Murder Most Horrid
"You never know what to expect, although you can usually rely on a deliciously observed bit of character acting from Dawn French." So wrote The Times in 1999, referring to French's uncategorisable mash-up of sitcom, crime drama and anthology horror.
Over four series, she starred in 24 self-contained tales of dastardly doings, which parodied different genres and boasted a fine cast of comedy talent. Guest stars included Hywel Bennett, Jim Broadbent, Kathy Burke, Minnie Driver, Graeme Garden, Sean Hughes, Chris Langham, Hugh Laurie, Roger Lloyd Pack, Tony Slattery, Timothy Spall and John Thomson.
The first series - which won Best Comedy Drama at the British Comedy Awards - kicked off with a yarn penned by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman about a traffic cop put in charge of what appears to be a straightforward murder case... which proves to be more tangled than anyone expected.
The second saw French as Maria, a Brazilian housemaid who witnesses an MP attacking his wife, while the third took us back stage at a London theatre, where rivalries are brought into sharp relief by a sudden death.
The fourth, about the construction of a time machine, lent a sci fi twist to proceedings, while the fifth, 'Murder at Tea Time', was arguably the stand out edition of the entire run. French played Bunty, a superficially whitebread children's TV presenter who turns to nefarious means to nobble a younger rival. The final episode, meanwhile, presented a baffling tale of doppelgangers.
Other highlights across the four seasons included Steven Moffat's 'Overkill', about two assassins and Paul Smith's wicked parody on round-the-world yacht racers, 'Going Solo'.
The final episode saw French as dinner lady Tiffany Drapes, who finds herself vying for the attention of headmistress Gloria. Not a vintage effort, but by this stage, the actress' skill as a versatile performer was beyond question.
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