Babes In The Wood (ITV, 1998-1999)
It’s time for another entry in my “were there any decent 90s ITV sitcoms?” series, and it may not be too difficult to look back at this one and quickly conclude “well, no”, but despite that, I still wanted to review it here because there are a few things that I think there are worth telling about this one, which despite there being a lot of hope at the time that it really would succeed where others had unexpectedly flopped, is now two decades on largely forgotten.
Babes In The Wood is a sitcom that launched in 1998 and starred three young women who lived together in St John’s Wood in London, what a magnificent pun in the title, it’s clear that we’re going to be on to a winner with this one. Firstly, there was Leigh (Denise Van Outen, whose TV career was on the up at this time following her presenting on Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast, and someone seemingly thought that her style could a suitable for a sitcom).
There was also Ruth (Samantha Janus, who had recently completed three series of BBC2 sitcom Game On), and Caralyn (Natalie Walter), who really was something of a dumb blonde (it seems that the show was stuck in development hell for a long time and was planned to star Dani Behr at one point). The main male character was Charlie (Karl Howman, best known for the BBC1 sitcom Brush Strokes, and that “you shouldn’t be scrubbing at your age, auntie!” advert) who was their neighbour and thought that he was something of a ladies’ man.
Leigh also works as a waitress at Bar Coda, which is where most of the action outside of their flat takes place in the episodes, and she often bickers with her boss Benito. The response to all this from critics wasn’t very positive, Radio Times in particular were most unkind, they thought that it was very vulgar. It wasn’t all as bad as it seemed though, I do remember watching the first series regularly, but you must understand I was 15 years old at the time, which is probably about the only age at which you could find anything about the show interesting.
I also remember that some of the first series episodes where shown against The Simpsons on BBC2, during the very short time that it was shown in a 9pm slot (it really was shown in a lot of different timeslots over the years during its time on the BBC). It seemed that there was some surprise from viewers when Babes In The Wood returned for a 45-minute Christmas special in 1998… and even more when there was a longer second series in 1999!
Janus didn’t take part in this series, her character was written out at the start of the first episode when she got married (and you could clearly tell that it wasn’t actually her). She was replaced to maintain the trio by the aspiring model Frankie (Madeleine Curtis, someone who I don’t remember seeing on TV before or since) who had lovely hair. I’m fairly sure that at least one episode of this series (which was in a later timeslot after News At Ten had been bumped out of the way) wasn’t shown on ITV after they finally realised that it had failed, but I do think that it turned up in a repeat run on ITV2 about a year or two later, and there was no third series.
I think that some episodes of Babes In The Wood were released on VHS, and there are a few bits on YouTube, but there has been no DVD release, so now we come to the main point of doing this piece: should there be? Well, compared to some of the other 90s ITV sitcoms that I have reviewed on here recently, I would probably say that it is rather lower down the list of priority than the likes of Not With A Bang and Sometime, Never, as to what I would want to see come out, but who knows, maybe one day it might happen.