Skip to main content

From Across the Pond: "French & Saunders Christmas Celebrity Special"

If you've never experienced the comedic duo of French & Saunders (that would be Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, naturally), you are seriously missing out.

After all, it was on their show that they first premiered a little sketch about insufferable fashion victim Edina and her buttoned-up daughter Saffron that would eventually go on to become international comedy smash hit Absolutely Fabulous. (While French originated the role of Saffy on French & Saunders, Julia Sawalha played her on the series.)

Both of these comedians are talented in their own right and have gone on to various series of their own. Saunders wrote and starred in Ab Fab (and the upcoming Clatterford, which airs in the UK under the name Jam & Jerusalem); French starred as Geraldine Granger in the much beloved series The Vicar of Dibley (itself getting the Stateside makeover treatment this pilot season as comedy The Minister of Divine for FOX). Both have had numerous side projects and yet have continued to come together for 25 plus years now to collaborate on French & Saunders material.

The most recent of these collaborations is the 2005 French & Saunders Christmas Celebrity Special, which BBC America is premiering Stateside on Thursday night. For Anglophiles and fans of Brit telly, this is a rare treat and Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders go to any lengths to savagely skewer celebs, whether it be Elton John or Boy George and George Michael (seen above) or feuding former in-laws Jackie Stallone and Brigitte Nielsen. (Though I defy all but the most avid British tabloid readers to immediately recognize Jackie Stallone.)

French and Saunders excel at movie parodies and their recreations--and, um, re-envisioning--of famous scenes from famous flicks are always spot on and hilarious. (If you don't believe me, you must run out and watch their What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, Misery, Kill Bill, and The Exorcist spoofs.) No one and nothing is safe as these comedians tackle everything from quiz show Mastermind to Mike Leigh Oscar bait Vera Drake, here performed with wild abandon by French and Saunders.

Also being skewered this time around: long-running Brit soap EastEnders, which gets the F&S treatment in a sketch featuring the Extras--two older female professional extras who wind up bollocking up every single production they appear in. Here these two try to steal the scene away from Little Mo, Alfie, and Kat (don't ask) in a Walford Square scene in which they end up selling underwear from a market stall. But the real gem of the special has got to be the sketch in which these two play decidedly crooked child care professionals who have stumbled onto a sure-fire get-rich-quick scheme: dress up the kiddies as celebrity lookie-likies. Anyone who has ever seen even a snippet of Ground Force will get a kick out of "Charlie Dimmock," but the star has got to be the littlest "J.Lo."

But this isn't just your run-of-the-mill average celebrity spoof show. This is jaw-dropping comedy at its most self-aware; neither French nor Saunders are afraid of looking "ugly" in pursuit of comedy and they're happy to play up their own insecurities and frailties: most notably, French's jealousy of Saunders and Saunder's patented grumpiness. And often they will break character during a scene, to either goad one another about the awfulness of their attempted accent (both seem terrible at Southern American dialects) or to question the veracity of their scenes.

In the end, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders might just be the two oldest kids playing dress up, but there's something endearing--not to mention entertaining--about seeing French and Saunders transform themselves into a wide array of eccentrics and, yes, celebrities for our amusement. It's the perfect tongue-in-cheek antidote to the chaos of this time of year (or any time of year, really). And, in the end, isn't that what we all need this holiday season?

"French & Saunders Christmas Celebrity Special" premieres Thursday at 11 pm ET and 8 pm PT on BBC America.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: How I Met Your Mother/The Class (CBS); Deal or No Deal (NBC); Everybody Hates Chris/All of Us (CW); Wife Swap (ABC); House (FOX); Wicked Wicked Games (MyNet)

9 pm: Two and a Half Men/The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS); Identity (NBC); Girlfriends/The Game (WB); Supernanny (ABC); Bones (FOX); Watch Over Me (MyNet)

10 pm: CSI: Miami (CBS); Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC); What About Brian (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8:00 pm: Everybody Hates Chris.

