fri 19/01/2018

300 Years of French and Saunders, BBC1 review - seasonal treat from the sketch duo | reviews, news & interviews

300 Years of French and Saunders, BBC1 review - seasonal treat from the sketch duo

300 Years of French and Saunders, BBC1 review - seasonal treat from the sketch duo

New sketches and old clips

Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French as two characters on 'Gogglebox' - one of the show's new sketchesGary Moyes

What joy that Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders were persuaded by the BBC to celebrate their 30 (ish) years as a comedy duo with this programme – and that this sweet confection was shown on Christmas Day. It was a pleasing mix of old clips and new material, and a reminder that when F&S are good, they are very, very good.

Among the new sketches we returned to Prickly Pear Farm, where Dot and May are now running a hilariously inadequate natural burial site, and visited the Poldark set, where they played two irritating extras (pictured below with Poldark's Eleanor Tomlinson and Jack Farthing), forever asking for selfies with the cast. The pair also played two old biddies on Gogglebox blathering on about “Clara” Balding and other gay people on TV, and provided a pitch-perfect skit about the real Giles and Mary who appear on the reality show.300 Years of French and SaundersGogglebox may be easy to spoof but F&S, despite the broad-stroke make-up and costume, serve up keenly observed comedy, with French supplying the slapstick while Saunders slyly skewers egos.

But F&S went so much further than pastiche with their spoofs of the US reality show Keeping Up With the Kardashians, in which French played Kim Kardashian, complete with pantomime-Dame enormous bum (“Oh my god, what is that? Oh, it’s just my big fat ass”), and The Handmaid's Tale (complete with a ridiculous bonnet for French, of course).

It was a treat to have French and Saunders back on screen

In both sketches French and Saunders went meta, breaking the fourth wall and deconstructing the comedy while still in character. That takes some clever writing to pull off and, in questioning both sketches' relevance for whoever their audience may now be, reflects a keen awareness that they were last on TV 10 years ago and that comedy (and its audience) has moved on.

The clips took us on a pleasant trip down memory lane, however, and showed what a wealth of quality material there was to choose from; the spoof of The Silence of the Lambs, French as Elton John, the dreadful mistreatment of Lulu (who appeared, like Joanna Lumley, another old F&S chum, as herself), and the sketch that led to Absolutely Fabulous (with French in the Saffron role).

It was a treat to have French and Saunders back on screen and, while I would have liked more new material, it was good to see some of their finest past work – however brief some of the clips were. And considering that some of their sketches have become comedy classics, surely it's time for the BBC to do some “Best of” F&S shows? 

Or even better, that they lock French and Saunders in a room to come up with a new series in 2018.

The clips took us on a pleasant trip down memory lane

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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