Friday Night Dinner was a channel 4 comedy that ran for six series from 2011 to 2020 written by Robert Popper and based around a Jewish family called the Goodmans. Every episode with a couple of exceptions is the family coming together for a traditional Jewish Friday night dinner, which of course is very rarely a boring affair with all sorts of shenanigans and running jokes to keep the viewers entertained. Let’s look back on this modern-day classic without any in-depth spoilers.
The Goodman’s are a typical family, the husband and wife pairing of Jackie (Tamsin Greig) and Martin (Paul Ritter) and their two sons Adam (Simon Bird) and Jonny (Tom Rosenthal). The sons, both in their mid-twenties live away from home and each episode starts with the pair arriving and knocking on the door. Exactly what’s going to greet them when the door opens is… unknown.
Despite being in their mid-twenties Adam and Jonny act like children, giving each other nicknames such as “piss face” and “puss face” and pranking each other throughout the episodes. My personal favourite and probably the most iconic is pouring salt into each other’s water at the dinner table. (I’ve been tempted to try that one on my own brother) Writer Robert Popper based this pair on his relationship with his own brother. Bird and Rosenthal have a very good on-screen chemistry and have created a very believable sibling relationship.
Their mum, Jackie wishes she’d had girls but loves Adam and Jonny all the same, treating them like they’re children as soon as they come through the door and praying that one day they’ll both arrive with lovely girlfriends. She can often be “a sensitive cow” and take minor things to heart. She’s based on Popper’s real-life mum and is played perfectly by Grieg.
Martin Goodman, the father, is very rarely seen with his shirt on and is always “bloody boiling”. Martin has quite a few catchphrases but probably his most iconic is “Shit on it” which he usually comes out with when things aren’t going quite the way he planned them. Martin is obsessed with science and completely oblivious to social norms, for example a high five is perceived as an attack. Martin is based on Popper’s real-life dad who is the only person he has ever heard utter the phrase “shit on it”. For his first and only comedy role Ritter nails his portrayal of Martin and is enjoyable throughout.
“You know he doesn’t understand these things.”– Jackie Goodman
As the main family the Goodman’s are a fantastic creation, but they aren’t the only thing that makes this show so great, let me introduce you to Jim Bell (Mark Heap). Jim is the Goodman’s weird neighbour although he’d prefer “friend”. He presumably turns up every day, but we only see him on his Friday night visits. He’s always accompanied by his dog, Wilson, whom he appears to be terrified of as he always flinches when trying to stroke him.
Jim is clearly in love with Jackie and is hell bent on joining the family for Friday Night Dinner in order to be around her. He is also obsessed with taking part in the family’s religion and is constantly trying to act like he’s Jewish, mainly by repeating the phrase “Shalom” over and over again until it eventually becomes his catchphrase. You learn a lot about Jim’s life throughout the series including the fact that he was born in a Zoo (apparently). Heap does a brilliant job as Jim. I’m convinced you could give him a blank script and he’d still keep us entertained.
I didn’t watch this show on initial broadcast but was shown an episode at school and was immediately hooked, eagerly waiting for each new series. Comedy shows don’t tend to last more than 2-3 series so the fact that we got six series and could have even had more is a testament to Robert Popper. If you like fast paced comedy with witty jokes and a lot of silliness then this show is for you.
The sad passing of Paul Ritter who played Martin Goodman earlier this year spelled the end for Friday Night Dinner. Paul brought to life the character of Martin making us laugh from day one and will continue to make us laugh for many years to come. Thank you, Paul.
Friday Night Dinner series 1-6 is available to watch for free on All4. Happy viewing!
Ben is a Social Media Executive, with a passion for watching and writing about TV shows and films. When away from the laptop, he enjoys meeting up with friends at the pub, going to football matches and watching comedy shows.