Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Women Wear Pants Too: The Ladies of "Man Stroke Woman"

From time to time, I'll highlight a lady that gets to do more in Hollywood than just play the wife/girlfriend/romantic interest.


Amanda Abbington

Daisy Haggard

Meredith MacNeill

First, let me clarify that this show isn’t as risqué as the title makes it sound.[1] It airs on BBC, and in American terminology it would more accurately be described as “Man Slash Woman,” that is, men & women and their various interactions. It’s a sketch comedy show featuring the three women above plus three men. The most famous of the bunch is Nick Frost, costar to Simon Pegg in both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.[2]

The show has a number of things going for it, all of which have to do with keeping things small. Each episode is only a half hour long, so you can race through a few episodes (or the entire disc) without feeling too guilty. The first series (as “seasons” are called in the UK) is only six episodes, so while all of the sketches might not be hilarious, it never feels as if they ran out of ideas. And perhaps most importantly, the sketches are only as long as they need to be. Some are only a few seconds, while others are longer, but rarely does one go past two minutes.[3] No one can accuse the Brits of overstaying their welcome.[4]

I rented it from Netflix and promptly went through it in two sittings. Though my roommate and I repeat some of the lines from time to time, and I would love to show many of the sketches to other friends, I can’t advocate buying it because I felt it was a bit uneven.

Still, it’s an impressive feat for a cast of six, another aspect that makes the show so interesting. Only when it’s essential to the sketch do any of the performers change appearances, so sometimes it’s fun when a recurring character makes a surprise appearance in a sketch that you thought was going to be about something else entirely.[5]

Having such a small cast could be a negative factor if there was a performer you just couldn’t stand, but I seriously doubt that will be the case, as each person more than pulls his or her own weight. Since I’ve talked before about how a number of people think women aren’t funny, let me just say that the women on this show are INCREDIBLY funny. Each one is equally adept at playing the “straight man” or the comical centerpiece. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a pair, the three ladies, or the whole group on screen…no one gets pushed to the background.

There are a number of sketches to be found on Youtube if you care to peruse. In fact, many of my favorites from online turned out to be from series two, which already aired in Britain but has yet to come out on DVD. I’m eagerly anticipating its release.

Every episode of the first series ends with the same sketch, the three women playing rude, annoying workers at a make-up counter in a department store. Each features a customer that grows impatient with the juvenile antics of the two workers and asks to speak to their manager. The third woman comes over and pretends to show a real interest in the complaint before then engaging in the same child-like behavior.

Though they all follow the same pattern, each one is unique and produces a great deal of laughs. (At least from me.) So I’ll leave you with my favorite of the six (the moment 44 seconds in kills me every time):

[1] That said, since it’s from the BBC, it does use language and discuss topics you aren’t going to see on “SNL.”

[2] One of my favorite comedies ever. If you don’t have a problem with the occasional gory death played for laughs, check it out immediately.

[3] It’s a benefit to being a single camera show filmed on location. No skits that are beaten to death, buried, dug back up, and beaten some more.

[4] If you ignore British Colonialism, that is.

[5] Some sketches/characters appear just throughout a single episodes, while some appear throughout a few (or all).

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