BBC HomeExplore the BBC

17 September 2014
Accessibility help
Text only

BBC Homepage

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

 

French and Saunders

French and Saunders

Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders successfully capitalised on the success that The Comic Strip Presents… and Girls On Top had given them, launching their own series in 1987.

It is difficult to quantify this series as a single entity, as they constantly reinvented the look and style of the programme, thus keeping it fresh and ensuring them longevity other performers have failed to sustain.

Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders

The basic ingredients have been fairly consistent: special guest stars, manic, bickering performances, musical pastiche (their po-faced ABBA rendition is justifiably the stuff of legend) and movie spoofs.

Series two followed pretty hot on the heels of series one, but since then the programme's incarnations have been intermittent, juggled with the stars' other commitments.

There have also been a number of specials, appearances on Comic Relief and the like.

Although the show provided a refreshing amount of comedy from a female perspective, French and Saunders weren't averse to turning the tables upon drag acts of the past by assuming the forms of grotesque male characters.

Most memorably, and under heavy padding and prosthetics, they played two enormous old letches, fantasising about the parade of beauties on their television sets as they sat gorging themselves on the sofas.

Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders

It was quite disconcerting but undoubtedly very, very funny, to watch two women playing men getting over excited about women to the extent that they would mime fornication with any inanimate object to hand.

Similarly sexist and unaware of their own repulsiveness were a couple of road workers, labouring under the misapprehension that the caterwauls with which they greeted every passing woman made them seem both attractive and witty.

Most famously, Absolutely Fabulous began as a sketch in the series before going on to massive success as a sitcom (without French, whose role was taken by Julia Sawhala).

Although many of the guest stars were prominent female actresses or singers, the early days featured Simon Brint and Rowland Rivron as the slobby band Raw Sex, providing musical interludes and supporting roles in many of the sketches.

Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders

The later series were much more lavish; the movie spoofs benefiting from being shot as if they were the real thing: Titanic, The Silence Of The Lambs, Thelma and Louise and Gone With The Wind were all subjects of their zany, well researched and very accurate spoofery.

The skits often came with affection and knowledge of their subject: the Baywatch spoof featuring an increasingly funny dissertation of the works of Linda La Plante, featuring the writer herself, Helen Mirren, Janet McTeer and a role call of actresses from her past work.

For all their skills as writers and performers, French and Saunders have never shied from making themselves look daft (anyone who saw them singing Kylie's "I should be so lucky" as an opera will never forget it) and so their comedy has always seemed good natured and a bit silly.

These consistently funny shows remain a testament to the distinct comic abilities of Britain's undoubtedly most successful female double act.

Cast

Dawn French
performer
Jennifer Saunders
performer
Rowland Rivron
performer
Simon Brint
performer

Crew

Adrian Edmondson
writer
Dawn French
writer
Jennifer Saunders
writer
Adrian Edmondson
director
Bob Spiers
director
Geoff Posner
director
Kevin Bishop
director
John Birkin
director
Edgar Wright
director
Steve Bendelack
director
Dominic Brigstocke
director
Ed Bye
director
Tristram Shapeero
director
Jon Plowman
producer
Geoff Posner
producer
Janice Thomas
producer
Emma Cornish
producer
Jo Sargent
producer
Anil Gupta
producer
Jon Rolph
producer
Jon Plowman
executive producer

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy