Watson and Oliver

The New The Krankies?

Apparently Watson and Oliver are the first female comedy double act commissioned by the BBC in 25 years.

Firstly: surely that’s shameful rather than something to show off about. Secondly, I assume the last pair was French and Saunders, but it might have been the Krankies for all I know (they’re both women, right?). And thirdly, despite the fact no one had ever heard them before last night, Watson and Oliver have somehow wangled a proper, old-school comedy revue show.

We don’t normally review opening credits, but in hindsight it’s useful to see the breadth of comic characters the pair have up their sleeves for future episodes. As this was opening night we only saw a few select cuts, as well as being introduced to the stage personae of Oliver (there’s something of the Sue Perkins about her. Her voice? Her look? The way I’m slightly but insidiously attracted to her? Who knows) and Watson (whose first appearance, rather boldly, featured her in her pants. Works every time).

There’s a way to go, I think. Ostensibly Ingrid Oliver is the straight woman, Lorna Watson the clown, but they’re perhaps a bit too indistinguishable at this stage. It also doesn’t help that they’re both complete unknowns and also relatively normal people to boot.  Just as we don’t immediately warm to and trust someone we meet at a dinner party, or at work, or in the queue for the toilets at Glasto (well, maybe the latter), we need to get to know them, feel them out and figure out if they’re our kind of people. And this takes time.

The long-winded point I’m trying to make is that although I found them tittersome rather than chortleworthy (these are technical terms, I hope I’m not being too esoteric), I reckon I’ll warm to both the characters and the humour as the weeks go by. Unlike, say, Fielding’s new series, which looks and sounds like a primary school class out of their gourds on max-strength Sunny D and given a van-full of paint and papier maché, dayglo crayons and PCP.

I appreciate this might seem like faint praise, but the sketches do have promise (and it is more promise than instant LOLs, to be honest). Kate and Wills in the marital bed is a hmm at best and a subsequent Jane Austen spoof didn’t cause much of a stir, but the skit on 50s housewives and the expressive possibilities of false eyebrows nails one ace gag and sets up future sketches with aplomb.

But where they really shine is in observations that feel closest to real life, while also being recognisable comic tropes. Ingrid Oliver IS Myleene Klass. The police officer who wheedles her way out of work early despite being minutes away from the final push on a 4-month case – it’s one joke, drawn out, but the writing and performance is exquisite. And my favourite sketch is a short, banal, but deeply heartfelt chat between a lag and a prison warden. My prediction is that we’re looking at the new Ted & Ralph and I’ll give you £5 if I’m wrong.

The big set piece in the show (which could have been awful but actually turned out spot on) was a variety number with guest John Barrowman. To say I’m not a fan of his is, well, pretty fair, to be honest, but the dynamic between the three, combined with a fantastic old-fashioned singalong to close the show, gave this opening episode what it needed to make it special.

Barrowman IS a star, albeit a gurning, twinkle-toothed permatanned one, and Watson and Oliver made it work with him, or rather made him work with them, and I reckon they’re going to make it work full stop.

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Watson and Oliver is on BBC2, Mondays at 7.30. You can catch up here

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22 Responses to Watson and Oliver

  1. You are a little blinkered in your criticism, somewhat, perhaps inferring a sexist bias. But then how many sketch shows are there these days? And you assume that the Edinburgh fringe festival is buckling under embittered female double acts…

    For a start you can’t get French and Saunders off the BBC. But then you said double acts: Do you not count The Catherine Tate Show? And then there was 3 Non-Blondes, even if you would include that, but then that’s not two… And I really liked Josie Long’s ‘All the Planet’s Wonders’ but then that was on Radio 4…

    So the first NEW female comedy DOUBLE ACT sketch show commissioned by the BBC on TELEVISION in 25 years… Possibly.

  2. biondino says:

    Sexist? Pretty sure I wasn’t. The “25 years” quote was more or less taken from another article so apologies if you think I should have researched my sources more carefully or clarified what I meant. Possibly in both cases I should have, but I already had to cut 200 words from my initial draft so, hey.

