A two-series Work Com
set in a Mancunian factory canteen. Written by, and indeed starring, Victoria Wood, and features a number of her regular collaborators
The plot follows Brenda "Bren" Furlong (Wood) in an otherwise ordinary canteen job, flanked by four colleagues, the older best friends
Dolly and Jean- one uptight and prudish, the other... less
so, as well as the younger Twinkle (brassy, loud, ladetteish) and Anita (quiet, ditzy), all presided over by their boss, Tony, and supported by a cast of peripheral factory workers- HR manager Philippa, planning manager Jane and caretaker Stan. Oh, and Bren's Cloudcuckoolander
The comedy predominantly comes from the interactions between the cast
rather than wacky hijinks, Take Thats
, visual gags or blatant vulgarity- to the point that, with the exception of two small scenes involving a hospital and a Game Show
, the entire 16-episode production only used one set.
Despite the humour shown, which being a Victoria Wood programme, can often take a turn for the slightly bizarre, most of the characters have darker moments to contend with both on-camera and in their backstories. This generally sees the programme described in listings as "Bittersweet".
Came twenty-eighth in Britain's Best Sitcom
dinnerladies contains examples of these tropes:
- all lowercase letters: the title text.
- Berserk Button: Anything, according to Stan.
- Also, Dolly, when she thinks she has drunk coffee containing Viagra which someone had mistaken for sweetener.
- Breathless Non Sequitur: the source of a lot of the show's jokes. Especially when Petula gets her Noodle Implements out.
- Brick Joke: A non-comedic example. In the very first episode, Petula asks Bren to throw a mobile phone into a bin. In the very last episode, Petula reveals that the phone belonged to someone who gave her a lot of money, which then finds its way to Bren and the other staff. It isn't mentioned in any of the intervening episodes.
- British Brevity: The show only ran for two series of six and ten episodes; the final episodes of series 2 were designed to wrap up the plot.
- British Stuffiness: Dolly embodies this trope, frequently name-dropping The Daily Mail.
- Buffy Speak: "You know, he's that thing, sort of a bouncy word. Not unicorn beat Impotent, that's it."
- That's also a stealth pun. A unicorn's got a big horn, so not unicorn means...
- Catch Phrase: A few.
- Norman: "I fell off a diving board in Guernsey!"
- Dolly: "It was in the Daily Mail!"
- Blaming everything on "Tony Blair!", saying his name in a hilariously contemptuous manner.
- Bren: "What's that word? Not X (beat) Y" - where X and Y are completely unconnected and unalike words.
- Not unrelated so much as distantly, idiomatically related.
- "What's that word? Not unicorn, (beat) dilemma!" - The link here is a horn.
- "What's them things like cucumbers? (beat) Suffragettes!" - The link here is courgette.
- Stan "My father was a Desert Rat... (unlikely wartime feat)"
- Twinkle: "Oh, ha ha, (Comedian, occasionally another phrase like 'straight to video')", a deadpan response to someone else making fun of her.
- Cloudcuckoolander - Anita, who is just highly ditzy, Philippa, who just gets a bit muddled up, and Petula, who is under the impression she is a friend of the rich and famous, but actually lives in a caravan behind a petrol station.
- And let us not forget Petula's friend 'Babs from Urmston'
- Cluster F-Bomb: "Never mind your bloody coffee- get in the bloody bloody BLOODY FRIGGING CAR!"
- Complaining About Things You Haven't Paid For: Petula returns from a drunken fumble with Tony fiddling with her bra-strap and remarking 'That's the thing about shoplifting; you can never try something on.'
- Deadpan Snarker: Twinkle.
"Oh ha ha, straight to video."
- Tony and Bren definitely count too.
- The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: Averted. Tony's cancer - and its treatment - becomes a major plot point.
- "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: On the last episodes of each series, in the credits.
- Downer Ending: Bren's mum dies, and the canteen is to be closed. Then they pull it out of the bag, so to speak, as Bren rescues the inheritance she accidentally threw away and shares it with her coworkers.
- Freudian Slip: When visiting royals ask Anita about her views on wearing a uniform.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Twinkle (although she's not really a jerk on a personal level - she moans and snarks about nearly everything, is frequently late and thinks nothing of her professional appearance, but greatly values her friendship with her colleagues, particularly Bren).
- Manipulative Bastard: Petula Gordino
- Mistaken for Pregnant: Bren, after a fainting spell brought on by the mention of needles when the blood donor van comes to visit. The punchline to this is itself a Noodle Incident - "We thought you were pregnant" "Not unless sperm can get through a sash window"
- Noodle Implements: Among Petula's possessions, revealed when she's rummaging in her handbag are a blanket and a large funnel sporting extremely suspect brown stains, which alongside her chronic flatulence hint strongly at an undisclosed and unexplored bowel complaint
- Oop North
- Running Gag: Quite a few, often carried through an entire series (or sometimes even both).
- Tony going out to the fire escape for a cigarette is always followed by a chorus of 'Shut the door!'
- Numerous references to Jean's HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) treatment.
- Many times, the characters attempt to name a TV show/film/musical/actor, often going through an enormous range of misnomers and non-sequiturs to do so.
- Phillipa's confusion over the name of her job: It WAS Personnel, but now it's Human Resources.
- Petula's namedropping of, and outlandish stories about, incredibly famous people with whom she is (obviously not) close.
- Dolly's stories about her previous, much classier employer, the Café Bonbon.
- Bread man Norman's endless list of things that he cannot do because he is 'agoraphobic, you know. I fell off a diving board in Guernsey.
- The pie man and his creepy obsession with Tony.
- Bread woman Glenda's surgery, which is played for laughs with purposeful ambiguity about its nature.
- Jean misreading newspapers and magazines.
- Show Within a Show: "Totally Trivial"
- Status Quo Is God: Played relatively straight in the first series (Although nothing of significance really happens in it), but continuity hits hard in the second.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Dolly delivers one to their revolting and irritating temporary colleague Christine.
- Unusual Euphemism: "Can you smell my Charlie?"
- Petula speaking about parking her caravan on a petrol station forecourt: "Can I winch my legs down onto your hard standing?"
- Video Wills
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Dolly and Jean
- Will They or Won't They?: Bren and Tony. They Do.