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Watson & Oliver, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews

Watson & Oliver, BBC Two

Watson & Oliver, BBC Two

Comedy duo make an instant impact with debut series

Lorna Watson and Ingrid Oliver write acutely observed characters

Lorna Watson and Ingrid Oliver, purely by dint of being female, have a burden of expectation before they even open their mouths, as the ghosts of French and Saunders stalk the corridors of the BBC. It's horribly unfair to saddle the newcomers with that burden of course, but, given the dearth of female comics on television, it's perhaps inevitable. Yet the fact that the corporation thinks highly enough of Watson and Oliver to launch them straight on to BBC Two, rather than the safer comedy testing ground of BBC Three, makes a big statement in itself. And, purely on the evidence of the first episode, they have made the right move.

The format for Watson & Oliver is, like the sitcom Miranda, pleasingly retro (and shares a producer, Mark Freeland, with that show, who exec produces here with Robert Popper, who wrote Friday Night Dinner). W&O has recorded and live sketches performed in front of a studio audience, the duo appearing as themselves at the top of the show, a celebrity guest and a big finale. But the twosome's original writing and superb acting bring a freshness to the form that has served Morecamble and Wise, French and Saunders, the Two Ronnies and other greats so well.

Many of the sketches are runners through the series and, having seen three episodes, I'll punt that a few of their characters, and their catchphrases, will be repeated in a workplace or playground near you soon. Some of their creations are just the two of them and in this respect they have a couple of wowsers, Wills and Kate and two Playboy bunnies, hideously made-up visions in pink Candy and April (pictured right).

The former sketch is played in a bed, which seems almost a homage to Morecambe and Wise, but has echoes too of Bill and Ted as the newlyweds discuss their “best day ever” when they got married in front of, like, a billion people, but in which Wills can't help but mention his sister-in-law's pert buttocks (a joke done equally well in the recent Absolutely Fabulous). The bunnies sketch is set in the Playboy mansion, where Candy and April breathily tell us how much they love being there, but then vie not to be the one to give HH his bedtime snuggles that night.

Watson and Oliver have broadened out a lot of their comedy for TV and a very funny returning sketch is their two Georgian ladies, in which the Austenesque Misses Steeps and Rutherford are very keen to give up their virtue to two gents, beautifully played as if with a constant bad smell under their noses by Adrian Scarborough and Hugo Speer (all pictured below), who are really not interested. And, while generous enough to allow guest star John Barrowman, an outrageous showboater at the best of times, room to get his laughs, they more than held their own in their scenes with him in last night's opener.

There's some poignancy, too; the scenes between an old lag who keeps getting sent down and the socially awkward prison officer who befriends her has some other notes played underneath the kind of stagey banter - “what are you like”, “you're a caution, you” - that suggests another conversation entirely which they will never have. Like all of Watson and Oliver's comedy, the characters are acutely observed and never patronised, but believable and funny too.

The duo, who first met at school, have been performing together professionally since 2005, and had three very successful Edinburgh Fringe runs before developing this series. Their longevity as a partnership shows, with the understanding and timing that marks a great double act. Sketch comedy by its very nature is hit and miss, and in this opener Watson & Oliver had only one dud (the point of the Barrowman gag, where they vied for his attentions, was a little too predictable) but the quality of the other sketches more than made up for that. A hit, a palpable hit.

 

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PLUS ONE TURKEY

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A few of their characters, and their catchphrases, will be repeated in a workplace or playground near you soon

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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Comments

I thought it was terrible.

I don't understand why there's so may negative comments about the show. Watson and Oliver are absolutely hilarious! It is what it is - A Sketch Show - Very talented and Very funny - well done!

It's rubbish. Got any more?

Sorry - noticed a typo. You seemed to have spelled 'THIS SHOW WAS FUCKING AWFUL' wrong. And used far too many words.

Really really dire. Half an hour of my life I won't get back...

Abysmal show.. gave it 5 mins. How the hell did this get commissioned. I'm off to watch some Louis C.K to remember what funny is.

Wow. Truly awful. Surprised that Robert Popper was involved in something quite this awful. A new low for bbc comedy.

I thought it was poor. Perhaps the BBC needs to stop focusing on trying to replace French & Saunders.

