Even though Mike Newell's film Four Weddings and a Funeral from former Britcom writer Richard Curtis is vastly superior to this repetitive and stagy yet quirky and surprise filled short-lived series, after only a few episodes, one begins to wonder if the structure of the episodes that all take place at events ranging from weddings to funerals and everything in between didn't perhaps influence Curtis at least subconsciously.
Developed and produced for ITV in 1989, David Nobbs' A Bit of a Do secured four British Comedy Awards during its two season run that initially takes off at a fateful wedding of the pregnant, politically conscious well-to-do Jenny Rodenhurst and her working classed street sweeper intended Paul Simcock that links the two equally pompous families for the following twelve episodes.
Although the day should technically be focused on Jenny (Sarah-Jane Holm) and Paul (David Thewlis), soon the father of the groom Ted (David Jason) gets the shock of a lifetime when the lusty mother of the bride, Liz (Nicola Pagett) offers him an indecent proposal to get it on in the room directly above the reception. Ever the adulterer, Ted realizes that since his wife Rita (Gwen Taylor) is currently preoccupied with the fact that her son didn't cut his hair before his nuptials, he can take Liz up on the offer he cannot refuse which turns out to be the first in a series of dominoes that falls down following that ill-timed hook-up.
Flipping around the old adage, we discover that when it comes to the Rodenhurst women it's “like daughter, like mother” as Liz turns up pregnant at the next “do” ten weeks later, prompting Ted to end his marriage of twenty-six years to Rita and take up with the mother of his newest child.
However, when it comes to Liz, everything is short lived as halfway through the series, she's left her husband and Ted behind while shopping for another in the form of the obsessive widower Neville (Michael Jayston). Yet despite his success as a solicitor at Badger, Badger, Fox and Badger, Neville can't seem to say the right thing at the right time in his private life, especially when it comes to his tendency to dive into unprompted waters to produce pearls of wisdom about his late wife Jane.
With employment lost and found, two new babies set to arrive, more break-ups, make ups, shake-ups, funerals and weddings on the way, A Bit of a Do benefits plenty from its terrific dialogue and rather large ensemble cast of distinctly unique characters.
And although it must be said that you can't imagine wanting to actually spend time with any of the characters in real life since most are insufferable, unsympathetic or irritating, they make the ideal pawns to toss into any given situation as their interactions with one another bring out some unpredictable alliances or unspeakable disasters that ensure that the comedic elements will be enriched with pathos, laughs or a combination of both.
Amazingly moreover, given the sheer amount of individuals dreamed up by Nobbs, it's to his credit that we're able to keep straight because the writing is so particular that whether it's with a repeated catch phrase or a certain personality trait from a tendency to drop dishes or wind up inebriated at every function, we begin to put them in some sort of context quite early on.
From the memorable bartender and function waiter Eric (Malcolm Hebden) whose reassuring affirmation “tickety boo” manages to work its way into the theme song or the curious way that two of the main characters from the first season just drop out of sight but are never far from our mind as one's tragic fate is explained and another is discussed constantly, it's a clever and easily addictive comedy of bad English manors in a Yorkshire setting.
While the repetitive nature of some of the recurring gags does cause the series to lose a little of its momentum especially in the second season as Nobbs makes the mistake of trying to milk it for more drama than comedy, overall this four-disc set is worth a look. Although it's light on bonus features, Acorn Media's release of A Bit of a Do is sure to attract Britcom enthusiasts, fans of Richard Curtis' winningly quirky ensemble comedies and British country set stage plays of mixed signals and miscommunication.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.
Labels: TV on DVD