|Worth seeing:||for Simon Bird's pudding-bowl haircut and his unthinking devotion to a rule-book he doesn't quite understand as he tries to stop his family members straying|
|Featuring:||Simon Bird, Ali Khan, Amy James-Kelly, Arsher Ali, Harry Connor, Kadiff Kirwan, Kate OFlynn, Liam Williams, Lolly Adefope, Morgana Robinson|
|Key crew:||Nick Collett, Molly Seymour, Dillon Mapletoft, Oliver Taylor|
|Channel:||All 4, Channel 4|
|Broadcast date:||23rd January 2023|
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
The Lewis family are at the centre of an ultra-religious Christian church in Manchester.
At the head of the family is patriarch David (Simon Bird). God has given him a gift – he’s by far the fastest at sorting packages at the courier company where he works by day. But he feels that he’s done his time – both at the delivery firm – and at the lower levels of the religious community; he’s ready to be made an elder.
Unthinkingly, David faithfully, firmly and pompously imposes the order’s rules on his family like a ruthless king, with the full support of his ever pious wife, Fiona (Kate O’Flynn).
But pious as she is, she’s trying to balance her belief with her new friendship with their non-believing neighbour, Melissa (Morgana Robinson), a rather unhealthy interest in fellow church member Andrew (Kadiff Kirwan) and her determination to run a little side-business, selling bags – justifying it by saying the bags are for carrying church leaflets while out preaching.
Their naive teenaged daughter Rachel (Amy James-Kelly) is risking excommunication by hanging around with inappropriate youngsters and contemplating university. Their precocious son Aaron (Harry Connor) is following in his father’s footsteps – but his detailed and disturbing pencil drawings are raising eyebrows.
Everyone Else Burns follows the Lewis family, their neighbours and fellow church members as tensions grow between their religious beliefs and the modern-day wider world.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Everyone Else Burns is an explosive, satirical sit-com that burns itself out midway through the series.
The early episodes are fresh, often dark, mocking the pomposity of unquestioning faith without passing comment on more mainstream belief. These people aren’t quite a doomsday cult, but while they’re not constantly preaching about the end of the world, they’re perfectly comfortable with the notion that it’s coming and they want to be prepared.
It’s much less about theology than it is about the lifestyle that comes with it, which provides more opportunity to laugh at believers, rather than ponder what might have sent them down that route; even a sub-plot about a potential convert to the group doesn’t really consider why he might really want to sign up to this order as opposed to any other.
There’s some inconsistency between the extent to which different members of the cult observe the rules – even among elders; one likes a bit of coffee on the quiet, another treats a pot-plant as an effigy of his late wife, which doesn’t seem to fit with a religion that very much believes in an afterlife. Whether this is a careless oversight or a shameless reach for humour, this rendering of the characters makes it feel like it can’t quite decide whether to be a bold satire or a comedy farce.
By episode 5, it seems that it’s settled on the latter, which leaves it in a packed field of sitcoms that ultimately mine the same quarry for comedy gold.
Everyone Else Burns initially has some interesting things to say about the line between extreme and traditional branches of religious observance – and through Rachel, we see how peer pressure from within and without tussle for supremacy, as she balances the temptation of a life in the real world with the need to remain faithful, to her family if not her religion. In Fiona, we have perhaps the most interesting character, as she goes out of her way to keep Rachel in line – yet bends the rules for herself.
With his idiosyncratic, but unexplained, pudding-bowl haircut, David is perhaps the most reliable and consistent character, unbending in his enthusiasm for a way of life that makes almost no sense to anyone outside his church. He often seems like he belongs to a different order from everyone else – his family and even the elders – but it becomes more of a family sitcom, with the no-nonsense patriarch trying to keep everyone else in line. It just so happens that his house rules are based on a rather fundamentalist understanding of his God, while other sitcoms will seek comedy from within their own moral codes.
Much of the humour comes from the details – throwaway pithy one-liners from an exasperated David – rather than the situations, which become increasingly formulaic; a teenager learning about love, a father-and-son bonding trip, a character harbouring inappropriate thoughts about a neighbour.
Everyone Else Burns doesn’t live up to the potential of its first couple of episodes, deciding instead to play it safe, but even as a typical family sitcom, it remains entertaining enough.