Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Clatterford


I think I heard about Clatterford from a preview on the Vicar of Dibley, A Holy Wholly Happy Ending. It sounded right up my alley (street) since it is set in a little English village, and was written by Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French. We thought we'd give it a try, wondering if it would be a sort of over-the-top comedy like Absolutely Fabulous. Well, it is, and then again, it isn't. There are some bizarre characters and situations, but there is also a deep humanity and kindness and intelligence. Most of the characters are women, members of the local Women's Institute. The name was Jam & Jerusalem in Britain, which I prefer rather than the village name. If you've seen Calendar Girls, you will have heard the Jerusalem song at the WI meetings. Saunders and French are in it, as is Joanna Lumley (see if you can spot her). Dawn French's character is a factory worker named Rosie, who occasionally hears the voice of "Margaret" - an evil personality who always puts Rosie down. Although this could have been played as humorous camp by the great Dawn French, it isn't. We care about Rosie, and feel badly when the mean woman comes out. She doesn't hear Margaret's voice in church, and wonders aloud to the vicar why he isn't called a "nutter" because he hears the voice of God. There is a great interchange between the two as they are kneeling alone in church, which will be understood by Anglicans or Episcopalians who miss the old words.

Rosie: God is the author of peace and lover of concord. It's gone now, oh!
Vicar: What?
Rosie: Concord. You think God's sad?

Tom says in Shakespeare, it is often the fool who speaks the truth, and that's what we get from Rosie.

There's a woman who is a kind of crossing guard. She carries around her stop sign looking for traffic. There's a woman who was the nurse at her husband's medical practice, but who, since her husband's death, has been replaced by her daughter-in-law who really isn't cut out for nursing. She reminds me a bit of Doc Martin, another show we love, who gives up surgery because he can't stand blood. There's a thirty-something hippie with a child, who just doesn't know what to do with her life. She will be a wind-power monitor if they build the wind station. Or she might 'take a course' and learn circus tricks. Yes, they sound eccentric, and they might be a bit more extreme than normal, but if you live in a smallish place, you see "characters" all around, and you see them accepted for who they are. I've known many in my lifetime.

Here is an exchange between Tip, a receptionist at the surgery, and the vicar.

Tip: [I was] raised by nuns in a cold convent in southern Ireland.
Vicar: It must have been dreadful.
Tip: No, it actually was lovely. I won't have a word said against them. But that won't win you the Booker Prize.

There have been occasional postings in the blog world (including me in comments) which bemoan the fact that stories about awful childhoods and horrible lives win book prizes, and rarely does something joyful or humorous get noticed in that way.

So there you are, my recommendation for one of the best Britcoms I've seen in a while. Mostly older women living an older life in a little English village. I couldn't be happier. Oh, and the icing on the cake is that the theme song is Ray Davies' Village Green Preservation Society sung by Kate Rusby, whose new cd, Awkward Annie, I've just bought at iTunes.

10 comments:

  1. I saw this series in the UK. I knew Joanna Lumley was in it, but it took me some considerable time to realise which (most unlikely) character she was playing.

    I found it quirky but enjoyable. In some respect the characters are caricatures but as you rightly point out, they are also poignant and real. Admittedly I was perturbed that an evil personality could ever be called "Margaret," as those bearing the name tend to be so mild and inoffensive. (I would say that, wouldn't I?)

    I don't suppose the original title (which I, too, prefer) has much meaning for Stateside viewers. I'm glad you wrote of this, if I ever wanted to see it again I don't know how I ever would've found it under the new title!

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  2. Thanks for the review.I may check this one out as my wife enjoys those type of movies. We've enjoyed watching several britcoms.

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  3. I've only seen a couple of this series, but enjoyed it greatly and will be looking out for repeats. I live in a small rural community here in West Wales, and believe me there are still some wonderful characters about, although our local home grown ones haven't quite got the repartee of the Jam & Jerusalem lot! We do caring, and compassion, and gossip though . . .

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  4. What a kind review of this programme. I loved it and saw the same warmth and kindness that you have recognised in the characters. Unfortunately, it hasn't enjoyed the same success as the 'Vicar of Dibley' here in the UK.

    I think this is my first comment on your blog but I've been visiting for quite a long time.

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  5. Welcome to the Anything Agatha Challenge, Nan! Woo Hoo! Don't forget to come back and link your reviews. Happy Reading! :)

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  6. I've seen Jam and Jerusalem, as I knew it, once or twice. I expected great things from it and if I'd had time to watch more would have come to love it- but nothing can ever beat Vicar of Dibley for me and so this one has a hard road ahead of it to get into my good book ;)
    Otherwise Dawn French plus "but there is also a deep humanity and kindness and intelligence" should make it for me a super show. No doubt I'll come back to it some time.
    It's very pleasant to read about it though. Makes me feel like giving it another chance. I know I was distracted last year with things in Ireland and it wasn't the best time.

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  7. I always think of Margarets as being strong and no-nonsense kinds of people. It is my favorite women's name.

    It's too bad that it is even compared to Vicar of Dibley, but I guess that's inevitable. I, too, love VoD, and have asked for the whole set on dvd for Christmas. :<)

    Larry, my husband likes it as much as I, so perhaps it will be a hit with you both.

    Jennie, I love what you wrote. Wish I lived there. Is there a WI??

    Thank you, Monix.

    Joy, I'll do the links.

    The Elementary, I think it is well worth another try. Every woman in it is excellent.

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  8. I adored this program and went out and bought the first season on DVD. Every now and then I pull it out when I need a laugh, a little comfort and a few old friends for that's how the characters feel to be now.

    I keep checking but see no second season coming, and I am disappointed.

    This is from my post on 4/20/07:
    The Village Green Preservation Society: The Kinks
    I was actually trying to find the Kate Rusby cover of this, but it hasn't been released. She sings this song at the beginning of my favorite new TV program, Clatterford, on BBC America. I laugh out loud at least once each time I watch. Well, I decided it is a Kinks' song after all.

    I found Kate's version on Awkward Annie.

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  9. Nan, Have you been watching Cranford?? It is superb!

    I want to see Clattorford now too! Do you think it is a modernization of Cranford?

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  10. Thanks, Kat. I think I remember the post you wrote. Why didn't I order from Netflix then?? Laura, Cranford just came out on dvd, and it should be in my mailbox today!

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Now that I am a grandmother, it seems that I am often late in replying to your most-appreciated comments. But I read them as soon as they come in, and I will write as soon as I can. Please do come back and check. I love these blogging conversations. A little addendum - I've just spent quite a long time catching up with dear notes you left me months ago!! I do hope you can get back to read them. And I'm trying to be much more prompt now!

Also, you may comment on any post, no matter how old, and I will see it.