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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Nighty Night - Complete Series 1
Nighty Night - Complete Series 1
Warner Bros. // Unrated // January 10, 2006
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted January 6, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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"I am not a malicious person,... and I will strike down anyone who says otherwise."

One of the cornerstones of British comedy is selfishness and rudeness in the face of that stereotypical reserved British manner. For most of my generation, our first exposure to this was Monty Python skits and the series Fawlty Towers. It is a formula that really works, from Basil Fawlty, to David Brent, to Edina Monsoon, to Alan Partridge, and now Jill Tyrrell, the lead character of the 2004 BBC 3 series Nighty Night.

I'm a fan of good British comedy, the darker, more surreal, or abstract the better, Python, Black Books, Spaced, The Office, Knowing Me Knowing You, Look Around You, and the like. Nighty Night can be counted among the darkest humored series, if not the darkest, that I have ever seen. Jill Tyrrell might be one of the most near insufferably selfish and horrible lead characters to grace the screen, but, of course, thanks to some clever writing, series creator and main actress Julia Davis creation is also wickedly funny. Jill is an uncouth, lower class, and totally self-absorbed hairdresser. Her salon turns out customers with terrible hairdos (what I can only describe as, imagine a retarded Prince Valiant). When the customers complain Jill has a way with words that leaves them feeling guilty for complaining. Jill is also every bit as stupid as she is selfish, which makes her self-absorbed tactics both heinous and totally bumbling.

The crux of the series starts, naturally, with episode one. It involves Jill's hubby, Terry (Kevin Eldon), who is diagnosed with cancer. Jill takes this news as bad for her, not Terry, then sees it as fortuitous, evidenced by the fact that she applies at a dating service the very next day. When asked if she'd like to date someone who is emotionally open and able to communicate, Jill replies, "Oh, no thank you." and aims for profiles with more superficial descriptions. Her first date is with a nervous disordered dweeb Glenn (Mark Gatiss of The League of Gentlemen), who continues to make appearances in the series.

But, it is in her new neighbors that Jill sets her sights on her next conquest. Don (Angus Deayton), a doctor, and his Multiple Sclerosis suffering wife Cathy (Rebecca Front) move in next to Jill, something far more dangerous than setting up your home next to a severe fault line. Jill wants Don and keeps finding ways to hound Cathy, disrupt their already troubled marriage, and wedge herself into their lives... and that is pretty much the running plot of every episode, so I'll sort of go over them in brief.

So, I've already gone over episode one, a basic intro episode. Episode Two- Jill has already told everyone that Terry is dead, even faked his ashes; meanwhile, poor Terry sits in the hospital wondering why he hasn't got any visitors. The rest of the episode is Jill's attempt at wearing out Cathy during the day so she can have dinner with Don alone later that night. Episode Three- Jill plays on Cathy's taste for self-help books by giving her a course called Celebrating Celibacy that has Cathy asking Don to repeat the mantra "Your lily is precious, I will not enter." Jill tries to entice an increasingly pent-up Don by jogging around the neighborhood in her underwear, which she explains is more aerodynamic. Back at the hospital, Terry's treatments are going well and his cancer is disappearing, however, Jill tearfully tells him his tumor went from grapefruit, to plum, then swelled up to pineapple.

Episode Four- Because Jill lied to Terry about his recovery and wants to keep him in the hospital, she moves him to a residence for terminal patients. The hospital staff, knowing he is being discharged due to his recovery, throws him a going away party complete with "GOODBYE TERRY" banner, which needless to say, leaves Terry a tad confused. Meanwhile, under the pretense of personal grieving and intending to support Cathy, Jill moves herself into Don and Cathy's home, plants doubts about Don's fidelity, puts the moves on their son who is home from school, and literally wedges herself in-between them while they are in bed. Episode Five- Jill's schemes and life begin to really fall apart. After she unsuccessfully tries to seduce a drunken Don and lie about it, Cathy finally lets her have it. Meanwhile back at her salon, a health inspector shows up and shuts down the place, easy enough because of its sate, but Jill's repeated insistence on calling the Indian inspector "Saddam" didn't help. Jill finds salvation in twitchy Glenn and his trust fund money, successfully blowjobbing her way into Glenn paying for an elaborate funeral for Terry (still sitting around perfectly healthy in the terminal patient residence).

It all ends with Episode Six. I wont even go into the specifics. But, if you thought the humor was nasty before, if you thought Jill was completely despicable... well, this series ends on one of the blackest, jaw-dropping notes possible. I'm surprised as Hell that this series not only managed to get a second season (because it gets so dark I imagine tv viewers burning down the broadcast station) but that they even conceived of a way to keep it going after the bleak as bleak can get finale Julia Davis and co. concocted. But, I'll be damned if it isn't hilarious. This ain't Are You Being Served?, thats for sure.

The show doesnt have a sitcom look. While I'm sure many of the interiors are probably sets, it has a very natural and non-stagey feel. It has some moments and characters that don't quite work, like Jill's sycophantic, fat, goth girl salon assistant, but overall the performances are sharp and the characters are fleshed-out. The shows humor mainly relies on guilty laughs, like the many moments at the expense of Cathy's disability, Terry's cancer, or Jill's heartlessness, but it also finds room for your basic poo joke or flash of the surreal.

The DVD: BBC/Warner

Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. Checking out the rough deleted scenes, I was surprised that the series is shot with pretty standard cameras. The whole show has been mastered to look more high end, like film, and I never once imagined it was processed video. Anyway, it has a nice look, good sharpness, and color, though some intentional roughness and grain, to give it a film look- not high end film either, more grainy and muted 16mm-ish. Compression issues are minor.

Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0, English language with optional English subtitles. Good sound presentation, nothing remarkable, just solid, clear dialogue and full-bodies scoring.

The real surprise is the music the series uses. I know the Spaced creators maintain that US rights issues make it impossible for the show to get a Region One release without altering the shows soundtrack. So I was taken aback to find that Nighty Night uses a lot of popular music: its theme is from the Ennio Morricone score for My Name is Nobody, and it has numbers from Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue, Judas Priest, and The Pretenders.

Extras: Outtakes (4:36). Fairly decent but not gut-busting. Every muck up shown occurs between Gattis and Davis and usually ends with a stuttering apology and an attempt to move on.— Deleted Scenes (17:14). Now this was really great, seeing some alternate versions of scenes and a lot of little subplots that didn't make it to the final cut.

Conclusion: It is pretty rare when a comedy that is tagged as dark or risky really lives up to that description, but Nighty Night does so and does it proudly. It is great comedy of wince inducing, Stygian black humor. It is a good DVD to boot, and fans of mean-spirited humor (in other words, if you think jokes about cancer is all game) should check the series out.

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