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Watson & Oliver, Series 2, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews

Watson & Oliver, Series 2, BBC Two

Watson & Oliver, Series 2, BBC Two

Second time round for sketch show which carries on lampooning female quirks

Fair cops: Oliver and Watson

You wait years for a female comedy duo to take up where French & Saunders left off, then two come along within a calendar year. Which just about counts as at once. Anna & Katy, who recently had a run on Channel 4, rely for most of their wit on a wide range of silly voices. Watson & Oliver, who have returned for a second series, feel like more traditional sketch artists. They observe and they spoof and even hint at pathos.

Not that they were entirely welcome last time round. The comment stream for theartsdesk’s review of the first series divided unequally between the appreciative and the vituperative (“I demand a rebate on my licence fee” etc). A fiver says most of the latter were male, specifically the type of males who prefer men to do the gags. The series was more hit than miss, and its returning sketches had a pleasing momentum so, with apologies to the naysayers, this second lap of the track is entirely merited.

So what’s new? On the evidence so far, some characters have bitten the dust, having presumably had the last drop of juice squeezed out of them. These include the gagging-for-it Regency ladies, a period parody here replaced by an inner-city midwife with only a loose grasp of cockney argot and lady plumbing. For the women-at-the-top slot, William and Kate - whose marital bed is haunted by the spectre of Pippa Middleton’s rump – make way for a female PM who’ll lie like hell to spend more time with Chancellor Merkel (pictured right). The two jobsworth receptionists from last time round have made way for equally toxic beauticians.

Anyone signing up for the first time will have been baffled by the wordless disco scene in a women’s prison featuring Lorna Watson’s lonesome inmate and Ingrid Oliver’s chirpy warder. For those familiar with their coy, awkward banter with lashings of subtext, it worked a treat. Meanwhile they’ve sensibly decided to ditch the opening sequence in which they come on as themselves and fall out as they introduce the show, and sharpened the focus on what they do best: lovingly lampoon the quirks of female behaviour in all walks of life.

It’s not all pin-sharp. However much gusto goes into the performing, the slapdash TV chefs and the unobservant coppers out on patrol feel underwritten. But you can’t help fall under their lightly absurdist spell. Oliver’s female counterintelligence operative, Skyping home to bid goodnight to her child while taking part in a shootout, says everything. Watson & Oliver are about women having it all. And some men don't like that.


Anyone signing up for the first time will have been baffled by the wordless disco scene in a women’s prison


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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Well, I'm male and have no problem watching good female comedy performers. It's just a shame that, on the evidence of this second series, that Watson and Oliver aren't funny. I applaud the BBC for giving them a second series in an attempt to work out the problems with the first, but it hasn't worked.

Victoria Wood, Joan Rivers, Isy Suttie ,Sarah Silverman, Judy Davis, and plenty more: all brilliant. Watson and Oliver: BBC pass for being female. And some upper class twits called Jasper don't like that. (Stereotyping, your instant solution to any critical dilemma.)

Sister Marissa, you malign this "upper class twit called Jasper", if indeed it's me you've shoved in the dock. A (not very) careful reading of the review will demonstrate that I think Watson & Oliver are in fact a good thing. The fact that some people don't get them - and I'm guessing it's mostly men - is purely speculation on my part. I happen to like the female comedians you refer to and if you use the search engine you will find my sizeable two-part Q&A with the great Victoria Wood on the site, plus a review of her recent documentary about tea. So I'm not quite sure why I'm under attack on this occasion, but hey...


you are 'in the dock' as you were so confident it was men who like men telling jokes posting negative reviews you were willing to bet a fiver on it. I like other men love funny women and these two do not come under that umbrella - grow a brain and make better use of your fiver by putting it towards a new scriptwriter fund for Watson and Oliver.

Marissa, would you protest so much if the reviewer's name was Dave, or Phil?

that's about as complacent as that AWFUL programme QI. television does not come smugger or more self-confgratulating. and people laugh at it...

What an embarrassingly stupid dismissal of Watson and Oliver's critics to suggest that it's based on sexism. I'm male and the only reason I don't like Watson and Oliver is that it is mind-numbingly unfunny. Still, it is better than It's Kevin, but as I am the same gender as Eldon I would think the universe will shortly implode at the sheer paradox that is intra-gender sketch show criticism.

Totally agree. Critics shouldn't defend it because they're two female performers. Defend it on gags and comedy alone! And with watson and oliver there isn't a lot of comedy there. The metro review got it spot on. Most sketches are overly long and without punchlines. A couple of funny ideas in there but as usual they were poorly executed. the bbc had to recommission it or it would be an admission of failure on their part.

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