TV Shows »Nighty Night

nighty nightOver the years I have recommended so many British TV shows, it's almost a wonder that there were any left for this week. I was delighted, though to find that Nighty Night, a famously bleak comedy from Julia Davis (the baby mommy of the incomparable Julian Barrett) was now available in the US.

You know when a comedy begins with a cancer diagnosis and ends with more than one murder for the gain of a hairdressing sociopath that bright and cheerful comedy escapism is not in the cards. What I didn't expect, was how very, very odd it all is, beyond the dark as night humor, the entire tone is just plain weird and I'm not totally sure how I feel about it. It's an interesting concept to center a sitcom around a truly heinous woman who is fascinating in her insanity and trashiness but it isn't one that evokes laughs so much as curiosity and awe.

It's not a bad thing, necessarily, especially if you prefer your humor off kilter, but makes this series a tougher sell to American audiences who are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the very British tradition of mixing devastating gloom with their laughs (see the work of Nighty Night's producer Steve Coogan and the original Office).

Davis, who writes as well as stars here, may have also found inspiration in the horror movie inspired series League of Gentlemen and even has League member Mark Gatiss co starring as a lonely outsider looking for love. There are actually lots of familiar BBC faces including Rebecca Font from The Day Today, Kevin Eldon who sang “Machadaynu” on Look Around You, Ruth Jones who was Coogan's wife in Saxondale, and even Shirley Ghostman himself, Marc Wootton makes an appearance.

Strangely enough, Sex and the City man Darren Star was been announced as the producer of an American version. Called “An exquisitely vile comic creation” by The Guardian and “a blistering wall of superbly unredeemed cruelty that manages to trample over every social convention in a pair of cheap stilettos” by the Times, the source material doesn't quite sound like a comfortable follow up to the shopaholics and cosmos in his resume, but maybe if he employs some Arrested Development people who know how to do warped humor, it could turn out OK. I know, wishful thinking, but who would have thought the American Office would have turned out so charming?

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Posted on February 23, 2009

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