Now on its new night (Mondays) and at a new time (8 pm), it's the second season of former UPN comedy Everybody Hates Chris. On tonight's repeat episode ("Everybody Hates Elections"), Chris comes to the realization that he must make the best campaign speech of all time in order to win the class presidential election.

9:30 pm: Old Christine.

I can't tell you why I like watching this traditional sitcom, but Julia Louis-Dreyfus is like a warm blanket of coziness after a long Monday. On tonight's episode ("Oh God, Yes"), Christine's son Ritchie decides he wants to attend church.

10-11:30 pm: Eleventh Hour on BBC America.

Patrick Stewart plays Charlies Xavier, mutant rights activist and the strongest telepath on the planet-- Okay, maybe not. In this new import from Blighty, Stewart plays a scientist dealing with paranormal phenomena. On tonight's episode, a friend of Hood's (that would be Stewart, natch) believes that someone is sabotaging his work and threatening him. Joining Stewart: Ashley Jensen of Extras and Ugly Betty.


Anyone who says that women don't make great comedians have not seen French and Saunders in action. Dawn French is consistently brilliant with her physical comedy while Jennifer Saunders is a true chameleon, able to take on any role...from Sigorney Weaver in "Alien" to Joan Crawford to fallen pop star George Michael. Both of these women are always a treat to watch.
Anonymous said…
I wish I had BBC... *sigh*.

Completely switching gears, any thoughts on the new shows on TBS? My Boys, 10 Items or Less...

Popular posts from this blog

Katie Lee Packs Her Knives: Breaking News from Bravo's "Top Chef"

The android has left the building. Or the test kitchen, anyway. Top Chef 's robotic host Katie Lee Joel, the veritable "Uptown Girl" herself (pictured at left), will NOT be sticking around for a second course of Bravo's hit culinary competition. According to a well-placed insider, Joel will "not be returning" to the show. No reason for her departure was cited. Unfortunately, the perfect replacement for Joel, Top Chef judge and professional chef Tom Colicchio, will not be taking over as the reality series' host (damn!). Instead, the show's producers are currently scouring to find a replacement for Joel. Top Chef 's second season was announced by Bravo last month, but no return date has been set for the series' ten-episode sophomore season. Stay tuned as this story develops. UPDATE (6/27): Bravo has now confirmed the above story .

BuzzFeed: Meet The TV Successor To "Serial"

HBO's stranger-than-fiction true crime documentary The Jinx   — about real estate heir Robert Durst — brings the chills and thrills missing since Serial   wrapped up its first season. Serial   obsessives: HBO's latest documentary series is exactly what you've been waiting for.   The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst , like Sarah Koenig's beloved podcast, sifts through old documents, finds new leads from fresh interviews, and seeks to determine just what happened on a fateful day in which the most foul murder was committed. And, also like  Serial  before it,  The Jinx may also hold no ultimate answer to innocence or guilt. But that seems almost beside the point; such investigations often remain murky and unclear, and guilt is not so easy a thing to be judged. Instead, this upcoming six-part tantalizing murder mystery, from director Andrew Jarecki ( Capturing the Friedmans ), is a gripping true crime story that unfolds with all of the speed of a page-turner; it

BuzzFeed: "The Good Wife Is The Best Show On Television Right Now"

The CBS legal drama, now in its sixth season, continually shakes up its narrative foundations and proves itself fearless in the process. Spoilers ahead, if you’re not up to date on the show. At BuzzFeed, you can read my latest feature, " The Good Wife Is The Best Show On Television Right Now," in which I praise CBS' The Good Wife and, well, hail it as the best show currently on television. (Yes, you read that right.) There is no need to be delicate here: If you’re not watching The Good Wife, you are missing out on the best show on television. I won’t qualify that statement in the least — I’m not talking about the best show currently airing on broadcast television or outside of cable or on premium or however you want to sandbox this remarkable show. No, the legal drama is the best thing currently airing on any channel on television. That The Good Wife is this perfect in its sixth season is reason to truly celebrate. Few shows embrace complexity and risk-taking in t