Friday, March 09, 2007

Clatterford: Beyond the Waterloo Sunset

The newest program on BBC America begins, very appropriately, with a cover (by Kate Rusby) of the Kinks' "Village Green Preservation Society":

Preserving the old ways from being abused.
Protecting the new ways, for me and for you.

And indeed, we are in England, in the country, amidst the vicars and jumble sales, looking fondly on the women of a village that is more Ray Davies (existential ruefulness) than Barbara Pym (old-fashioned befuddlement). The first figure we see in Clatterford, pumping away on a bicycle that appears to be perennially out of gear, is a decrepette played by Joanna Lumley, once AbFab's Patsy, whose fineness as a character actor is immediately apparent. (If you saw her in Cold Comfort Farm you know what I mean.) And then we wander on to the meeting of the Women's Guild, and a pop in to see the vicar, followed by an amble into the local doctor's surgery.

Jennifer Saunders (aka Edina on AbFab) created this gentle, yet occasionally sharp, look at village life in contemporary Britain. Saunders plays a harried namedropping mum: "It was a lovely evening [chez Madonna] until Sting played the lute." The men are all professionals, such as they are in any small town; the women seem to be support staff -- a nurse, a grocery clerk, a jill-of-all-trades like Joanna Lumley's character. Most of the women are blonde, or blondish. You've got to pay attention to pick up on the laughs: a moment in church when no one in the congregation seems to know the responses (do they ever attend?), and a counselor from Grief Group (leave it to the English to create a snappy category for everything) who tells a widow that she simply cannot go through the stages of mourning in anything but the prescribed order.

Is Clatterford worth watching? Yes: Joanna Lumley's free-of-vanity expression, Jennifer Saunders' tone of voice, and the other quirks of this really capable cast make the show an easy, amusing, and stress-free 40 minutes.

The only down side is that BBC America now seems to have pulled the Friday night AbFab reruns. Sweetie darling, what will I do?
Clatterford airs on BBC America on Friday evenings at 10 p.m. Pacific time, 9 p.m. Eastern time.

No comments: