Nighty Night, BBC3

by | Jan 6, 2004 | All, Reviews

Julia Davis was half of the duo (with Rob Brydon) who made BBC2’s Human Remains, the dark, cruelly funny portraits of a series of emotionally dysfunctional couples. Now she’s written, and starred in, a dark comedy drama of her own, billed by the BBC as “A West Country version of Fatal Attraction.”

Nighty Night stays pretty much in Human Remains territory, except that now there’s a whole district full of dysfunctional people leading lives of quiet desperation. Davis plays Jill, owner of Hair By Jill, to whom humanity is apparently an alien concept. When her husband Terry (Kevin Eldon) is diagnosed with cancer she packs him off to hospital and signs up with a dating agency, only to find herself matched with a twitchy widower (Mark Gatiss) who steals a sly poke at her breast. Dumping him, she goes off to milk sympathy from a Fun & Fellowship group, only to fall for Don, the sex-starved doctor husband of multiple sclerosis sufferer Cath. And so it goes on, as the network of damaged people inflict further damage on each other.

Any idea that subjects such as cancer and MS might be treated with delicacy are soon dispelled, as Jill tells Terry that the small pyjamas she’s bought him will fit eventually “because you will get smaller”, and Don fetches his wife’s neck brace so that she can perform oral sex on him. The jokes are, however, carefully aimed at the uncaring able-bodied rather than their victims. And there’s plenty of razor-sharp detail, from Don casually marooning the wheelchair-bound Cath by some steps to Jill’s deftly professional brushing-off of an unhappy customer (Vicki Pepperdine), who eventually commits suicide due to her ravaged appearance.

There are first-rate performances too, from Davis as the monstrous Jill (even if she is just a bit like a West Country AbFab Patsy) and Rebecca Front as the painfully stoical Cath, plus a show-stealer from Marc Wootton (My New Best Friend) as the outrageously camp dating agency boss. Angus Deayton doesn’t do too badly as Don, either, sporting a prison-escapee beard presumably designed to prevent senior BBC executives from noticing that he’s working for them again.

For all that though, Nighty Night is fairly hard work, due to the unrelenting nature of its dark side. Determinedly low-key, and lacking any thread of light relief such as Alan Partridge’s buffoonery or Rob Brydon’s manic cheeriness, it becomes a bit depressing after a while, as misery is piled upon misery. Sharp comedy, yes, but it could do with the occasional laugh.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

06/01/2004

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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