Magazine article The Spectator

Dark Doings in the Suburbs

Magazine article The Spectator

Dark Doings in the Suburbs

Article excerpt

No doubt one reason why British people like Kath & Kim (often on BBC2, now on Living, Thursday) is that it takes the mick out of Australian suburban life. That makes those of us who lead British suburban lives feel superior. But it's more than that. It's very funny. It's worth watching just for the strangulated, aspirational accents ('puloyse', 'luck at moy'), which are a source of delight to Australians, too, as you'll see on their website, kathandkim. com. On the surface it's just another family sitcom, but it's more subtle than the norm, and at times rather dark. Kath is a bubble-haired but not bubble-headed divorcee, recently remarried to Kel ('Oim not a butcher, oim a purveyor of fine meats') with whom she has a sex life which is the envy and despair of her daughter Kim. Kim is a selfish brat who has never grown up and shows no wish to do so, even though she now has a baby and a shortsuffering husband called Brett. They have a fat, unprepossessing neighbour called Sharon, to whom Kath is very kindly but who is treated like a doormat by Kim. It's a small set of characters, eked out by having Kath and Kim play other parts, notably a pair of snobbish shop assistants whose accents are so tortured that their larynxes seem to be turned inside out, like a pair of wet gloves.

There are guest stars, such as Shane Warne and Kylie Minogue, and this week Matt Lucas from Little Britain, who played Karen, Sharon's English half-sister, in a scary, onlygay-in-the-village outfit. Being even more odious than Kim, he was vile to Sharon. In short, the ménage seems like a pretty normal family, and the show combines a grotesque surrealism with often harsh reality, which is quite a neat trick.

I thought I'd catch up with Spooks (BBC1, Tuesday) because the Radio Times said that this week's episode was 'brilliant and unbearably tense'. It was certainly tense. I was on the edge of my seat wondering when someone would tell us what on earth was going on. Hermione Norris plays Ros, who like her lover Adam works for MI5 but appears to be a double agent involved with YALTA, one of those international terrorist organisations like SMERSH, except they use their evil ways to prevent wars. By the end, when Ros got the lethal injection in her neck, I was, I must confess, past caring which side she was really on. (Ours, I think. ) It had all the trappings of a modern spy flick -- the moody long shots, followed by swirling, random action, as if the cameraman himself had been shot and was writhing on the floor in agony. …

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