Sitting down to watch Friday Night Dinner two Fridays ago was, for me, a peculiar experience. For six weeks every other year since I was 12, my weekly ritual has been to sit down and watch the fictitious lives of these profoundly relatable characters on screen after my very own Friday night dinner. It seems to be little exaggeration to state that I grew up watching this show, with it providing a friendly and constant respite from the chaos and uncertainty of everyday life. Despite being on our screens for nearly a decade, the characters sustain themselves, in stark comparison to how those of us who have grown up with the show have perhaps changed.
While each season of Friday Night Dinner varied in its quality – with the most recent certainly being no exception to the rule – it always seemed to have a place in my heart as my favourite ever TV show, regardless of who asked.
Perhaps it was how relatable the characters were to myself and the tens of thousands of other British Jews who sit down for their own Friday night dinner every week, determined to mark the Sabbath in some way even if this did not involve all of its rules and stringencies. While the Jewish undertones to the series were at times subtle, with freshly baked challah and the twin Shabbat candles only being seen in the background, this mirrors the life which many Jews live in the UK. Our Jewishness is often not something that we parade for all to see, but something further down inside us, only showing itself in private amongst family and friends.
It was strange that certainly by 2018, when the fifth series of Friday Night Dinner was released, this slightly exaggerated version of a regular occurrence for Jews all across the country had gained popular appeal, with attendees at Reading Festival screaming “Shalom Jackie” at each other, Friday Night Dinner themed club nights and one teenager even getting a tattoo with the words “Shalom Jackie” on her arm.
It feels absurd to even compare this to watching the latest series of Friday Night Dinner over the past few weeks. While on our TVs, Adam and Jonny continue to visit their parents in blissful ignorance of the wider world, our own world collapses around us. For many of us, the parents’ house which is the subject of this comedy is now the location of our own solitude. Yet Friday Night Dinner perseveres, completely unaware of the dire state of the life which this sitcom usually so perfectly imitates. It’s at times like these when watching such a show becomes enchantingly escapist; the events on TV represent the epitome of what our lockdown could be, with the mundane becoming exciting.
With this being said, there was something bittersweet about watching the finale of Friday Night Dinner. Assuming this is the final regular episode, which seems incredibly likely, one has to respect the show’s production team both for keeping the episode’s twists and turns under wraps despite the enthusiastic fanbase and for taking the difficult decision to end the show on a high like this.
After nearly a decade, many agreed that at least the first few episodes of this series were subpar, with some characters (looking at you, Jim and Horrible Grandma) almost becoming caricatures of their past selves. This is, however, relative: Friday Night Dinner certainly persists as a great show despite these possible flaws.
Having the confidence to end the show at this point, despite its highest ever viewership, is highly commendable, and the way they did it was brilliant. Showing that it’s time for these characters to move on reminds us of an integral part of growing up – that although everything changes, we’ll always be the same people on the inside. And I think there’s something beautiful about that.
Goodbye, Friday Night Dinner. Everything changed, but I’ll still miss you.