Judge Joel Pearce changes his mind. Some things are sacred.
Jill: Why does everything happen to me?
The term "dark comedy" doesn't even begin to describe Nighty Night. In fact, it's one of the most heartless, vicious comedy series of all time. Whether this is a good or bad thing will depend on your tolerance for extreme cruelty.
The series begins as Jill (Julia Davis, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself) and Terry (Kevin Eldon, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) sit in a doctor's office. Terry is diagnosed with cancer, a large tumor. But Jill is considerably more upset than he is. It only takes her a few minutes to get over it, though, and she quickly makes plans to move on with her life as a widow. Her first step is a dating service, though no promising prospects turn up.
It isn't long before she meets Don Cole (Angus Deayton, Deadwood), a mild-mannered doctor that she decides would be an excellent replacement for Terry. Unfortunately, he is still married to Cathy (Rebecca Front, Time Gentlemen Please), a woman with Multiple Sclerosis. Jill invades their lives, anyway, but still has one small problem of her own: Terry isn't dead, and might actually recover.
Just as she would wish, this series is all about Jill. Julia Davis has taken this project by the horns, seeking nothing less than the creation of the most shocking and heartless situation comedy of all time. Although Jill is quite funny, there is absolutely nothing redeeming about her at all. She will do anything (and everything) to get what she wants. In fact, there is little to like about any of the characters. It's hard not to sympathize with Terry and Cathy, but only because they are both dying (maybe) of terminal diseases. That said, the characters' antics are quite funny, if you have the stomach to watch them.
Nighty Night is both uproariously funny and horribly uncomfortable. This isn't the gentle ribbing that many comedies have for different types of character, nor is it the edgy parody of Little Britain. This is a completely different animal, totally unflinching in its look at how cruel we can be to one another. People with a stronger stomach than I have will probably find this hilarious and perhaps even a breath of fresh air. I found it a bit much. When the producers sucked the humanity out of the show, any subtlety went with it. And the emotional volume is turned up to eleven through the whole series. The writing is over-the-top and scattershot: Jill isn't only an evil neighbor, she's a completely incompetent hair stylist as well; it's never clear why she picks Don as her new mate.
At times, however, the flurry of inconsistencies aren't troublesome at all. It's impossible to deny that this series has some of the slickest comedy sequences I have seen in a very long time. Nothing is sacred, of course, and Julia Davis's script leaves no closet unopened or taboo unspoken. The depths to which Jill sinks in order to get what she wants will shock even the most jaded viewers. On that level it's a fine antidote for those bored by a lack of edgy comedy in recent years. Just be forewarned that this is not a series for most people. It is ugly, overwhelming, and blunt.
All of the performances are excellent, especially Davis's scene-chewing performance as Jill. Angus Deayton's Don Cole is reminiscent of John Cleese straight men, as he stumbles through his own complicated situation. Rebecca Front is brilliant as Cathy, fighting hard to be the only sympathetic character with significant screen time. The smaller roles are full of grossly overplayed stereotypes, but I think that was the intention.
BBC Video has released another fine disc. All six episodes of the first season are on one disc, which is presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The image tosses all of the bold colors directly onto the screen. It has a few minor digital conversion artifacts, but looks great for the most part. The stereo audio does the job, with clear dialogue and somewhat annoying music.
There isn't much in the way of extras. A collection of outtakes highlight how hard it was for the actors to stay in character during some of these sequences. There are a handful of deleted scenes as well, most of which are worth watching.
I can't recommend Nighty Night: Series One to most people. That said, those for whom comedy can't be too dark will find that this series fits the bill nicely.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
• Deleted Scenes
Review content copyright © 2006 Joel Pearce; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.