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BBC Video presents
Cathy: I'm a bit uncomfortable around dogs.
DVD ReviewThe blurb on the front cover of Nighty Night compares the show to Curb Your Enthusiasm, but that's doing a disservice to both shows. They aren't really that similar, based on the episodes of Larry David's show I've seen. Nighty Night is altogether blacker than David's day to day absurdities, riddled through with cruelty aplenty, most of it perpetrated by the main character, Jill (Julia Davis, also the show's writer). I can't imagine this show leaving anyone ambivalent; you will either eat up the wanton nastiness on display, or find it in completely bad taste.
The story begins in a pre-credits sequence, in which Jill and husband Terry (Kevin Eldon) receive bad news from the doctor: Terry has cancer. Jill immediately decides that it's time to find a new man, assuming that cancer equals death for poor Terry, who enters the hospital for immediate treatment. Heading to a local dating service, Jill gets set up with her first potential new man, Glen Bulb (Mark Gatiss), a sex-starved Scots widower with a penchant for groping and an outrageous tic. Jill's sights soon turn to another target: Don (Angus Deayton), a doctor newly moved in next door. Don's wife Cathy (Rebecca Front) suffers from multiple sclerosis, and Don clearly has little patience for her lack of interest in sex and her brittle veneer of forced cheeriness. Jill decides to make her move, announcing that Terry has died suddenly from his cancer.
I've seen Jill described by some as evil, but that would be slightly off the mark, I think. Simply put, she's a sociopath; she lacks any semblance of interest in the problems of others, seeing only her own interests. Jill says the most appalling things without caring how utterly tactless or cruel she's being and later moves into more overtly hostile acts. Her behavior toward customers at her beauty salon grows ever more crass as the series progresses. She takes advantage of normal society's penchant for avoiding confrontation, pushing people around easily. Some of this is for comedic effect of course, as Jill gets increasingly more outrageous, culminating in the demented (and jaw-droppingly funny) funeral for Terry, and her desperate efforts to clean up the mess made by Terry not dying. The final few minutes of the last episode are brilliantly twisted, verging very close to not being funny at all.
Nighty Night is made hard to watch in that Davis has given the audience no one to root for. Jill is beyond the pale, a vulgar, vile woman. Don and Cathy are both immensely flawed as well. Don remains married to Cath despite his general lack of interest in her, and he is casually cruel to her on several occasions as well, though nothing approaching Jill's level. As for Cath, she is utterly spineless, smiling through the brutal treatment she receives from Jill until late in the series. It's hard to feel sorry for anyone really, beyond Terry, who is too stupid to figure out what's going on.
The performances are all topnotch, with Davis obviously leading the way. Her grotesque portrait of this woman approaching middle age and suddenly trying to make up for lost time is fascinating to watch. Jill is loathsome in every way, yet remains a very funny character. I would encourage viewers to watch the show piecemeal, as too much of Jill in a short time simply becomes too much to endure. Davis plays Jill in a very cold manner; she rarely has any emotional highs or lows, preferring to act piqued instead of angry and offering a dead, shark-like smile instead of true happiness. The series gives no clues as to whether Jill was like this before the news of Terry's cancer, or if it has simply freed something within her. Jill's confession of Terry's impotence (which turns out to possibly have been faked on his part) opens up one small avenue of understandable frustration on her part, but her overall behavior goes way beyond anything normal or forgivable.
In terms of the other actors, Deayton and Front fit their roles well; Deayton looks like a shorter John Cleese, and handles Don's almost perpetual puzzlement at what is going on around him well. Front has a thankless role in playing Jill's prey, as the script doesn't allow her to be especially sympathetic to the audience; she's simply in the way and the butt of Jill's endless needling. Ruth Jones plays Linda, an overweight Goth who works at Jill's hair salon, and takes part in perhaps the grossest scene of the series, when a safety and health official visits the salon for an inspection. Gatiss, of The League of Gentlemen television series, gets to play another freakish character, exceling as always.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: Dating from only a couple years ago, Nighty Night doesn't look bad, but it doesn't especially impress, either. Shot on video and then processed to look like film, the video quality is pleasant yet bland. English closed captions are present, and fairly useful given some of the heavy accents.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: One of the pluses the show has going for it is its selection of music, highlighted by the title theme from Ennio Morricone's score to My Name Is Nobody, which works beautifully. Otherwise, everything is dialogue driven and sounds pretty good.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
10 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsWickedly funny, Nighty Night tests viewers by parading a group of characters before us who have no redeeming qualities, and the main character is the worst of the lot. If you enjoy humor founded on dual bases of cruelty and self-absorption, you'll likely love this. If your British sit-com speed is more Are You Being Served, you'll be in for a shock.
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