I though we'd hit the final nadir with the Corden & Horn sketch vehicle but this was far, far worse. Whoever read the scripts and gave it the right light should not be allowed near television. It was dire beyond belief. I actually felt sorry for them.

Staggeringly bad; embarrassing for everyone involved, and I too cannot believe that Robert Popper would touch this with a ten foot pole. Cancel it now and send them back to school (from which revue they presumably trawled up most of the shite they performed last night).

shockingly poor, cringeworthy,the bbc axe shooting stars but commission garbage like this!

Watched W&O this morning on iPlayer - was great! Playboy bunnies, Myeleen Klasse, Not So S&S ... all great, and more, completely surpassed my expectations. clearly two very talented comic actors that deserve the BBC Two slot. Completely baffled why all the slating on this blog! In a very poor schedule for comedy on TV currently, this show will be bookmarked for viewing each week for sure!

... staggered that some viewers (ie fellow commentors) are sooooo turned off by the show! So extreme! Not usually a fan of the sketch show format, but thought Watson and Oliver were great, really well produced TV, original sketches, very refreshing to watch ...

We agree.....it was shite wasn't it

No it wasn't! Those of us who a) don't hate women and b) recognize that French & Saunders, great as they were, are not the only possible template for female comedy enjoyed the show a lot. You clearly have your own style and approach - keep at it!

I dont think 'hating women' has anything to do with not liking this show - - - I love women and I think this show lets them down very very badly, yes there are other options out there apart from F & S but this terribly dire stuff should never have seen the light of day. There was only one sketch that made the grade and that was the drawn on eyebrows one. I'm not a comedy scriptwriter but I have a better sense of what is funny and works than those scriptwriters - I'm availabe BBC!

I was really impressed with this show, and will definitely watch future episodes. A very talented pair of ladies!

Agree. I thought it was refreshingly different to all the male-dominated comedy panel shows (although I like these too)8. Watson and Oliver are talented comic actors with real range. The playboy bunnies, the prison sketch, the darling sketch, all acutely observed and the prison sketch and playboy bunny sketch with a poignancy underlying the comedy. I liked the homage to Morecambe and Wise and am looking forward to the rest of the series.

Terrible show. Beyond cringeworthy. Awful writing and very unfunny. Why was this commissioned?

Really, another show with loud poorly timed canned laughter? Who controls the button? Half the time they press it during the build up of the joke or during none funny parts. At least in shows like Little Britian it wasn't over powering and played after punchlines etc.

The playboy bunnies with them gagging had me in stitches, I must admit these two had me laughing for the first time in ages, no foul language which made a change, I think they are great, wish I heard about them sooner, at last something to watch instead of all the celeb shows, soaps etc. Well done girls, keep up the fantastic work, loved the Kiera sketch and Myleen too!

There are lots more great comedy moments like this to be had on children's tv. A word of warning to you ....please dont ever watch any old French and Saunders because if you think W & O are funny F & S will make you collapse.

Absolute garbage - can I have a refund on my TV licence

just dreadful thought i'd turned on cbbc instead, how can this stuff get comissioned, watch noel fielding's luxury comedy for genuine talent, the best freshest comedy on tv since vic reeve's big night out!!

The fact that you encourage people to watch Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy as a source of 'genuine talent' invalidates any opinion you have, have had, or ever will have on anything.

All a matter of taste - I personally do not find Noel Fielding half as funny without his "Boosh" partner Julian Barratt, and the last time I saw Vic Reeves, he "wittily" pulled down his trousers in front of an attractive female panel member, meaning I suppose to reveal the funny face he had previously drawn on his buttocks with felt tip. In the process, he also revealed the extensive faecal stains on his underpants. Cutting edge? I don't think so, but if it is, you can have it!

Episode 2 - loved the Bad/Mad Men sketch and the sexy classical musicians. maybe the Jane Austen parody is wearing a bit thin.

"...maybe the Jane Austen parody is wearing a bit thin...." Indead.

Indeed

Indeed.

Awful, dire, dreadful. And then it got worse. Possibly the least charismatic, least talented and unfunny duo since measles and mumps.

Indescribably dreadful... Come back, Russ Abbott; all is forgiven.

