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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Across The Pond and Beyond - French And Saunders

For this version of Across The Pond and Beyond Wednesday, I figure that we would shine the spotlight on a couple of actresses who have done incredibly well in their native United Kingdom, but have also had quite a bit of success stateside.

One of them ended up voicing the character of the Fairy Godmother on Shrek 2 and made guest appearances on the television shows Roseanne, Friends, and had a long-standing role in the British comedy Absolutely Fabulous. The other one had a famous role on the television series The Vicar Of Dibley, and had small movie roles in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Both of them were wonderful success stories in their own right, but whenever they got together, they were absolute magic. The chemistry that the two actresses shared with each other made each of them shine even more, and that partnership managed to last two decades on television with their mastering of sketch comedy and quick wit.

I'm talking about the duo known as French and Saunders.

The pair is made up of Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. The two women first met each other in 1978, while both were students at the Central School of Speech and Drama. At the time they met, French was 21, Saunders, 20. They began the first of their collaborations shortly after their first meeting, and based on their love of comedy, focused on creating comedy acts. They first began performing together in the early 1980s by performing at the famed London comedy club 'The Comic Strip'. In September 1981, they were featured on a live comedy album of Comic Strip performances recorded by comedy entrepreneur Martin Lewis. A year later, French and Saunders made their first television appearance in a television program called 'The Comic Strip Presents...'. Not only did they appear at least thirty times during the series run, but they actually held writing credits for the series as well.

In 1984, both French and Saunders appeared on a program called 'The Tube', and this was a notable appearance for something rather risque and taboo, for it was the first time that the word 'blowjob' was ever used on UK television, courtesy of Dawn French. (Oh, the things you learn researching blog topics...heh heh heh)

By 1987, French and Saunders were making a mark in the comedy world. They had starred in a program that they had collaborated on, called Girls On Top, which had come on the air a couple of years earlier. With co-stars Tracey Uilman and Ruby Wax, the show became a success in the world of Britcoms. Also by 1987, the duo had appeared on a couple of Comic Relief specials and signed a contract with BBC. The girls were starting to make their way to the top.

In 1987, the duo's popularity would grow with the launch of the French and Saunders sketch comedy show.

The first episode aired on March 9, 1987, and over the course of twenty years managed to air 46 original specials. The final French and Saunders show as of now aired on Christmas Eve, 2007. During the first season of the program, French and Saunders was purposely made out to look like a low-budget variety show where the two stars would try a whole bunch of stunts which failed miserably (kind of reminds me of the Super Dave Osborne show).

In later years, as the show grew in popularity and ratings, the budget that the show received grew, and therefore more could be done with the program. And both French and Saunders definitely took advantage of this. Using the money to create parodies of television shows, music videos and movie clips, the show quickly upgraded from cable access television to a high quality comedy hour. From You Can't Do That On Television to Saturday Night Live, so to speak.

And, what better way to showcase the talents of both French and Saunders than showing you some of these clips in action?

Because, really...I could make this blog entry seven pages long, but somehow, I think video clips could speak louder than anything I could write about these talented ladies.

I mean, after all, they spoofed Bjork...



...America's Next Top Model...

...Alanis Morissette...

...and even Baywatch!

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