Everyone Else Burns review – a comedy to become religiously devoted to

Simon Bird stars in a sitcom about a family caught up in an evangelical sect. And with perfect jokes that come this thick and fast, you’ll be an instant convert

What do we come to British comedy for if not to be wholly charmed by tales of suburban doomsday cults? It’s so perfect a setup that I am surprised it didn’t become a staple of the genre long before Dillon Mapletoft and Oliver Taylor’s venture, Everyone Else Burns (Channel 4), came along.

But if historically someone has been slacking, this new comedy is worth the wait. Simon Bird – youthful star of The Inbetweeners and Friday Night Dinner, now disconcertingly all grown up – is David, the fanatical head of a family who are members of an evangelical, doomsday-awaiting sect, the Order of the Divine Rod. We meet him rousing his wife and children in the middle of the night to gather their prepper bags and hike out of the city because the apocalypse is imminent.

His son, Aaron (Harry Connor), is delighted – “Finally!” – while his daughter, Rachel (Amy James-Kelly), is terrified; Fiona (Kate O’Flynn), his wife, is stoic. It turns out to be a test, but you do what you have to do when you are a Christian patriarch bent on securing your loved ones’ places in heaven and on being promoted to church elder over your rival, the smug but popular Andrew (Kadiff Kirwan).

The jokes come thick, fast and funny. Some take aim at targets you might expect when your premise centres on a religious cult: another family is shunned for “drug dealing”, which soft-hearted Rachel thinks is harsh, but “they knew what they were doing when they opened that cafe,” Fiona tells her firmly. Others venture into more bizarre, yet still logical, territory. There is a running gag involving David’s proficiency at the sorting office where he works, specifically his ability to weigh parcels by hand and lob them unseeing over his shoulder into exactly the right basket – the world’s most perfectly suburban God-given gift.

Another running gag is Aaron’s artwork – mostly violent depictions of his father suffering in the afterlife – as the boy attempts to work through his rage at being cheated of the apocalypse he was promised. “The suburbs should be a crater by now!”

Amy James-Kelly and Harry Connor in Everyone Else Burns
Amy James-Kelly and Harry Connor in Everyone Else Burns. Photograph: James Stack/Channel 4

The heart of the show, however, pumping life into its veins and giving us some more relatable people to root for, is the women. Fiona is doing her best to be the faithful and obedient wife that David and the Order demand, but you can see it is an increasing struggle.

She longs for a new television to replace the one David poured a jug of water over and, against all teachings, she begins to assert her independence by starting up her own business, with the help of her magnificent secular neighbour, Melissa (the magnificent Morgana Robinson). “But the Bible says women will be fulfilled by making the home their work,” an uncertain Fiona says. “And have you, personally, found that?” enquires Melissa. “No,” says Fiona. “But I’ve only been doing it 17 years.” “I’d ask more,” says her friend, “but I don’t want to be sad.”

Rachel is the epitome of a painfully uncool teenager, alienated from her peers by her plain clothes, lack of phone and inability to go out unless it is to knock on doors to proselytise. Her growing friendship with a former Order member called Joshua (Ali Khan) – he even smuggles her a phone – is genuinely touching and, I fear, may break my heart at some point.

On top of denying her a social life, her parents also intend to stop Rachel going to university. They condemn her for getting good grades – a clear sign that she has been spending time revising instead of spreading God’s word. Her teacher, Miss Simmonds (Lolly Adefope, still not being given enough to do, but hitting what she is given out of the park every time), encourages Rachel not to abandon her efforts. “I’ve got a lot of goodwill riding on this. And actual money.” Although, unfortunately, “my local betting shop has banned me online and in person”.

The hyper-religiosity is used to look anew at family dynamics and dysfunction; how blind you can be to abnormalities if they are all you know; and the need to break free. Mapletoft and Taylor do this without mocking faith itself. David’s unwitting hypocrisy and unshakeable selfishness (pushing a mother and her sick baby behind him in the Elders’ advice queue) are the butt of the jokes; the extremity and perversion of Christianity by the Order is what they have in their sights. Beyond that, it’s simply very, very funny, all the way. I’m a convert.


Lucy Mangan

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Detectorists Christmas Special review – the best thing you will watch all festive period
This special isn’t quite as perfect as the original, but revisiting Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones’s precious sitcom is pure pleasure. It beats all other yuletide TV hands down

Jack Seale

26, Dec, 2022 @10:15 PM

Article image
Ghosts US review – remove the original sitcom’s best bits and you have … this
This American remake of the BBC comedy is less thoughtful, less nuanced, less … good. But the brilliance of its premise means it’s still fun

Jack Seale

20, Nov, 2022 @8:55 PM

Article image
The Sex Lives of College Girls review – this comedy’s spectacular chemistry makes it the modern-day Friends
The gang of pitch-perfect actors give this show the perfect, elusive blend of truthful, joyful and funny

Lucy Mangan

18, Jan, 2023 @11:29 AM

Article image
TV tonight: Simon Bird prepares for Armageddon in new sitcom Everyone Else Burns
Lolly Adefope also stars in this Manchester-set comedy. Plus: watch out for the Clickers in The Last of Us. Here’s what to watch this evening

Hollie Richardson, Alexi Duggins, Jack Seale, Ellen E Jones and Simon Wardell

23, Jan, 2023 @6:20 AM

Article image
Mo review – it is impossible not to become instantly invested in this warm, moving comedy
Palestinian American comic Mo Amer’s semi-autobiographical sitcom about a refugee seeking US citizenship is gorgeously textured, bewitchingly acted – and very, very funny

Lucy Mangan

24, Aug, 2022 @5:00 AM

Article image
Extraordinary review – help, my bum has become a 3D printer!
Encanto meets Derry Girls in a fun fantasy series where everyone – apart from its lead character – has a superpower. Although some of the abilities are very mundane …

Lucy Mangan

25, Jan, 2023 @6:00 AM

Article image
I Hate Suzie Too review – Amy Winehouse and Caroline Flack haunt this astounding show
It may be the televisual equivalent of a panic attack – but TV doesn’t get any weirder, sadder or more fearlessly magnificent

Chitra Ramaswamy

20, Dec, 2022 @10:05 PM

Article image
That ’90s Show review – this spin-off comedy is like revisiting a childhood classic
The sequel to That ‘70s Show very much takes an approach of ‘If it ain’t broke … ’ As we revisit the Wisconsin basement, even new characters have the old ones’ traits

Lucy Mangan

19, Jan, 2023 @6:00 AM

Article image
‘I was the oldest person on set’: how a doomsday comedy lured Inbetweener Simon Bird back to TV
Ambitious, warm, funny: Channel 4’s great new comedy about an apocalyptic cult was irresistible to the longtime sitcom actor – even if his castmates’ clubbing chat went over his head …

Stuart Heritage

20, Jan, 2023 @2:00 PM

Article image
Atypical season four review – warm autism comedy comes of age
Netflix’s sitcom about an autistic teenager’s road to independence reaches its final season, dealing with big themes in a way that is sweet but not saccharine

Rebecca Nicholson

09, Jul, 2021 @8:00 AM