Mar­golyes’s rude road trip left me ut­terly ex­hausted

The Daily Telegraph - Review - - Art - Ben Lawrence

Half an hour with Mim was like be­ing trapped in a lift with a randy Jack Rus­sell

Bucket BBC Four, Thurs­day Peter Kay’s Car Share BBC One, Tues­day Our Friend Vic­to­ria BBC One, Tues­day

Is it wrong to dis­miss a sit­com after just one episode? Should you take time to fa­mil­iarise your­self with the char­ac­ters and with the set­ting? It’s true that au­di­ences took three se­ries to warm to the duck­ing and div­ing Trot­ters in Only Fools and Horses. But hon­estly, after half an hour in the com­pany of Mim, the sex-ob­sessed, can­cer-suf­fer­ing ma­tri­arch of Bucket, I wanted to stick my head in, well, a bucket.

Mim is played by Miriam Mar­golyes, an ac­tress now best known for ap­pear­ing as her­self in doc­u­men­taries such as The Real Marigold Hotel. Char­i­ta­bly, Mar­golyes might be de­scribed as a force of na­ture; she bat­ters you over the head with her per­son­al­ity.

This first episode was filled with Mim’s at­tempts at con­ver­sa­tion with long-suf­fer­ing daugh­ter Fran (played by the se­ries cre­ator Frog Stone) as the pair set off on a road trip across Bri­tain, prompted by her de­sire to tick off experiences on her bucket list. Like Mar­golyes, Mim speaks her mind, which means we were sub­jected to fre­quent gags about her vagina.

I have a friend who only has to hear a posh per­son swear­ing and he’s rolling on the floor in a fit of laugh­ter. I will di­rect him to Bucket as a sort of aver­sion ther­apy – there is noth­ing funny about Mim’s end­less ex­ple­tives or her scat­o­log­i­cal in­quiry.

The sad thing is that there were traces of a very good sit­com here. A scene in which Mim and Fran vis­ited sub­ur­ban god­dess Aunt Pat (a beau­ti­fully re­served Stephanie Beacham) and her per­fect daugh­ter, Gemma (Cather­ine Stead­man), showed neatly how those who lead con­ven­tional lives are rarely kind when deal­ing with more ec­cen­tric spir­its. “There’s no fail­ure, only feed­back,” sim­pered Gemma, an HR man­ager, as she ad­vised Fran on her abortive teach­ing ca­reer. Pat, mean­while, glanced at her watch and pre­pared for her next Ocado de­liv­ery.

Bucket should be poignant; there should be a thread of sil­very sad­ness run­ning through it as Mim tries to find com­mon ground with her sen­si­ble daugh­ter. At the mo­ment it is try­ing too hard to shock and the re­sult is ex­haust­ing – like be­ing trapped in a lift with a randy Jack Rus­sell.

The sour­ness of Bucket con­trasted deeply with the sweet­ness of Peter Kay’s Car Share, which re­turned for a sec­ond se­ries this week. It fo­cuses on su­per­mar­ket as­sis­tant sales man­ager John (Kay) who, ev­ery day, gives a lift to his col­league, sales rep Kayleigh (Sian Gib­son). John is se­cretly in love with Kayleigh. She is a giddy kip­per, and her feel­ings are there­fore harder to as­cer­tain.

The first se­ries was praised, quite rightly, for the way in which it han­dled John and Kayleigh’s slow-burn­ing friend­ship, and the way in which Kay mixed ob­ser­va­tional hu­mour with the (fic­tional) ba­nal­i­ties of the pre­sen­ters and ad­ver­tis­ers of lo­cal radio sta­tion For­ever FM (“Brilling­ton Col­lege – where bril­liant is al­most our name.”) which blared out of John’s car radio.

In this lat­est se­ries, such in­ci­den­tals were stronger than the over­all nar­ra­tive. The prob­lem was that Kayleigh, hav­ing moved in with her sis­ter, was now mak­ing her own way to work. To keep the di­a­logue go­ing, she com­mu­ni­cated with John via her mo­bile phone. A full five min­utes con­sisted of Kayleigh sit­ting on a bus, at­tempt­ing to get a sig­nal. John tried to phone her back, only to re­ceive a “Call failed” mes­sage. “Call failed,” he ex­plained, per­haps as ex­as­per­ated with the pad­ding as I was.

Much has been made of Kay’s di­a­logue, which is af­fec­tion­ate and win­some, but here it sounded like the sort of thing you might hear in a stan­dard episode of Coro­na­tion Street. “I ate an en­tire packet of Mary­land Cook­ies last night,” said Kayleigh. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me – it’s not even lady time.” It’s charm­ing, but I don’t think it’s clever.

Kay is of­ten seen as a de­scen­dant of Vic­to­ria Wood, but Our Friend Vic­to­ria, a homage to the co­me­dian who died last year, proved how ev­ery­body else seems ter­ri­ble in com­par­i­son. These trib­ute shows of­ten strug­gle, mainly be­cause they con­sist of celebrity chums strug­gling for su­perla­tives. But here, en­co­mia were kept to a min­i­mum, with the great Julie Wal­ters (the key player in Wood’s reg­u­lar en­sem­ble) guid­ing the spot­light to­wards the wit and wis­dom of her friend.

The clips were aired in their en­tirety and you could see the full scope of Wood’s ge­nius (for once, an ac­cu­rate term): funny lit­tle songs with a bit­ter­sweet un­der­tow, short sketches with killer punch­lines, wickedly ac­cu­rate pas­tiches, in­spired phys­i­cal com­edy. Even Wood’s asides can make you weep with laugh­ter. Take this one from a nar­ra­tive about the age­ing process: “Nor­mally, I look like I’ve climbed up an em­bank­ment after a de­rail­ment.”

The sub­ject of this episode – the first of six, each clas­si­fied by theme – was age, and how Wood ob­served teenagers, the menopause and the chal­lenges of getting old. My favourite line on the sub­ject was sadly miss­ing. It was from one of Wood’s stand-up shows, part of a beau­ti­fully crafted nar­ra­tive on Wood’s awk­ward pu­berty. “All my friends started getting boyfriends,” she said. “But I didn’t want a boyfriend, I wanted a 13-colour biro.”

Lines like this, con­cise yet de­tailed, came nat­u­rally to Wood. It’s in a dif­fer­ent league to Peter Kay’s Car Share and a whole world away from Bucket.

Foul-mouthed: Miriam Mar­golyes as Mim, with Frog Stone, in Bucket

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.