Looking back over a Friday Night Dinner

Friday: Friday Night Dinner: 10 Years and a Lovely Bit of Squirrel; (Channel 4, 9pm)

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 5:00 pm

In February, 2011, the sitcom Friday Night Dinner started with relatively little fanfare on Channel 4

Viewers who tuned in were treated to the sight of a shirtless man (Paul Ritter) chomping his way through a ‘lovely bit of squirrel’ and were also introduced to his overexcitable wife (Tamsin Grieg), two adult sons (Simon Bird and Tom Rosenthal), and a strange neighbour (Mark Heap).

The people who did see that first edition can also claim to have been early adopters of what would become one of Channel 4’s best-loved and most successful comedies.

Over the course of six series and 37 episodes, Friday Night Dinner, which was created by Robert Popper, saw its ratings increase and picked up a host of award nominations.

It also gained some truly devoted fans, who shared quotes, created memes and, in some cases, even got tattoos.

So, it wasn’t a surprise when in January, Channel 4 announced it would be marking the comedy’s 10th anniversary with a documentary.

Then, in April, fans heard the sad news that Paul Ritter, who played dad Martin, had died at the age of 54.

It came as a blow to fans and, of course, his co-stars.

Simon Bird issued his own touching tribute (via co-star Tom Rosenthal’s Twitter), saying: “I think I’ll always aspire to be like Paul. I guess that’ll happen when someone pretends to be your Dad for 10 years.

“I feel unbelievably fortunate to have spent so much time in that green room and hope his real bambinos know how much his fake bambinos loved and looked up to him.”

As a result, the documentary Friday Night Dinner: 10 Years and a Lovely Bit of Squirrel, will be more bittersweet than initially intended, as the cast and celebrity fans talk about the show and offer their opinions on why it touched so many viewers.

Rosenthal clearly has a theory about why it was a success.

Ahead of the sixth series in 2020, he told the NME: “A lot of people say it’s the only show that teenagers can watch with their parents.

“In modern times there are so few shows that actually do bring people together like TV is supposed to do – so to be part of that is a real privilege.”

The famous faces offering their takes include Claudia Winkleman, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Lou Sanders, David Baddiel, Nihal Arthanayake and Krishnan Guru-Murthy.

There are also contributions from supporting cast members Tracy-Ann Oberman (Auntie Val), Rosie Cavaliero (The Other Jackie), Harry Landis (Mr Morris), Matthew Holness (Chris Parker), Kiell Smith-Bynoe (Nick).

And of course, there’s Greig, Bird, Rosenthal, Heap and the man to whom Friday Night Dinner: 10 Years and a Lovely Bit of Squirrel is dedicated, Ritter, who also recently received a posthumous Bafta nomination for Best Male Comedy Performance for his role on the show.

It’s followed by a chance to see the best Friday Night Dinner episodes, as voted for by viewers and its many, many fans.

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