Let Them Eat Cake (BBC1, 1999)
Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders are a comedy double-act who have had plenty of success over the years, including their own long-running sketch show (and I plan to review that soon too), along with their individual successes in sitcoms Absolutely Fabulous and The Vicar Of Dibley. They also appeared in a sitcom together, which was notable because it actually wasn’t written by them (it was Peter Learmouth, who was also behind other sitcoms including ITV’s Surgical Spirit), although it was based on one of their sketches.
The presence of French and Saunders in Let Them Eat Cake was enough for there to plenty of buzz around this one, including a Radio Times cover, and a general “this is one that can’t fail!” air to it. As is clear from the title, this was a sitcom that had something of an historical feel to it. The show was set in 1782 in Versailles, seven years before the French Revolution.
Saunders was Colombine, the most reviled woman in France, who lives in the Palace Of Versailles and aims to be among the best of the aristocracy, but she most certainly isn’t as classy or important as she thinks she is. French was her loyal mad Lisette, and her manservant was Bouffant, even though Colombine was constantly horrible to both of them. It probably wouldn’t be right to say that the show mostly consisted of ludicrously enormous powdered wigs and extravagant dresses, but they definitely played their part.
Also among the cast were Colombine’s big rival Madame de Plonge, and her daughter Eveline. As always, French and Saunders applied their fast-talking style as their characters were plunged into various absurd situations. Could it be possible to say that the show could be seen as the equivalent of Girls On Top, but set in the 18th Century? Well, maybe not. Could it be seen as a sort-of female-fronted Blackadder? That’s probably a better comparison.
As it turned out, there was only one series of Let Them Eat Cake which was rather a surprise, meaning that there were just six episodes made, and it didn’t really seem worth making any more, it was yet another sitcom that despite the undoubtedly good cast simply couldn’t live up to the hype, and it’s little remembered now. Despite all that though, there has been a DVD release, and French and Saunders would not long after go back to their more successful comedies.