Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Victoria Wood (1989)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Victoria Wood (1989)
BBC1, tx. 16/11-21/12/1989
6 x 30 minutes, colour
DirectorsKevin Bishop
 Geoff Posner
ProducerGeoff Posner
ScriptVictoria Wood

Cast: Victoria Wood (Victoria); Julie Walters (Nicola; Pam; Joy-Anne); Lill Roughley (Lill Sutcliffe; Sue; Dulcie; Barbara Appleby); Celia Imrie (Carol; Jackie; Julia); Anne Reid (Enid; Sheila)

Show full cast and credits

The idiosyncracies of modern life as experienced by Victoria and her friends.

Show full synopsis

After two series of her sketch show Victoria Wood - As Seen on TV (BBC, 1985-86), Victoria Wood returned to longer narratives with these slices of comic observation. Modest in ambition and scale but rich in wit and acuity, the six playlets showcase Wood's eye for human foibles and her distinctively eccentric characters.

Wood has a talent for locating humour in unpromising surroundings - witness the factory canteen that was the site for 14 episodes of dinnerladies (BBC, 1999-2000) - and some of the scenarios here would scarcely yield five minutes of comic material in the hands of most writers: the hazards of video dating for the mature unattached, the inane brutality of daytime television, the austere tyranny of a suburban health farm.

Wood appears in each story as (more or less) herself, a reluctant participant in her friends' fruitless efforts at self-improvement. In 'Staying In' (tx. 21/12/1989), she faces ordeal by dinner party thanks to Jane (Deborah Grant). 'Val de Ree' (tx. 14/12/1989) sees Victoria and the similarly inexperienced camper Jackie (Celia Imrie) struggling with a recalcitrant tent and masquerading as seasoned explorers to satisfy a haughty hostel warden (Joan Sims). In the gloriously titled 'Men's Sauna in Thingummy Doodah' (tx. 16/11/1989), she rebels against health fascism by leading an illicit outing to a café for a fry-up.

While all the stories are marked by her character's acerbic commentary on the lamentable proceedings, just as notable is the generosity with which the writer gifts her (mostly female) co-stars - both regular collaborators like Imrie and, of course, Julie Walters, and some surprising guests, including Phyllis Calvert and Una Stubbs - with characters bursting with comic possibility. Imrie's tour rep in 'We'd Quite Like to Apologise' (tx. 7/12/1989) is one gem - maddening cheeriness untempered by an ounce of competence or empathy - and Susie Blake has a brief but splendid cameo in the same story as a cynical check-in attendant, while Walters' loyalty is rewarded with two of the choicest parts: Pam, the daytime TV demagogue, in 'Over to Pam' (tx. 30/11/1989), and Nicola, the out-of-her-depth manageress of Pinkney's health farm in 'Men's Sauna...', whose vapidity is exceeded only by her merciless demolition of the English language ("if you should need me at all during the periodical which you're with us, just examine a member of staff who's approximate.")

Mark Duguid

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Checking in (3:21)
2. Talk about Waiting for Godot (3:13)
3. More bad news (3:19)
Complete play: 'We'd Quite Like to Apologise' (27:46)
Imrie, Celia (1952-)
Walters, Julie (1950-)
Wood, Victoria (1953-)