Show + tell: Paul Flynn’s top telly
Julia Davis brings her unique sense of menacing black humour to this tale of disappointment in love in the suburbs
THE BRITTLE, BRILLIANT, extreme comic noir of Julia Davis is a genre in itself. From Nighty Night, through Hunderby,
Camping and now Sally4ever, she has put a merciless spear through the lies of Middle England. She looks at boredom and routine, then rattles its corpse until the bones shake. That Julia Davis was ever in a Richard Curtis film with Martine Mccutcheon and Hugh Grant is still the kind of pub quiz answer to send a chill down the spine. She is not a comedian so much as a nihilistic revolution wreaking havoc on the hypocrisies happening behind net curtains. Let’s call her genre Suburban Horrorcore.
The set-up of Sally4ever is as routinely dystopian as ever. Sally (Catherine Shepherd) is a plain Jane, dormouse-type who lives with her boyfriend David (a terrifying Alex Macqueen), a bald man with wire-framed spectacles who sings George Michael songs in an eerily perky barber shop quartet. He is Victoria Wood’s A Fairly Ordinary Man on stilts, masturbating in a zone 7 bathroom. Sally works in a drab marketing office besides a woman in a wheelchair with brittle bone disease and two sleazy, leering idiots, one of whom is played by Davis’s partner, The Mighty Boosh’s Julian Barratt, to add a further layer of should-ireally-be-laughing menace.
Sally’s mother is haranguing her to marry a man she is clearly revolted by. David wants her to walk down the aisle in his mother’s stained wedding dress. When Sally spots a tin-pot performance artiste – a cheap Home Counties Lady Gaga and fragile bag of nerves – called Emma (Davis), on an outer London tube carriage, she begins an epic lesbian voyage of adventure. Her dormant libido is at last aroused, sensationally and climactically, with absolute disregard for viewer prudishness. No comic understands the gory biology of morbidly desperate sexuality like Davis. She doesn’t do plots – she throws big ideas about unhappiness at the wall, then lets menacing details claustrophobically build. Domestic disaster is only ever a bad pop song, wrong haircut and winceyette nightie away. Where Davis’s kindlier forebears Mike Leigh, Victoria Wood and Caroline Aherne dealt in the comedy of mundane lives, Davis is interested in the comedy of the repulsive. She is now its queen. Begins Thursday, 10pm, Sky Atlantic