how it’s supposed to go,” but in practice, Aine finding Frank’s constant undermining charming is just another nonsensical turn without much purpose or direction.
Plenty of shows have successfully detailed the lives of people without direction or scruples before. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” for one, has raised it to an art form, managing to squeeze 15 seasons (and counting!) out of its dirtbag characters. “Peep Show,” to use one British example of many, similarly makes a hilarious meal of its central pair’s selfish dysfunction. But making a series about bad or otherwise unmotivated characters requires a smarter, more pointed perspective than “Frank of Ireland” cares to demonstrate. Maybe some people will enjoy turning their brains off for the schadenfreude of seeing some dummies pinwheel into each other to increasingly disastrous effect. Beyond that, “Frank of Ireland” might have more trouble convincing skeptical viewers to spend their precious time with such hopelessly frustrating people.
“Frank of Ireland” premieres Friday, April 16 on Amazon Prime.
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