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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Catherine Tate Show: The Complete First Season (review)

I used to love the old Tracey Ullman show, but I don’t think even she, goddess of comedy, quite approached the astonishing range of ingenious characters the way that her heir apparent, Catherine Tate, does. The British comic’s hugely successful eponymous show, produced for the BBC and showered with every kind of award there is, has not aired on TV in the United States, but these six 30-minute episodes, the entirety of the 2004 debut season, are a fantastic introduction to a woman who surely will soon be an enormous star. (Astute viewers will recognize her as the “runaway bride” in an episode of the new Doctor Who series airing on the Sci Fi Channel.) From Lauren (the apathetic schoolgirl who isn’t “bovvered” by anything) to Elaine (the impossible romantic engaged to a serial killer on death row) to Nan (the senile, foul-mouthed granny), Tate doesn’t merely bring them to life: she is all but unrecognizable from one to the next as she morphs through something close to the full spectrum of contemporary womanhood; other characters include an annoying office worker, a sleep-deprived mom, a yuppie neurotic, a sweetly excitable dimbulb, and others. These are women that TV often likes to pretend don’t exist: they’re angry, aggressive, sexual, opinionated, and passionate… though often about completely inappropriate things. Oh, and didn’t I mention: every single one of them becomes a hilarious sendup of feminine stereotypes by actively embracing cliché and twisting till it hurts so much you have to laugh. [buy at Amazon]

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MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

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  • In my experience this is a love it or hate it show. I was quite prepared to love it, having admired Tate’s live performances in London’s pub venues seven or eight years ago, but sadly I don’t, at all. Its writers have fallen into the Fast Show/Little Britain trap of lazy, catchphrase-reliant sketches with the same old scenarios repeated week after week, ad nauseum. (Although Little Britain, at the top of its game, is hilarious – usually in the first show or two of each new series, before you’ve heard the same lines trotted out about 73 times each.)

  • Hie thee to YouTube and check out Tennant and Tate on Comic Relief: http://youtube.com/watch?v=WxB1gB6K-2A

    Gotta love that accent…of coure, Mr Oro is Scottish so I’m a little biased.

  • MaryAnn

    Yeah, I posted that on Geek Philosophy a while back.

    “Am’ist I bovverer’d, forsooth?” Hilarious.

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