French And Saunders (BBC2, 1987-1993, BBC1, 1994-2005)
This is a look back at another comedy show that went on to be rather successful. Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders are a comedy double-act who first appeared on TV in the early-80s, and among other shows it was their ITV sitcom Girls On Top that really raised their profile, and this proved that they had what it takes to star in a comedy show of their own.
In 1987, French And Saunders launched on BBC2. As well as starring in the show, they also wrote all of the sketches, and played a wide variety of unusual characters. Also appearing in the first four series were the male double-act Raw Sex who provided the music and helped out in some of the sketches. There were also some musical interludes including performances from Alison Moyet and Squeeze.
Soon their reputation grew, and they revived lots of acclaim, including the second series being promoted with a Radio Times cover, and celebrities from various areas of entertainment were very eager to take part in sketches. As the series progressed, there were an increasing amount of parodies, of films, TV shows (including Star Test), and pop stars. These took up more and more time in the episodes, and were clearly rather expensive to make. And they wouldn’t think anything of doing an impression of Madonna on a whim.
They have also regularly contributed to Comic Relief, including having a Top Ten hit single in 1989 as members of Lananeeneenoonoo, a memorable parody of Bananarama. In 1994 the show moved to BBC1 and had further success, and the fifth series gave some early exposure to Mel and Sue, another pioneering female comedy double-act.
By the sixth and final series, the format had changed a little so that most of the episodes seemed to consist of Dawn and Jennifer in meetings at the BBC being unable to come up with any ideas, much to the frustration of their producer (Liza Tarbuck). Well it’s a novel way of only having to make about ten minutes worth of sketches an episode.
There have also been plenty of Christmas specials, along with stage tours, adverts, appearances in music videos, and course individual successes in sitcoms including Absolutely Fabulous. There have also been several compilations recycling their highlights, including French And Saunders Go To The Movies, A Bucket O’ French And Saunders, and 300 Years Of French And Saunders. The six series have been released on DVD, but the Christmas specials aren’t included, and there are no extras either.