Belfast Telegraph

Hit series Friday Night Dinner returning for more food fights

As Channel 4 dishes out another Friday Night Dinner, Gemma Dunn talks violins and sibling rivalry with the show's on-screen brothers - Simon Bird and Tom Rosenthal

Friday Night Dinner is back - and with a hot tub, ventriloquist dummy and a surprise party on the menu, viewers are in for a super-sized helping.

The Channel 4 sitcom - created and penned by Robert Popper - will once again see the Goodman brothers, Adam (Simon Bird) and Jonny (Tom Rosenthal), return to Mum and Dad's house (Tamsin Greig and Paul Ritter) for a dinner of soup, chicken and crimble crumble. Not to mention side orders of wind-ups and bickering.

Dining out on its fifth series - with near-on two years off air - has nothing changed?

"People always say 'fifth series' with a surprised tone of voice," quips Rosenthal (30). "Even my parents are like, 'Wow!' So I guess that means it's quite exciting."

"I read the script for the pilot and felt like I didn't even know how we were going to have a second episode," admits Bird (33), who's best known for his run as the hapless Will McKenzie in the Inbetweeners.

"It was like, 'okay, so it's all in the house? It sounds really boring', so I guess all the credit goes to Robert for finding ways of being funny within that very restrictive set up.

"That's what I like about it," he quickly adds. "It's kind of an old-fashioned sitcom in that way, like The Simpsons. It always reverts back as if the previous episode hadn't happened."

So starting afresh, what can they tell us to whet our appetite?

DINNER IS SERVED

We know there's a hot tub, a dummy and a disastrous party - but it's safe to say the drama doesn't end there for the dysfunctional family.

Serving up plenty of laughs, this season will see Adam accidentally set his car on fire, Jonny non-stop prank-calling Adam, oddball neighbour Jim (Mark Heap) on a date from beyond hell with the 'Other Jackie' (Rosie Cavaliero), and last, but not least, Horrible Grandma (Rosalind Knight) returning for more horribleness.

Churning out enough fresh ideas for six episodes is not to be scoffed at, note the cast. Yet it's a feat achieved by the show's wonderfully "weird" writer.

"He's mad," Bird says of Popper, the man best known for mock BBC documentary Look Around You. "He's got such a strange brain."

"He has so many ideas - he's just a weirdo," agrees Rosenthal. "But it's very, very fortunate that he can just sit down and concentrate for 10 hours a day to put all of his weird ideas into a document."

HITTING THE RIGHT NOTE

Bizarre, maybe. But the on-screen brothers are adamant they'll do just about anything for Popper - even if it does mean Bird reverting to a childhood pastime.

"There's an episode where I have to play the violin, which is something my parents used to make me do when I was a kid," he reveals, having - until now - stayed clear of the instrument for 13 years.

"It was the most frustrated and stressful I've ever been while filming, because I had to play while talking and walking," he adds. "There was a bit when I just threw my bow to the floor in a fit of pique."

JOINING FORCES

Jokes aside, the pair are firm friends, and colleagues, having also starred alongside one another in Simon Callow's reworking of Christopher Hampton's famous play The Philanthropist last year.

"The play we did was a drama - a funny drama, and those were the bits I liked doing best," Bird explains of the premise. "Making the audience laugh is the best feeling, really."

Friday Night Dinner returns to Channel 4 on Friday, May 4

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