TV preview: Who Do You Think You Are?

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Brendan O’Carroll is generating plenty of laughs by dragging up as Irish grafter Agnes Brown.

Mirroring the character of Old Mother Riley, played by music hall star Arthur Lucan, Brendan’s wife Jennifer Gibney plays screen daughter Cathy - Lucan’s wife Kitty McShane, played Riley’s daughter,

“Initially it was me playing Mrs Brown,” explains Brendan. “Before you knew it everyone was involved in the show: my wife, my sister, my son...

“Although she can be an awful woman, she loves her family. She would defend them to death.”

To the delight (and confusion) of some BBC executives, Mrs Brown has been one of their biggest hits. The last two Christmas specials alone left many of their bigger budget offerings floundering in their wake.

The sight of the foul-mouthed heroine rocking around (on top of) a Christmas tree left some viewers almost choking on their turkey sandwiches during one festive special.

More recently, Agnes has also taken the big screen by storm.

Mrs Brown’s Boys Da’ Movie may have been panned by the critics, but tickets sold like hot farls in some parts of the UK.

“Mrs Brown started as a five-minute piece on radio... mad!” explains Brendan, who can’t quite believe how big his little act has become.

O’Carroll started in comedy relatively late, aged 35. However, since then has made a packet out of cross-dressing as the feisty, Dublin matriarch.

His rise to fame is worth a documentary of its own, but naturally it’s Brendan’s ancestors who fall under the spotlight for the latest edition of genealogy strand.

O’Carroll’s Who Do You Think You Are story is a personal ‘whodunit’ - a quest to find the men who murdered his grandfather Peter O’Carroll, one night in October 1920 - at the height of the Irish War of Independence.

“My own family history, I know a bit,” he explains. “The stand-out story of the O’Carroll side was the murder of my grandfather in 1920 I believe it was, and that he was shot and it was for Irish freedom and it was my granddad.”

He adds: “I saw it on the gravestone - ‘shot during the curfew’ - it was really stark and I thought, I’d really like to know what happened.”

Now, with the aid of experts, Brendan sheds some light on his grandfather’s troubled past.

Marcel Somerville

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