Mid Life Christmas (TV Movie 2009) Poster

(2009 TV Movie)

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5/10
If you're new to Victoria Wood, don't start here!
des-4724 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Victoria Wood's first Christmas special in nine years and her long- awaited return to sketch-based TV comedy sadly turns out to be a disappointment for all but the maverick musician-comedienne's most indulgent fans. It's heavily hampered by an overblown pastiche of British costume dramas which drags on for segment after segment, relying far too heavily on silly anachronisms rather than character -- teenagers texting using needlepoint samplers, a 'whitening' booth rather than a tanning booth. I doubt Wood likes costume dramas very much, unlike Julia Davies whose ostensibly similar Hunderby (2012) shows it helps actually to have a grasp of the genre you're sending up. Even less inspired is a series of reports from the Middle-Aged Olympics, which invites unfavourable comparisons with Monty Python's skits on sports coverage from many decades before.

With the exception of a dance routine on the set of The Apprentice, which is funny both because it's so incongruous and so well mounted, the more successful sections retread old ground. There's a mockumentary on the life of Bo Beaumont, the mediocre but blissfully self-deluded actor who portrayed Mrs Overall in Acorn Antiques, a fictitious soap that featured in Wood's 1980s BBC work and later became a musical. She's brought to life as ever by the great Julie Walters, the only significant member of Wood's old gang to pop up in this piece. And for a grand finale, our host dusts off her most famous comic song, The Ballad of Barry and Freda (aka Let's Do It), with a few new lyrics, a fabulous big band arrangement and an elaborate Busby Berkeley-style dance routine with a host of CGI- enhanced Barrys and Fredas complete with baggy Y-fronts and loose elastic. This sequence is a joy, but the song has been around since the 1980s.

Wood was successful as a dramatist before she broke through with sketch shows and stand-up. She's moved more and more in the direction of longer forms like sitcoms and 'serious' drama in recent decades, and very successfully. Perhaps her heart isn't in sketches any more. The Making Of, where Wood talks as herself direct to camera, at points reminiscing on her own odd childhood Christmases, is more engaging than the show itself, which certainly doesn't do justice to such a unique talent.
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4/10
Mid life disappointment
Prismark1026 December 2016
Although regarded as a national treasure and a magnet for BAFTA awards, I always found Victoria Wood to be an acquired taste. Then again I remember Granada Television desperately flogging the Wood & Walters comedy show to an unimpressed public in the early 1980s.

By 2009 when her Mid Life Christmas was broadcast, it was clear Victoria Wood's creative juices were running dry and at 60 minutes this felt a lot longer.

The pastiche of Cranford was something French & Saunders did years earlier on other similar themed BBC costume dramas. Although I did like the 'smirking' area outside the inn and needlepoint texting.

The middle aged Olympics was uninspired. The mockumentary on Bo Beaumont the actress who played Mrs O in Acorn Antiques was just OK.

The best bit was the dancing on the Apprentice set by Margaret and Nick. The programme finishes with one of her most famous ditties, Let's do it with a CGI dance routine.

However this special left even her fans subdued.
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