French and Saunders...
Last night Guy, Neil and I went to BBC Television Centre in White City to see the taping of the latest French and Saunders sketch show. Believe it or not they have been working together on TV since 1981 but this is only series 6.
In the 1980s and early 1990s the French and Saunders show used to the thing to watch - ground-breaking stuff and funny as hell it was quoted from school yard to office cooler. During the latter part of the 1990s though they rather went off the boil as a comedy duo; moving into film parody rather too heavily in their own shows and concentrating there time on other roles (in particular The Vicar of Dibley and Absolutely Fabulous). But with a bit of a lull in their other personal projects they are spending this year working on a proper series of French and Saunders. This renewed focus has certainly paid off if the sketches we watched last night were any example. That said, the film parodies are still much in evidence with even a joke about their own dependence upon them: Lisa Tarbuck as their exasperated manager, "Now look! What the public want is you (pointing to Dawn) in a dog collar and you (pointing to Jennifer) falling over and showing your knickers but they can't have that - so do what you can do. Film parodies. Alright? It's what French and Saunders do."
Actually this is a trifle unfair, they have come up with a clutch of new characters (dressers in history, Jodie and Jordan phone-in show, teenage shouty girl, Devonshire ladies move to Miami) which are quite as good as what they ever used to do. But is it a return to form? Yes and no. Yes, it is funny, but it's not really what you would call ground-breaking. It's not quite got that edge that made it unmissable all those years ago. Think Ab Fab season 4 versus Ab Fab season 1. Think comedy that makes you chuckle rather than comedy that makes tea spray out of your nose. Great to have the girls back though. Should be on air October time.