Why Hunderby Is The Best British Period Sitcom In 20 Years

It’s set in the bleak 1830’s somewhere in England after a shipwreck, where our Helena is brought back from the dead on the beach by a Pastor. The two must have a baby within a year or they lose Hunderby. Strange, but it works...
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It’s set in the bleak 1830’s somewhere in England after a shipwreck, where our Helena is brought back from the dead on the beach by a Pastor. The two must have a baby within a year or they lose Hunderby. Strange, but it works...

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Hunderby is not only one the best British comedies of the last 20 years, it’s also the best period piece I’ve ever seen. Although I don’t watch many, to be honest.

It’s not set in the smart arse, wise cracking corridors of political power and failure, there is nothing modern to relate to here, no Blackberries, no Twitter. It’s set in the bleak 1830’s somewhere in England after a shipwreck, where our Helena is brought back from the dead on the beach by Dr Foggerty. She awakes to see Pastor Edmund stood over her claiming it to be god’s work. She marries the Pastor, he’s a widow you see, and his wife Arabelle was a saint, a flawless, gifted, beautiful, and talented saint who Helena can never ever live up to. Helena is constantly reminded of this by the house keeper of Hunderby and Arabelle worshipper, Dorothy (played by the show’s creator Julia Davis). The unhappy couple need to conceive within one year, or they will lose Hunderby, but it’s looking bad as the Pastor is more than a little confused about his sexuality, which leads us to some pretty worrying sex scenes. “Tis not in Edmund”, “it’s on my leg"

The unhappy couple need to conceive within one year, or they will lose Hunderby, but it’s looking bad as the Pastor is more than a little confused about his sexuality, which leads us to some pretty worrying sex scenes.

The script and language is incredible. It’s polite yet obscenely wrong. In the best possible sense and the worst possible taste. "Arabelle was smooth as ham, nature did not busy her broken mound with such a black and forceful brush", when comparing his bride to be with his late wife’s minge.

I like it when comedy pushes the boundaries, I like to cringe, I like to be shocked and in the finale to Monday night’s episode, my jaw fell off for the first time, in a long time. THE BIT WHERE THE DOCTOR ENDED UP WITH A FACE LIKE A PLASTERERS RADIO. Got your attention yet? You need to see this show. It’s not all shock factor and it’s not shock for the sake of it, I genuinely get the feeling its taking us somewhere, although it’s going to be somewhere pretty wrong. Everyone has a dark secret or two that will unravel at some point soon, I don’t really know where it’s going if I’m honest. The show is very considered and not really in a rush to get anywhere, which is great. It’s played incredibly straight, no winks to the cameras here, and the acting and casting is brilliant.

I can’t believe this is the first thing Julia Davis has done since the equally brilliant Nighty Night, over seven years ago. I think she has surpassed her contemporaries both here and abroad with Hunderby. As my gay friend said to me this morning, it’s Daphne du Maurier on Ketamine. Four down, four to go, catch up before its gone.

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