So what do you actually LIKE? Russell Brand? Frankie Boyle? Bill Hicks? There must be room in the world for more than one kind of comedy.

You mean really poor comedy.

After viewing shows 3 and 4, I have to say I feel I’m watching two skilled comedy actresses rather than an established comedy team – they have not really discovered their comic personae and the scripts are weak. I think Lorna Watson is funnier in the Direct Line commercials than she is in this show. In this, for example, her “All right, darling?” character in the recurrent café sketch is beautifully played – it just isn’t very funny! I sense that W&O would like to be Morecambe and Wise but haven’t got it figured yet – I hope they get the chance to do so.

Omfg this program is amazing I love it so much

You love this show?....There's a handsome young man you may like to meet.......Joseph Merrick :)

Who comissioned this load of tripe? - The BBC needs to sack them. Any people posting comments that this show is funny need to seek professional help. The scriptwriters dont drink tea on their break, they write this series. The two working women fighting ( eg waste bin goes on head ) comedy genius........NOT!! Unbelievable.

Who commissioned this? A BBC commissioning editor, presumably on the basis of W&O's standup work. The editor probably did not see the show until the finished work was delivered. Should he/she be sacked? Only if you feel they should be achieving a 100% success rate as normal, which does not happen in comedy - experimentation is vital, failure some of the time is inevitable. Furthermore, it helps when discussing the arts to raise the debate above the level of calling people who disagree with you mentally ill!

Obviously a commissioning editor - I was more meaning which individual was responsible - I thought you would have enough intelligence to realise this. rather than taking this as an ill-timed opportunity to show your 'knowledge' of TV staffing. I would have thought that there wouldn't be too much difference in standard between the duo's previous live work and this TV output. If the editor is currently slapping his forehead with his jaw open after seeing the shows and wondering what went wrong then fair enough - it should be Watson & Oliver that gets sacked. If I want to throw in the phrase 'Mentally ill' in this debate then that's my choice I'm afraid - as far as I am aware there isn't a debate rulebook - maybe you could write one and everyone could have a debate about it.

Totally agree - only suitable for people watching with sore ribs - someone wanted this after attending their live show? He must have been the deaf man at the back with a guide dog . Their shows were sell outs?? Must have been chucking it down outside.

After watching episode 5, I have to say that it had some good observation and nice comic playing, but I felt the script touched a new low - not a laugh in sight. A great pity - just think what Catherine Tate managed to do with "Lauren" and her "Am I bovvered?" line, and contrast this with W&O's dopey schoolgirls - a potentially rich source of comedy more or less completely thrown away.

Ingrid is the best thing about this show but the pic of her at the top of this page looks like she has just realised something is running down her leg.

A palpable hit? Steady on love, it was average at best. Can't see it getting a second series. 3 hours is a long time to fill with strong material.

Very, very patchy at best. It was like watching very capable drama students having a bash at comedy - end of year revue kinda thing - rather than a genuinely funny experience. I quite liked, Fi & Bea, the posh school girls but overall it was 'meh'. The characters were just too weak to be bothered about and I can't see any Fastshow style fondness for them. Two talented actressess in need of better material.

This was the first episode I've seen and I thought it was utter rubbish. It was like the local amateur dramatics on a bad night. I hope the BBC won't be wasting anymore money on this drivel. I see someone commented ' there is nothing like a spot of light entertainment' and I do agree with him, this was nothing like a spot of light entertainment. It was more like a boil than a spot and it should be lanced.

Fellow aesthetes will I am sure be keen to know that, according to this weeks’ Radio Times (essential reading for those at the cutting edge of culture), the person who commissioned W&O was Cheryl Taylor, BBC Head of Comedy. Not only has she not been hauled off in a yellow van, she has commissioned a second series! In the words of that acute philosophical commentator Sir Jimmy Savile: “’Ow’s about that, then?” If W&O ever see this, I would say - seize this opportunity, beef up your writing team and get a really tough script editor who is capable of saying “That’s enough of that!” and “This isn’t working!”

Another Series?! -Lord No!!! Could they not just save some money and put the old Test Card on for half an hour?

The moment we have yearned for has arrived! New series starts on 25th April. Take care not to laugh too hard and injure yourself!

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