Friday, June 20, 2008

"I've done a plait" - "It's right effective is that!"

I woke up this morning with the lyrics to Victoria Wood's "The Chippy" going around in my head. It must have been decades since I'd last heard it - odd how things never really go away.

I discovered Victoria Wood As Seen On TV in the early 1980s, by accident. I think it was broadcast on Friday nights on BBC2, without much fanfare. It was unlike anything else on tv at the time, and I was instantly hooked. I wonder if she knew the impact she was having on 1000s of sensitive gay teenage boys living in boring bits of the UK? The 1980s weren't very nice for us - and she was a whimisical, ironic oasis, with a gentle way of mocking the mundane concerns of ordinary British people.

Each show started with a rather breathless monologue, where she would be self-deprecatory about her weight or other things, and then there'd be a series of sketches, puncuated by a rather sour television announcer played by Susie Blake. When Susie said, po-faced as usual, "We'd like to apologise to viewers in the north. It must be awful for you." a lot of jigsaw pieces fell into place...

There was usually a song at some point, banged out on the piano, and then an episode of Acorn Antiques - the parody of Crossroads with the wobbly sets and bad dialogue.

Then "Kitty", played by Patricia Routledge would come on for her weekly monologue. She was a posh northern spinster woman who lived in Cheadle, full of deluded confidence and with opinions on everything. She reminded me of my aunt Ethel who was from the "posh" side of the family.

There were lots of women in Victoria Wood's sketches. When I used to go clubbing in Blackpool in the early 1990s, in one club, a screen would descend from the ceiling at various points in the night and clips of Victoria Wood would be played. It's odd even now, that if you get a group of gay men of a certain age together, they'll eventually start quoting from Victoria Wood as Seen on Tv.

There was also usually a mock documentary at the end with serious-voiced interviewer Corrin Huntley - my favourite was "Winnie's Big Day" - the one about the pensioners who won a competition by thinking up new names of shades for lingerie ("sprout", "ketchup", "bandage" and "liver") and became overnight millionaires.

For me, Victoria's humour went off the boil a bit after As Seen on TV. She did a series of individual comedy dramas, each one in a different setting, and then there was the comedy series Dinnerladies, which, rather than making fun of twee working-class mores, seemed to embrace them fully. The quirkiness of the original series was much muted. However, it's nice to see that these clips are still funny.


Lost Boy said...

I loved Victoria Wood. The mockumentary of behind the scenes at Acorn Antiques is one of the best comedy sketched ever. And you're right, even now my mother and I quote it at each other. The whole series has never been released on DVD as far as I know, just a highlights compilation. It's still a must-have for any gay who grew up in a dull, boring north. Wonderful.

Flaming Nora said...

Lubin writes:
I wonder if she knew the impact she was having on 1000s of sensitive gay teenage boys living in boring bits of the UK?

And I add:
I wonder if she knew the impact she was having on 1000s of ordinary schoolgirls who couldn't do much but by 'eck, they could make their friends laugh at school by writing witty things?