review

Faithless review: This Irish TV comedy series is good craic

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Irish TV series Faithless.
Irish TV series Faithless. Credit: SBS

When it comes to laugh-out-loud laughs, the Irish know what they’re doing.

The latest comedy offering from the Emerald Isle is Faithless, a six-part series from TV and radio presenter Baz Ashmawy who has spent years developing this show. All that time and effort has paid — if not for him, then at least for us, the audience.

You don’t have to wait long for the jokes to come thick and fast. The first scene is in a primary school where Sam (Ashmawy) and his wife has been called by their youngest daughter’s teacher. Nancy (Carmen Rose Youssef) has been showing “horrendous” pornography to her classmates. Nancy is seven.

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But Sam wants to know what level of horrendous the porn was – and is greatly relieved when the baffled teacher confirms it wasn’t animal porn. “Is it higher or lower than animals?” Sam wants to know.

Irish TV series Faithless.
The most awkward of parent-teacher meetings. Credit: SBS

Sam is maybe not the most conventional dad, and he’s about to be responsible for a lot more parenting when moments later, his wife, in the middle of telling him just how useless he is, is hit by an ice-cream truck. This is only three minutes into the first episode.

Sam can’t even correctly break the news of their mum’s death to his three girls, how is going to become a responsible sole parent? He is barely working, up to his eyeballs in unpaid bills and can’t even remember to make lunch for Nancy, let alone contend with his oldest, Lina, taking up vaping.

On top of that Nancy’s artwork at school has taken on a decidedly darker edge even though she is the sweetest kid. She is probably, also a little confused. Her teacher calls Sam when Nancy is in the playground praying to Allah with a towel on her head while clutching rosary beads and muttering a bastardisation of Hail Mary.

Irish TV series Faithless.
Baz Ashmawy created and stars in Faithless. Credit: SBS

For Ashmawy, Faithless is modern Ireland, a crucible of identities. Sam’s family has his Muslim father (when his dad is agitated in public, he tells him, “an upset Muslim man with backpack is not great”), his British half-brother, and his Irish in-laws, including his brother-in-law Cormac (Art Campion from Derry Girls) who doesn’t understand why asking a black person if they get sunburnt is at least problematic if not racist (“it’s a skincare question!” Cormac protests).

Ashmawy has previously spoken about his own mixed background and family – he was born in Libya to an Egyptian dad and a white Irish mother, moved to Dublin when he was eight and is now married to a woman who’s Serbian and has a Greek Orthodox mother-in-law.

That’s Faithless’s strength, an earnest but very funny exploration of how we traverse an increasingly complex world where external forces try to define you before you’ve even figured it out yourself. And how to survive, one moment at a time, without completely losing it – even if sometimes you do, and find yourself covered in bin juice.

The jokes are sharp, the emotion is grounded and the writing is smart and insightful. Faithless is a keeper.

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