Saturday, 13 February 2010

The Cheeser's Choice: Victoria Wood - As Seen on TV

She's been around for years, and some would consider her to be past it or "old hat" in terms of her humour, but you still can't knock Victoria Wood.

I recently treated myself to her "As Seen On TV" DVD (bargain for a tenner - the entire, unedited, two series of the show!) originally broadcast by the BBC back in the mid 1980s, and it's been great watching all these episodes again, as well as a reminder of how funny and observational Ms Wood really is. The essence of Victoria's humour is a preoccupation with the stuff of everyday life, with references to social class and all things domestic (often related to the Northern of England, from whence she originates). There's also a kind of surrealism to some of the comedy that makes the show even more entertaining. "As Seen on TV" is a series of sketches featuring many well-observed characters, played by regular supporting cast Julie Walters, Celia Imrie, Duncan Preston and Susie Blake. Two of the funniest comic creations to feature were the characters of Marjorie and Joan, two hoity-toity and bitchy TV presenters, dishing out useful / pointless consumer advice to TV viewers. Gotta love Viccie's hair in these scenes, a definite piss-take of Judith Chalmers??

Wood and Walters make an excellent comic duo and spark off each other incredibly well (they had their own show prior to "As Seen On TV", so it's no wonder) and this Italian restaurant scene is one of my favourites with some hilarious lines. The oversexed waiter is also priceless (if even more of a comic stereotype by today's standards):

Funny eh? I just love the lines, like "She likes the majesty and grandeur of the landscape, but she's not too keen on the bacon" and "They got onto politics and I ended up watching "Take The High Road" take the biscuit ... not to mention "Just a black coffee, thank you"!

And what about the Mayflower Hotel, Nottingham? An experience which will be painfully familiar to many of us:

Another hallmark of "As Seen On TV" was a weekly musical number, normally performed by Ms Wood on the piano with accompanying lyrics. I must confess some of these numbers now sound very twee and dated with their tales of love affairs gone wrong and suchlike. However one number worthy of inclusion is "Keep On Shopping" which still has a lot of resonance today and features some amazing female vocal performances (a great skit of blues/"belter" type singers):

And who can forget the deliciously catty continuity announcer played by the brilliant Susie Blake?

She also had a choice line (which I couldn't find on the net) in one scene: "We'd like to apologise to our viewers in the North. It must be awful for you".

And last but not least, what about Acorn Antiques??

For those of you who've obviously been living in the Outback since 1985, the "show" was a spoof of low budget soap opera and its poor production values - shoddy sets, wobbling walls, poor camera angles and cr*p acting - the most obvious target being the equally low budget and much derided "Crossroads". The performances in Acorn Antiques are legendary (for all the wrong reasons) - Celia Imrie's posh Miss Babs, Duncan Preston's pompous Mr Clifford and best of all, Julie Walters' brummie tea/charlady Mrs Overall, who forever missed her cues and fluffs her lines ("Coffeeeee, Miss Babs?") There were some great send-ups of soap opera-type plotlines, including terrorists infiltrating the shop and later on, its transformation into a health club ("Just leave your antiques in the cubicle, they'll be perfectly safe!"):

In the final episode of Acorn Antiques we hear that the characters of Mrs Overall and Mr Kenneth have been axed, leading to some hilarious pre-show footage (Julie W is skitting actress Noele Gordon, who played matriarch Meg Richardon/Mortimer in Crossroads and who was similarly sacked from the programme):

A bit of an icon then, our Victoria. As a matter of fact she was back on our screens recently in a (now rare) Christmas special. While retaining quite a lot of the Wood humour I didn't find it as memorable as her shows of yore, though, one reason being the absence of her regular supporting cast (although Julie Walters was still present, playing the actress who portrayed Mrs Overall, Bo Beaumont, to good comic effect). But if you want to see the reason why Vix is such a celebrated comedienne, look no further than "As Seen On TV"!


  1. Oh I like her very much and Julie Walters has always been great. I have never bought a series on DVD, altho' I would like the Blackadder series....

  2. I don't mind her and I can see from the selection of classic sketches here that she deserves her canonization in the comedy school of fame... but for me she never quite hits the funny bone. Same with Julie Walters though I love her film roles without exception.

  3. Amanda - Did you get Viccie over in NZ? Glad you're a fan of her and Ms Walters. Blackadder is another quintessentially English comedy, it gets a lot of hype but is on the whole deserved I think ...

    Steve - It's a matter of taste I think. I'm guessing from all I know about you that you're more of a black/ironic comedy man, am I right? Who are your faves?

  4. Must admit to a fondness for Frankie Boyle and ol' Daragh. But I'm a big fan of Tommy Cooper and Frankie Howard too.

  5. Aaaah Steve, so you're into the old skool comedians! Frankie Howard was hilarious I have to say ... ever watch "Up Pompei"? (I didn't but heard it was chucklesome...)