As we all know, humour is totally subjective, and when an opinionated blogger like myself sneers that something “isn’t funny”, what they really mean is “I didn’t find it funny, but others might”… because there’s no objective way to measure “funniness”, as far as I’m aware. I only mention this because I recently picked up the first series of a BBC sitcom called Wild West (2002), and was struck by the fact that its mandated laugh track was suspiciously muted and intermittent. It was reassuring to know that the audience and I could agree that there were roughly four or five big laughs in every episode, and an awful lot of dead space in-between. Which isn’t to say that it’s a bad show, as such… I think it has a strong premise, and a great cast, and a gorgeous setting… it just plays like a promising rough draft in need of some serious polishing and punching up.
This “dark comedy” is set in a small, insular village on the coast of Cornwall, and stars Dawn French and Catherine Tate as a quasi-lesbian couple, who run the local shop. I say “quasi-lesbian”, because aside from sharing a bed and claiming to love each other, they don’t really do anything especially sapphic… and both women show a lusty interest in flirting with attractive men, whenever the opportunity presents itself (in fact, in the final episode, Tate’s character has a full-on fling with a male tourist, and only calls it off because he wants to take her back to the big, scary city with him). Rounding out the regular cast is a pre-Shameless Anne-Marie Duff (who looks particularly fetching dressed up as a goth-y Wiccan chick)… and Caroline Parker as the pub landlord’s Deaf wife. Apparently Parker was awarded an MBE in 2013 for her services to Deaf Theatre and Drama, but she’s used as little more than a cheap running joke here (she keeps trying to communicate with her husband using Sign-Language, but he doesn’t have the faintest idea what she’s signing… hilarious! Not at all insulting or stupid!)
The main appeal of the series for me (aside from seeing Tate with curly hair, which is her best look ever) comes from the setting-specific storylines… such as in the first episode where the A-plot concerns the locals launching a protest against outsiders who buy “holiday homes” in the village, while the B-plot concerns huge bags of Tupperware washing up on the beach after a shipwreck! It’s also nice to find a series with such a sweet, sympathetic witchy character… and I loved seeing inside her well-stocked Witchcraft Museum too. Is that a real thing? I want to go to there.
Fun French Fact: Ep #1.5 (“A Problem Shared Is a Problem Doubled”) features a quick cameo by actress and presenter Aurélie Bargème as a random tourist who visits the shop. She only has one line though, and is on screen for less than twenty seconds, so it’s probably not something her fans need to worry about tracking down.