"Clatterford," a British comedy from the "Absolutely Fabulous" team, brings you a new crew of hilarious nut cases to love.
Do you relish the taste of a Cornish pasty? Do you have a thing for vicars? Do you long for picnic lunches on the moors? Do you like mad old birds on bikes with training wheels? Did you spend years mourning the passing of “Absolutely Fabulous,” and have you ever briefly wished that that storied show about an excess of British femininity had included more scenes in which Patsy and Edina ride tractors?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, please run — do not walk — to your local video establishment for the complete first season of “Clatterford,” which began airing as “Jam & Jerusalem” in England in the fall of 2006 and concluded its first season run on BBC America in April 2007. The show was created by and stars Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French, the lauded British sketch comedy act, who happen to be the team behind “Ab Fab.”
“Clatterford” centers on the Ladies Guild in Clatterford St. Mary, a rural village in England’s West Country. The guild is, naturally enough, populated by the looniest bunch of ladies that Merrie Olde England has to offer. The nut case brigade is led by Rosie, played by French, a Clatterford resident with a knee-slapping case of multiple personality syndrome that results in slapstick fights with her alter ego, Margaret. Then there’s Delilah, the ancient church organist with false teeth, played by an unrecognizable Joanna Lumley (that’s “Ab Fab’s” Patsy, to most of you).
The heroine of “Clatterford” is Sal (Sue Johnston), a nurse at the health center who has been a defiant Ladies Guild holdout until the death of her husband from a heart attack (from which she is unable to revive him, leading her best friend, Tip, to reassure her at the funeral: “He was already dead before you killed him.”) In an effort to escape the cloying company of the local Grief Group representative, Sal finally gives in and joins the guild, inspiring rebellion in the tea-cozy-knitting, slide-show-watching ranks.
Clatterford’s other standouts include Saunders’ Caroline, the dry (as only Jennifer Saunders could make her) mother of a rock star, who livens up village gossip by talking about weekends spent with Madonna and Guy Ritchie: Fun, she claims, “until Sting started playing the lute.” Then there’s Sal’s stoner, circus-performer daughter, Tash, who lights the church wall hanging on fire while juggling at her father’s funeral and attempts to ditch her preteen son with Sal so that she can travel the world and sleep in a yurt. Sal’s uptight son gives his fluid-phobic wife, Yasmin, his mother’s old job as local nurse.
It takes some time to warm up to “Clatterford,” especially for those whose ear for Britishisms — think, “Her mobility scooter was sideswiped by a lorry coming out of the Lamb & Flag” — may be out of tune. It’s also true that if you like your television characters glamorous, Clatterford is not the town for you. There is no attempt to pretty up anyone: The residents of Clatterford would not win a beauty contest in any village, or on any planet. But Saunders, French, Lumley, Johnston and their gang have so much affection for this motley group of women that it’s hard to resist their good, and deeply sodden, humor.
Watching the six episodes from the first season back to back is no hardship; like much of British television, they flow together seamlessly, appearing to have been conceived and executed in one well-thought-out batch, unlike many American series, in which quality and continuity can jump erratically within even a single season.
Sitting down for several hours in Clatterford does present one particularly grating problem: The show’s theme song, a folk version of the Kinks’ “Village Green Preservation Society,” sung by Kate Rusby, is a lovely touch but may never, ever leave your head.
If only real-life small towns were populated by this many wisecracking crazies we’d all decamp for the West Country immediately.
Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter. More Rebecca Traister.
More Related Stories
- Ray Manzarek, founding member of The Doors, dies at 74
- Beware of book blurbs
- Did a Salon excerpt ruin Penn Jillette's chance to win "Celebrity Apprentice"?
- Zach Galifianakis to take formerly homeless woman to "Hangover 3" premiere
- Seth MacFarlane will not host Oscars again
- "SNL's" uncomfortable Garner/Affleck moment
- "Celebrity Apprentice" finale ratings hit a new low
- Worst National Anthem fails
- The truth in Kanye's anti-prison rap
- Stephen Colbert to UVA: "You must always make the path for yourself"
- "Game of Thrones," season 3, episode 8: A salon
- Bieber booed, Miguel falls on fan at Billboard Awards
- "Mad Men" recap: Love, acid and whores. Lots of whores
- Taylor Swift leads Billboard winners
- “Game of Thrones” recap: “We must do our duty”
- "The Unwinding": What's gone wrong with America
- Michael J. Fox wins: The best and worst of the new fall shows
- First look: The Coens' marvelous folk-music odyssey
- New York's most persecuted subway artist?
- James Franco: "I really felt I was in conversation with Faulkner"
- "Jodorowsky's Dune": The sci-fi classic that never was
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11