Some of the best comedy comes out of the most banal, boring situations. The Office exploits this perfectly. Even before Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant picked up a pen though, Victoria Wood was showing everyone the beauty of this in Dinnerladies.
Victoria Wood had hit success before, both with her stand-up comedy, sketch comedy and sitcom TV shows. She wanted to move away from the more self-contained sketch format though and move more into bittersweet stories. In 1998, Dinnerladies was the absolute culmination and perfection of that.
Centring on the small group of women working in the lunchroom of a Manchester factory, Dinnerladies is one of the most beautifully simplistic comedies of recent times. The two short series focus on the group finding the fun in life whilst dealing with real-life situations with grace, dignity and a smile.
The true genius of Dinnerladies though is the grounding of it. Characters may get worked up, but there’s always a calming influence there to settle everyone down. The language used is wonderfully plain too, a great reflection of realistic workplace natterings and, through Victoria Wood’s pen, manipulated into glorious dialogue.
The characters are wonderfully earthy too. Victoria Wood stars as Bren, the canteen’s assistant manager who’s the glue that holds the entire team together, all whist being quick with a joke. Bren’s a wonderfully rounded character though, damaged from a bad childhood and left with little self-esteem after a bad marriage.
Her love interest and manager Tony was a shy man battling cancer, her colleagues a collection of genuine figures not having life go all their own way, but getting through the day nonetheless.
While this may sound dour, it’s anything but. The plight of the characters shows the delight they can achieve in the little things. The guys and girls of the show never wallow in self-pity, never buckle under the pressures of life and as a result are incredibly endearing.
That even a romance is incorporated perfectly into the show without ever feeling anything but natural again speaks wonders to Victoria Wood’s writing.
That the show never escapes the more serious side of life is the beauty of Dinnerladies, as it really does provide a great reflection of real life. That it’s absolutely hilarious at the same time is a fantastic bonus.
At only 16 episodes long, Dinnerladies is a brief but brilliant portrait of Victoria Wood’s Comedy style. Demure, witty and heartfelt, Dinnerladies is timeless.
FemaleFirst Cameron Smith