Usually sketch show characters, no matter how loved, aren’t given a chance to break free from the shackles of their five minute skits and be explored and enjoyed in their own sitcoms. Of course, there are exceptions: Mr Khan (Citizen Khan, originally Bellamy’s People), Edina and Saffy Monsoon (Ab Fab, formerly French and Saunders) and Lee and Tim from Not Going Out, who started out as characters in an insignificant segment on The Sketch Show. All of these sitcoms have gone on to do extremely well (yes, I am including Citizen Khan in that statement), and there’s the possibility that Catherine Tate’s Nan could do the same, as she has taken the much-loved, foul-mouthed Joannie Taylor from her eponymous sketch show and created a thirty-minute, one-off sitcom of which she’s the star.
As you may remember, we have previously seen Nan outside of The Catherine Tate Show and charity sketches in Nan’s Christmas Carol – Tate’s 2009 reworking of the Dickensian tale. Even at fifty minutes, this special (starring a host of comedy talent) was a real treat – as was tonight’s episode, which saw the 75 year old cause mayhem at the council offices, mistreat a poor hospital patient and host a wedding party for her neighbours.
I was slightly worried about Nan – Catherine Tate’s horribly awkward appearance on The One Show a few weeks ago suggested that she may have decided to stop being funny altogether. Plus, Mirror columnist Ian Hyland tweeted before the episode, ‘I’d love to be able to tell you Catherine Tate’s Nan on BBC1 tonight is hilarious from start to finish. But.’ So it wasn’t looking too good. Thankfully, though, I didn’t agree with Ian – despite there being the odd gag lifted from the original Nan sketches and a few risky jokes about race and religion, it certainly seemed to me to be thirty five minutes of non-stop laughs. The golden ingredient – the character’s trademark acidity – was present right from the off and persisted throughout, creating the moments of caustic joy that made the character and her scenes such a hit in the first place.
What a treat it was to see rising star Ami Metcalf as Alice (pictured), the teenager who was paired with Nan as part of a ‘Young and Old Buddy-Up Foundation’ scheme. As she had previously proved in Walking and Talking and The Mimic, Ami is a fantastic comic actress and, although she was inevitably in the shadow of Catherine Tate, she did shine as Alice – particularly in the final scenes. Her sweet, humble character acted as the perfect antidote to Nan’s vitriol, and I hope that this – her most mainstream comedy role – has helped introduce her to a lot more people.
So, I loved Nan, it being the perfect follow-up to The Catherine Tate Show. Could it sustain a series? I’m not sure. As I said, some repeated jokes did slip through and there was nothing terribly original about it – which is not a criticism when judging it as a one-off, but for a six-part series or even a Christmas special, Catherine and her co-writers may have to brainstorm a few more ideas for the nation’s favourite foul-mouthed septuagenarian.
Image credits: Thanks to BBC, ©Tiger Aspect
Catherine Tate’s Nan is available for a limited time on BBC iPlayer
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