Saturday, September 1, 2012

Eye on the Comedy Prize

Although the initially promising action-adventure series Sinbad is rapidly running out of ideas and originality on Sky One, all is not lost in the period drama stakes over at Sky. Not only has the network commissioned a full series of the World War One sitcom Chickens, written by and starring Joe Thomas and Simon Bird of The Inbetweeners and originally piloted by Channel Four last autumn, but the queen of British black comedy Julia Davis is currently to be seen acting in a decidedly psychotic manner, sporting an unnecessary eye patch and generally being hilarious in her new creation Hunderby on Sky Atlantic of a Monday evening. It is set in the first years of the nineteenth century, features a shipwreck, country dancing, illicit love, revealing letters that go unread and things that go bump in the night and tells the story of a young woman whose life as the new bride of a middle-aged clergyman is blighted by the memory of his beloved first wife Arabelle and the unwillingness of the devoted housekeeper Dorothy - played by Davis (pictured above) - to accept her new mistress as Arabelle's replacement.

Period drama enthusiasts will notice allusions to, amongst other classic tales, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Jane Eyre and Rebecca although Hunderby is very much its own animal, blending all different kinds of humour and allowing the viewer to become as absorbed in the Gothic melodrama as tickled by the silliness and bawdiness and the many brilliant jokes derived from tinkering around with the language of the time and its impact on our modern ears. Dorothy's insidious determination to torment her pretty young mistress may become almost unbearable to watch as the series progresses but I trust that the scenario can remain daft and raucous enough to keep matters on the right side of edgy and keep the laughs coming thick and fast. Anything on TV that includes the line "Perfect souls cannot stay long upon this earth and, although my time with Arabelle was brief, I will always relish that precious snatch" is worth sticking with, I reckon. You won't get that in Anna Karenina!

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