Review: Funny Woman

Review: Funny Woman Is Exactly That

There are some new British sitcoms around that besmirch the good name of Britain’s sitcom heritage. That’s because many that purport to be sitcoms are really dramas with the odd humorous line. Nothing wrong with a good comedy drama but some are delusional in thinking they are sitcoms.

Funny Woman, on the other hand, makes no such pretence. It’s clearly a comedy drama not a sitcom, however, it is funny. Funnier than many so called current sitcoms. It’s a comedy drama that makes good viewing, delivers a reasonable laugh count, and leaves you wanting more. Which is exactly the purpose of the finale which is surely going to become the springboard for season 2.

This TV adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel could easily have been entitled The Marvellous Miss Parker such is the obvious quality comparison with Mrs Maisel. But Hornby wrote the book before Mrs Maisel was a glint in Amy Sherman-Palladino’s eye and Morwenna Bank’s excellent script is very British.

Gemma Arterton stars as Barbara Parker who journeys from hand rolling seaside rock in her father’s factory, in Blackpool, to comedy superstar.  It’s the height of the swinging 60s and Barbara, a Lucille Ball wannabe, has just been crowned Miss Blackpool – but surely there’s got to be more to life than being a beauty queen and settling down with the local butcher in a seaside town. She wants to be… someone. The bright lights of London are calling, and our determined heroine sets off to find out who that someone is.

However, after a series of setbacks Barbara finds herself in unfamiliar territory – an audition for a TV comedy show. Barbara’s uncompromising northern wit proves to be the X factor that the show has been missing. Overcoming resistance from the establishment she gets the part and becomes part of a ground-breaking new sitcom, Jim and Barbara.

Being a woman in a largely male environment has its challenges, but Barbara re-defines the prevailing attitude to funny women and in the process, reinvents herself.

Jim and Barbara, leaning heavily on the US sitcom, I Love Lucy, becomes a huge hit with the viewing public, reflecting, as it does, the humour of the time.

Gemma Arterton is brilliant: a shoe-in for a BAFTA nomination for best actress in a comedy as Barbara Parker/Sophie Straw. The character though is something of a chameleon. Fluctuating from naïve ‘Northern lass’ one minute to being seduced by the trappings of success the next. Her journey is one of self- discovery, feminism, and survival against a backdrop of growing racism.

Kelly Valentine Hendry should be congratulated on putting together a superb cast all of whom deliver on the money under Oliver Parker’s direction, including Rupert Everett, channelling an amalgam of Hugh Griffiths and Alastair Sim as the somewhat seedy theatrical agent, Brian Debenham.

You can binge all six episodes but preferably take your time, savour them like a six-course gourmet meal. Funny Woman is excellent television.

Funny Woman is on Sky Max and Now 

Review: Funny Woman. Comedy News 09.02.22

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