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Why Hunderby Is The Best British Period Sitcom In 20 Years

by Matt Grundy
16 September 2012 11 Comments

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...

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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Markxist 12:23 pm, 16-Sep-2012

It's not technically the first thing Julia has done since Nighty Night, but it is the first series she's been allowed to do. She had done a Christmas Cracker for Sky a couple of years back, and a pilot for BBC2 with Jessica Hynes called Lizzie and Sarah, which was equally dark, twisted and brilliant and scared the beeb so much they put it out at 11:20 on a Saturday night, thus nixing any chance of a commissioned series. The cowards! No wonder she's gone to Sky. I completely agree though, Hunderby is brilliant and yes, a strange mix of Rebecca, Poldark and Nighty Night!

Speaksalot 8:08 pm, 16-Sep-2012

Saw ten minutes, thought it was rubbish

Joe Fonebone 9:14 pm, 16-Sep-2012

Am I right in thinking that you've done a review of a TV show and not even bothered to state which channel it's being shown on?

Sgt Pilko 9:32 pm, 16-Sep-2012

@Joe Fonebone - Am i right in thinking that you are able to comment on someones post, yet unable to google the title of the programme to find it for yourself?

Sgt Pilko 9:34 pm, 16-Sep-2012

Ps. great show, getting funnier every week... Julia Davis has a gift for finding comedy gold in the dark and the bizarre...

Doesn't matter 10:42 pm, 16-Sep-2012

Stop being cunts for the sake f it. Sky Atlantic if I recall from looking earlier.Not had the chance to watch as yet so will with-hold a comment on that but seeing as she was a main player un HumanRemains do have high hopes. If they'renot realised 'll cry like Bonny Langford

Greg 3:18 pm, 2-Oct-2012

This has to be one of the funniest things on TV. me and my lady get the wine out and laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of it all.

Maisie 10:29 am, 5-Oct-2012

It is utterly brilliant. Script is fantastic. What an amazingly talented woman Julia Davis is! Just watched episode 6 and it was a corker.

Ze Frog Maister 10:55 pm, 8-Oct-2012

Hunderby will go down as a classic...i have not seen comedy this dark since the League of Gentlemen Royston Vasey series...and there was me thinking Julia Davis and Maggie O'Neill from shameless was the same person...oh but they do have an uncanny resemblance though...hope they make another series of Hunderby...its hilarious...anyone who don't like it must be American and will will get it when them there brain cells catch up with the rest of us in about 2 years... ;) or just make it their own without the humor...(dam comedy stealer s)...

kate 8:47 am, 17-Oct-2012

As much as I loved this series, I don't agree that it's the best 'sitcom' of the last 20 years. What about Psychoville for one. And Julia Davis was excellent in Gavin and Stacey. I wouldn't call Hunderby a sitcom either; it's more of a pastiche.

Markxist 12:48 pm, 17-Oct-2012

A bit nitpicky Kate, after all Psychoville was little more than a pastiche of Hammer House Of Horror, Tales Of The Unexpected etc

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