Follow TV Tropes


Series / Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV

Go To
Acorn Antiques: Julie Walters, Victoria Wood, Duncan Preston and Celia Imrie
Victoria Wood - As Seen On TV is a British Sketch Show, written by and starring Victoria Wood. Following an ITV show, Wood and Walters, she was offered a new show by the BBC which she accepted provided she was given a greater say in the production than she had been previously. Having felt that her previous show was hamstrung by the casting, she insisted on working on a repertory of actors who were names in their own right (rather than the sometimes anonymous side men who had been typical in sketch shows up until then) so hired people such as Julie Walters, Celia Imrie, Duncan Preston, Susie Blake, and Patricia Routledge. The result was the perfect marriage of Wood's incisive and sharp comedy writing with high calibre comic acting.

Each show consisted of an opening monologue from Wood, at least one comic song and a spoof documentary, but perhaps the most fondly remembered aspect of the show was Acorn Antiques — a parody of the then popular soap opera Crossroads featuring deliberately shonky camera work, wooden acting and poor expository dialogue. Acorn Antiques ended up being spun off into a West End Musical.

The series was also notable for the descriptions in the listings magazine Radio Times, which generally had little or nothing to do with the contents of the show itself ("The last of the series 47: Managing without Opera. How are Hanna and Gavin coping?") — all the descriptions were written by Victoria Wood herself.

This series provides examples of:

  • Amusing Injuries: In the very first episode of the parody soap opera Acorn Antiques, Mr Clifford (Duncan Preston) is sitting on a sofa when he stands up abruptly and whacks his head off the boom mic dangling directly above him. It's played in-universe as though his actor is in such pain that he can't even go on with the scene: he just sits on the sofa clutching his head and mutters "Bloody nora!". What makes it especially funny is that the other character, Mrs Overall, after a hesitation and a nervous Aside Glance, just goes on with the scene, not even filling in his lines for him but responding to them as though he'd actually said them. In the following scene, Mr Clifford isn't there (his actor presumably being off getting medical attention) but he's supposed to be, and the other characters behave as though he is, even addressing lines to the empty space on the sofa where he'd been sitting.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": The cast of Acorn Antiques do this, in different ways.
    • Wood herself as Berta is stilted and inept, with her terrible wig usually half-obscuring her face, and saying everything in a high-pitched, overly-fast mumble.
    • Celia Imrie as Miss Babs is a Large Ham, delivering most of her lines in a fluty, cut-glass voice while making sure the camera is getting her best angle.
    • Julie Walters as Mrs Overall is an even bigger Large Ham but with Method Actor tendencies, giving her character a very distinctive stumping walk and an impenetrable Birmingham accent.
    Noice coop of coff-oy.
    • Duncan Preston as Mr Clifford is slightly better at seeming natural but comes across as the most inept of all at television acting in that he's the most likely to miss his mark, face away from the camera, bump his head, damage the scenery or generally act as a Butt-Monkey.
  • Bawdy Song: "The Ballad of Freda and Barry" (better known as "Let's Do It") is a classic example and one of Wood's most popular songs.
  • British Brevity: Only 12 episodes and one special. Its brevity was due to the fact that Victoria Wood was the only writer and decided to quit while she still felt it was at its height.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Susie Blake's continuity announcer was this, although given her perpetual Stepford Smile it shaded into Cute But Psycho.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In the mockumentary "The Making of Acorn Antiques", Alpha Bitch showrunner Marion Clune is hosting a story conference. One writer has suggested a story about AIDS. Marion decides that it's been done, and suggests instead doing a story on earwax.
    Writer: I just think AIDS has more dramatic potential.
    Marion: [Death Glare, Beat] You're fired. Don't talk to the press if you like having kneecaps.
  • Downer Ending: Many of the mockumentaries had these. Hilary in "On Campus" becomes so friendless and isolated that she tries to kill herself. Chrissie in "Swim the Channel" goes missing during her swim, and the final shot is of her empty bedroom with her teddy bear and her posters for Annie.
  • Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence: The continuity announcer has this for more or less everyone who isn't like her:
    Continuity Announcer: Hello. Just a quick rundown of what we can expect to see on Sunday, strikes permitting. It's dreadful, isn't it. I mean, I could go on strike because officially I'm entitled to two cushions on this seat and there's only one, but I shan't because I feel that people should be grateful for having a job these days. But I have heard that quite a few people on social security go abroad for their holidays, so really I think random executions might make these strikers buck their ideas up. Anyway, Sunday's viewing. There seem to be a lot of things for Asians in the morning, and a few sort of handicapped things, and at five o'clock it's religion, in which various bishops will be showing us their kitchens, and telling us how God has helped them with the cooking and preparing of food generally. Then, at five-thirty, it's our very own quiz show Snookered, with the very popular Ken Burrows. He's not very popular with me, but I suppose working-class people find him amusing.
  • Mockumentary: Each episode contained one of these, many of which were very darkly comic; in one of them, "Swim the Channel", Wood played a schoolgirl determined to swim the English Channel, whose parents are completely uninterested, while another featured Wood as a friendless and awkward college student who attempts suicide. Acorn Antiques even had its own "Making of" mockumentary.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: The sketch "Is It On the Trolley?" features two entitled yuppie types in a restaurant being served by a waitress, played by Wood, who appears to be using this.
  • Protest Song: Spoofed with an overwrought gospel number about the evils of...not being able to find what you want in the shops.
  • Reluctant Fanservice Girl: In one of the mockumentaries, "To Be An Actress", the subject, a young actress called Sarah, is three years out of drama school without work and is so desperate to get a job that she'll become one of these.
    Director: [who has been giving everyone else roles that do not include nudity] And you're...Lady Godiva. Okay?
    [Sarah resignedly pulls her t-shirt over her head.]
  • Self-Deprecation: Any time the script called for a fat woman, Wood would play the part herself.
    • One show ended with a voice-over saying "There'll be more attempts at comedy from the overweight comedienne next week."
  • Shakespearian Actors: Meta example. One episode had a continuity announcer declare that "Patricia Routledge is a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company — Victoria Wood isn't" to which Victoria Wood replied that she didn't care as there was no parking in Stratford.
  • Stylistic Suck: Acorn Antiques parodied the problems that resulted from contemporary soap operas' unfeasibly tight shooting schedules and low budgets, with wildly inconsistent and improbable plots and characterisation, clunky and awkward dialogue, actors missing their cues (whether early or late) and clearly reading off cue cards, visible technical equipment (with which the actors sometimes collided), cheaply made sets (the studio lights were often seen at the top of a shot, while the painted backdrop through the shop window would often be visibly swaying), badly-fitting costumes, crew members audibly hissing directions from off camera... the sketches put more effort into being bad than soaps of the day put into being good.
  • Take That, Audience!: A speciality of Susie Blake's continuity announcer, including such gems as "We'd like to apologise to viewers in the North. It must be awful for them."