There’s only one legitimate response to the sad news that Paul Ritter has passed away – a slow, pained “shit on it”. The 54-year-old actor was a stalwart of British prime time dramas such as Vera and No Offence – and delivered a brilliant performance in the Emmy-winning miniseries Chernobyl – but he’ll be best remembered as Friday Night Dinner’s eccentric patriarch, Martin Goodman.
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Usually shirtless and distracted by an illogical scheme that he would eventually cock up, Martin was a properly hilarious sitcom character. Ritter’s brilliance was to play him like any oddball dad you might recognise from childhood, but just slightly weirder. In his honour, here are seven of Martin’s most memorable mess-ups.
When he tries to hide a dead fox in the freezer
Why the hell would Martin put a dead fox in the freezer? So he can have it stuffed and put on display in his shed, of course – as he tells the boys, it’s a “talking point”, even though no one else goes in there…
Shit-on-it-o-meter: 5/5 – Martin was never going to be able to hide a dead fox from Jackie for long. Still, he couldn’t have foreseen that Wilson would end up exposing his secret by dragging its frozen carcass out from under the stairs in front of everyone.
When he cooks the Friday night dinner
Jackie’s dry turkey is a family gripe, but there’s a reason why she does all the cooking in the Goodman household. The one time Martin attempts to make a family meal, it’s an unmitigated disaster. As Adam notes, it really is just “potatoes and some meat”, and the beef is so hard and shrunken that it squeaks when he tries to carve it.
Shit-on-it-o-meter: 4/5 – Martin doesn’t actually say “shit on it!” here, but it’s implied in the way he reluctantly agrees to take everyone to the Chinese instead of making them eat his food.
When he and Jackie decide to have sex
Coming home to find your parents doing the deed is completely mortifying at any age. It’s made even worse when, like Martin, your dad calls it “making love” and asks you to wait in the car for half an hour while they finish off.
Shit-on-it-o-meter: 3/5 – Sure, Martin messes up by forgetting to tell the boys to arrive later, but he’s enough of a stud to pull off lime-green boxers. Respect.
When he gets a caravan for no apparent reason
Buying a “horrible shithole” of a caravan – Adam and Jonny’s words, not ours – is a typical Martin move. Still, there’s something quite touching in his unwavering belief that he can persuade Jackie to embrace it, even though it’s even less inviting than his garden shed.
Shit-on-it-o-meter: 5/5 – First Jim drops the contents of the caravan’s toilet onto the Goodmans’ dining room floor, quite literally getting shit on it. Then the whole caravan ends up catching fire. Ouch.
When he catches Val tidying up his “sodding shed”
Martin’s shed is his sanctuary, so catching nosy Aunt Val in there is a major invasion of privacy. Things go from bad to worse when Val tells him she’s found the 20-year-old tin of beef that he’s been keeping, erm, as a good luck charm?
Shit-on-it-o-meter: 4/5 – Val’s kind of in the wrong here, but Martin’s tactlessness makes her cry and Jackie doesn’t react well. Martin then ends up embarrassing Adam in front of his boss by screaming “Give me my shitting meat!” through the letterbox. It’s a peak shit-on-it moment.
When he gets obsessed with a plastic bag stuck in a tree
When Martin reels off the many different ways the bag could have got stuck – “perhaps a bird took it up there, like a gull or something?” – Ritter’s deadpan delivery is absolutely priceless. Even when Martin’s behaviour crosses the line from “peak Dad” to “a bit of a weirdo”, Ritter always makes him completely believable.
Shit-on-it-o-meter: 4/5 – Martin does his back in while trying to retrieve the bag, but this doesn’t make him give up. He’s down, but not out – especially when he can pay a man with a cherry-picker £300 to free the bag from its branch.
When he spills oil on Jackie’s carpet
Martin normally remains bullish when one of his secretive schemes goes wrong, but here he’s a whimpering mess. And having Val downstairs cackling ostentatiously just adds to the air of Greek tragedy.
Shit-on-it-o-meter: 5/5 – Martin is in such a bind here here that he gets desperate, prompting his classic line: “Shit on the lamb, just call the man!”