The Life And Times Of Vivienne Vyle, BBC2

by | Oct 4, 2007 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

Like many character-based comedies it’s very difficult to judge on the first episode just how humorous it will ultimately get; but there are some promising signs especially the dilemma of Vivienne as she strives for the paradox of huge ratings and critical credibility.

What was good about it?

• The human detritus talkshows are all too easy to parody, but thankfully Vivienne Vyle has sewn the small details together to make up the whole sorry tapestry rather than relying simply on an egomaniacal host. Most keenly felt was the vacuous applause that greeted Vivienne and her guests on to the stage, it really did make us question the validity and purpose of applause – if such empty endorsement can be tossed away so thoughtlessly, does applause have any value left? The symptom of this social ill, however, is far more advanced at Wimbledon where the crowd claps as senselessly and automatically as they breathe.

• The supporting cast featuring Miranda Richardson as the beastly Helena offering the viewer some hope that Vivienne still has some way to go before she is lost forever, the deceptively steely Abigail (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) who is either going to be the voice of reason and the viewer’s moral coat hanger or degrade into Vivienne’s despoiled apprentice, and Dr Jonathan Fowler, an intellectual psychologist who is seduced by the lust of fame when Vivienne asks him to contribute his expertise to the show.

• Vivienne being caught between wanting to emulate Oprah Winfrey but having to do so by stirring up hate between morons for a living – “We’d all love to be Oprah and hold hands with Susan Sarandon. She owns the f**king channel, she doesn’t need children!”

• Not only are the idiots who appear on these shows vilified, but there’s also a pop at those people who watch the shows simply so they can bathe in the glow of their supposed superiority. Vivienne is the worst culprit claming “I shout at them [the guests] because it’s all that they know!” But at the same time, she at least understands them unlike Dr Jonathan who sits glibly in the gallery spewing intellectual epithets at Vivienne encouraging her to speak to her audience in impenetrable verbal hieroglyphics.

• The tufts of Dr Jonathan’s balding scalp gelled into place making them seem like limestone stalagmites.

What was bad about it?

• A drawback of parodying trashy talk shows is that you need some pretty sharp observations to make it distinct from the crowd as it’s a regular target for sketch shows (including Peter Serafinowicz about 15 minutes afterwards). But Vivienne Vyle seems satisfied to coat itself in the tepid vulgarity, and the strongest scenes often appear away from the studio – a case in point being the slapstick of a burly security guard crushing Vivienne during an altercation with a guest; all scenes of grotesques being crushed must pay homage to Alan Partridge under a cow and the fact that “Cliff Thorburn isn’t under a cow!”

• Placing the banner ‘Next: The Peter Serafinowicz Show’ while Vivienne Vyle is still on air. Oi, you people in TV productionland have you no concept of real people, do you view us like some inferior labrats to be moulded to your specific design? Putting such an intrusive banner on, ruining any enjoyment we’re getting from the current programme makes people hugely resentful of the interloping legend and induces viewers to deliberately not to watch the show they’re being ordered to watch. Fools.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


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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