    Personally I can see implicit *criticism* of BBC sexism in the same comment but maybe your examples prove that I was being unfair to them. Either way, thank you for giving much-needed context.

    • Sorry, no offence intended. I imagined the quote came from series publicity. I’m sure the sexism charge is levelled at the BBC a lot and I just tried to show that statistics don’t always show the full picture. Whether women ARE under-represented on the BBC, though, I wouldn’t like to say or claim to be the final judge…

      FM

  3. Peter Blow says:

    Watson & Oliver..
    What can I say?

    I have never watched a ‘comedy’ show that has actually left me with a feeling of anger.
    Not one thing made me smile, let alone laugh. Who on earth commissioned this?
    Without a shadow of a doubt, the worst new comedy in decades.

  4. strangely brown says:

    please explain to me why this has been given airtime, not only is it unfunny its positively terrible, no really terrible. After watching the show I decided to reappraise my relationships and general ouitlook so I wouldnt waste my life to the extent that this offering had. Please dont, just dont. Not funny, badly written and certainly executed. How can something be so trite, bad and unfunny that John B was a highlight of the show, i know im getting on but dont make me sit through JB tryng to be ironic. Can I ask W&O if a good friend of yours who has always giggled at your antics recently started working in a comissining apacity for BBC2???? Strange that !!!
    PS Dont

  5. strangely brown says:

    in fact im so angry Im thinking of starting a petition with no 10 so it can be debated how bad this is the house, stop this for my sake, the sake of the community and your own dignity. STOP

  6. strangely brown says:

    ps on a sexism level, please put funny people on the box, giving them a platform as funny people. male or female just make sure there funny.

    PPS I love funny, I like to think im a comedy herm’ af’ ro’ dite!!!!

    Sorry, contencious.

  7. bloke says:

    W&O. What was going through the head of teh Head of Light Entertainment??
    Dire drivel. Probably the weakest 2 episodes of ‘comedy’.
    I’ve seen more comedy at a wake!

  8. THE says:

    The show is crap. End of. Man, woman, the show is crap. Funny is funny. This was not funny.

  9. x333xxx says:

    What a great series! Where Watson and Oliver have come from I’ve not a clue, I’d never heard of them before the first of the series, but now I’m hooked. I love ‘Mrs Very Busy’, she reminds me of several people I’ve worked with in the past. The Sense & Sensibility sketches are inspired – such a great send up of Jane Austen. More please BBC, more!

  10. ddjjbb says:

    I’ve seen better comedy on CBBC and I’m not being sarcastic.
    This is absolutely dreadful and needs to die a very quick death. If this is the kind of crap that passes for female comedy at the BBC it’s no wonder they’ve been looking for 25 years.
    It certainly takes a long time to find rubbish like this – for one they would’ve had to scrape the barrel and ignore all the brilliant talent they must have crawled past to reach this level.

    Remember this is the BBC who pulled the plug on the brilliant award-winning female comedy series Pulling!!!

  11. Gareth Hartley says:

    Watson and Oliver is the worst programme I have ever had the misfortune to come across in my life, I can’t believe this is a comedy. Nothing funny was said or done in the entire programme, is it some sort of a joke! I have never minded paying my licence fee until now total garbage.

  12. Gareth Hartley says:

    Total rubbish!

  13. Paula says:

    Not only did I find the show definitely not funny, I was wondering if they they attempted to insult/offend every woman by portraying us all as insipid dullards. Horrible! Awful! The worst ever, and that’s saying a lot!

  14. Sonja Haggett says:

    Just watched the repeat of Monday 26th and this was much better than some of the previous shows.
    Big plus for their Olympic uniforms a great improvement on Stella Macartney’s dreary outfits.
    Some new characters as well. I agree that some of the sketches go on a bit too long, but as there is a dearth of good UK comedy on TV they certainly brighten my viewing,
    I’m going back to E4 and ITV3 now when not listeneing to Radio 4 extra

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