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Victoria Wood - As Seen on TV (1985-86)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Victoria Wood - As Seen on TV (1985-86)
BBC2, tx. 11/1/1985-15/12/1986
12 x 35 min in 2 series plus 1 special, colour
DirectorGeoff Posner
ProducerGeoff Posner
ScriptVictoria Wood
MusicVictoria Wood

Cast: Victoria Wood, Julie Walters, Susie Blake, Celia Imrie, Duncan Preston, Patricia Routledge, Jim Broadbent

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Sketches, songs and stand-up on a loose TV theme, featuring soap 'Acorn Antiques'.

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After the mixed success of Wood and Walters (ITV, 1981-82), which suffered from modest production values and uncertain production, Victoria Wood was lured to the BBC with the promise of much bigger budgets and greater creative control for this, her second sketch-based show. As Seen on TV marked the moment when Wood's talents crystallised, and cemented her reputation as Britain's wittiest female comic.

Wood had already begun to develop her mini-repertory company of performers around the nucleus of herself and close friend Julie Walters, but it was here that the team really gelled. Walters, Duncan Preston and Celia Imrie would form the core of her cast for most of her later work, while her occasional collaborators included Susie Blake and Patricia Routledge.

As the title suggests, the series took television as a loose theme, with spoof documentaries (following Jim Broadbent's 'fairly ordinary' telephone sanitation engineer, or Wood's tragicomically ill-prepared cross-channel swimmer); spot-on film parodies (a stereotyped, 'grim up North' kitchen-sink melodrama with Pete Postlethwaite and Kay Adshead, complete with limp swearing and whippet references); marvellously bitchy daytime presenters Joan (Wood) and Margery (Walters); and suspect life lessons from sherry-addled suburban snob Kitty (Routledge), all interspersed with continuity announcer Blake's delightfully catty links ("We'd like to apologise to our viewers in the North - it must be awful for you"). Wood, however, was quite happy to abandon the conceit to accommodate more conventional sketch fare, or her regular stand-up routines and songs, including the perennially successful hymn to mismatched libidos, 'The Ballad of Barry and Freda', aka 'Let's Do It' ("This folly / is jolly / Bend me over backwards on me Hostess trolley").

The series is, though, best remembered for its spoof soap, set in a provincial antiques shop that somehow manages to acquire a steady stream of Michelangelos, Leonardos and Picassos. With a knowing nod at the likes of Crossroads (ITV, 1964-88, 2001-03), 'Acorn Antiques' presented television at its hilarious worst, complete with inane dialogue, ludicrous acting, and bizarre and wildly implausible plot twists, not to mention textbook 'how not to' production values - all wobbling camera, bad framing, blocked shots and missed cues. In the wizened old Mrs Overall, forever on hand with tea and home-baked biscuits, it gave Julie Walters one of her most memorable characters. Such was its impact that Wood revived 'Acorn Antiques' for a stage musical in 2005.

Mark Duguid

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Video Clips
1. Stand-up (3:19)
2. Romantic (1:15)
3. Acorn Antiques (3:57)
4. Kitty (2:59)
5. Swim the Channel (4:26)
6. Sensitive journalist (3:20)
Complete edition (32:32)
Wood and Walters (1982)
dinnerladies (1998-2000)
Broadbent, Jim (1949-)
Imrie, Celia (1952-)
Walters, Julie (1950-)
Wood, Victoria (1953-)
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