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Dinnerladies has all the hallmarks of a great Victoria Wood comedy: an excellent ensemble cast (many of them familiar from previous engagements with Wood), rich dialogue and a real affection for the most ordinary and dowdy of characters.
The Manchester canteen setting is a backdrop for the relationships between the characters, many of whom have to cope with some form of tragedy in a stoical manner (a theme of Wood's work, bestowing dignity to the most unassuming of characters, which augments the show with an endearing and bittersweet undertone).
Bren is the deputy manager, to whom many of the characters come for advice, despite the fact that she is riddled with self doubt as a result of a former unhappy marriage and a childhood in care.
She has feelings for the manager Tony (which they only really act upon in the second series), who is battling cancer, and is boisterous, funny, but deep down a very shy man.
Philippa is the scatterbrained, middle class Human Resources manager whose well meaning attempts to streamline the work place usually end in disaster.
Jean and Dolly are gossipy older ladies: the former stuck in a loveless marriage she ultimately escapes; the latter a catty, critical and caustic commentator on everyone else.
Stan is the grumbling handyman, regaling his colleagues with unlikely stories about his father's antics as a Desert Rat, whilst the younger members of the team are slacker Twinkle and the dense Anita.
Julie Walters pops in on occasion to steal the show as Bren's self-centred and delusional mother Petula (real name Brenda).
Wood's ability to make working class dialogue almost poetic allowed Dinnerladies to rise above its traditional sitcom trappings, and at just 16 episodes, it didn't outstay its welcome.
It won Best Comedy at the 2000 British Comedy Awards.
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