Posted by: Paul | March 22, 2010

Lizzie & Sarah

Davis & Hynes marvellously frumped-up as Lizzie and Sarah

Well, that was bleak.

The Guardian preview bemoaned the fact that the Beeb seemed to have developed cold feet about this, a new pilot from Julia Davis (of Nighty Night, see previous post) and Jessica Hynes (nee Stephenson, most famously of Spaced). Squirrelled away late on a Saturday night, it clearly was not something they wanted to make a Gavin & Stacey style fuss about.

On the strength of the first few minutes, you could see why. Warm and fuzzy it was not, but then having just finished watching the second series of NN, I was hardly expecting heartwarming from Julia Davis. Uncomfortable, slightly twisted and very, very black humour indeed is more her style. I had hoped Jessica Hynes might lighten the tone a bit – her performance certainly added a great deal of pathos – but if by “lighten” you mean “start murdering people” you’re nearer the mark.

Lizzie and Sarah is the story of two ladies of a certain age stuck in loveless marriages while the men in their lives do exactly as they please: screw the au pair, philander with schoolgirls, father children through bigamous marriages in other countries, partake in sex tourism (you know, the usual). They wear the backhanded abuse, put up with the blatant waving of infidelities in their faces, all with a dismissive laugh and a shrug of the shoulders, cheerfully muttering “boys will be boys!” to themselves. There is no final straw. They will go on living with it as long as they have to with only each other to confide in. That is until, after the latest sobbing, gin-soaked breakdown, a petty robbery in a pub proves the catalyst to unlock their rage, their inner Charles Bronsons, and a rather unexpected bloodbath begins.

I sincerely hope this makes it to a series. Both Hynes and Stephenson put in utterly spectacular turns as the downtrodden wives and the characters deserve a fuller life, despite them already having murdered almost everyone who made their lives a misery. One particular scene creased me up in laughter and pain – the hideous liberty-taking-and-then-some Au Pair Branita ‘accidentally’ slams a piano lid on Lizzie’s (Davis) fingers and she continues the lesson with her hands twisted in agony, pupil aghast. They also make somewhat uncomfortable viewing as two incredibly convincing hyper-sexualised teenage girls, two of the objects of their husbands nefarious desires.

But with the BBC basically having buried it where no-one but the most avidly faithful dark British comedy fans will find it, I don’t hold out much hope. It’s a real shame that boundary pushing shows like this are not receiving more bold backing. Come on Beeb! You took the gamble of making the pilot, now show you’re serious!

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