Girls On Top (ITV, 1985-1986)
This is an ITV sitcom from the 80s that I don’t really remember watching at the time, but I have heard plenty of good things about it that made me decide it was worth adding to my comedy DVD collection. Girls On Top featured an all-female cast that by the end of the decade a few years after the show ended would be among the biggest names in British comedy.
Girls On Top (a Central Production for ITV) is essentially a flat-share sitcom that was rather rowdy, as the four main female characters who live together have very different personalities. There is Candice (Tracey Ullman), a rather glamorous dizzy blonde who seems to think that she has every illness going. Amanda (Dawn French) is a rather angry environmentalist who works for Spare Cheeks magazine.
Jennifer (Jennifer Saunders) is rather plain and slow-witted, and says a lot of things that don’t make any sense. And Shelley (Ruby Wax) is an American loud and spoilt aspiring actress who doesn’t have any talent. She also seemed to never let anyone else in the cast get a word in, so if you’ve ever wanted to see a sitcom where all the main cast members speak at the same time then this was the one for you.
Also occasionally appearing is Lady Carlton (Joan “no relation, honest” Greenwood), the novelist landlady of the Chelsea flat who is remarkably odd, and her best friend is a stuffed dog. Most of Girls On Top was written by French and Saunders whose own successful sketch show would launch on BBC2 just three months after this show ended, and the theme music was provided by Squeeze.
The second and final series didn’t feature Ullman, who had gone on to work in TV and films in America, and her character of Candice was written out. One of the things that I liked about Girls On Top were the guest stars, they were mostly from the group of alternative comedians who like the main cast were about to go on to further success including Robbie Coltrane, Harry Enfield and Hugh Laurie. The show was also described by some critics as the female equivalent of The Young Ones.
Both series of Girls On Top (which I think was also repeated on Channel 4) have been released on DVD by Network and were very enjoyable. There are a couple of extras, an interview with Ullman on ITV’s Sunday Sunday in 1984, and an interview with Wax on ITV’s The 6 O’Clock Show in 1988, alongside Danny Baker and Chris Tarrant, and even those two motormouths ended up being rather muted by comparison.