Jennifer Saunders makes me nervous because she's too damn good. She has raised my expectations so high that I get SCARED when something new comes out; how can her Next Big Show possibly be as good as the last one? It can't! And when she finally fails I don't want to know about it!
But I rented The Vivienne Vyle Show anyway, and I'm halfway through, and it's amazing.
Saunders plays the title character, a talk show hostess who specializes in being cruel to her disgusting freakshow guests. Meanwhile she's married to a gay "kept man," and desperate to have a child, and equally desperate to expand her repertoire (especially if that means going to America).
The comedy doesn't have the "cartoon" quality of Absolutely Fabulous, but it's still just as bizarre, cruel, and unpredictable. The whole tone is that of a constant, somewhat disturbing simmer; situations build slowly and then just as slowly resolve, while underneath it all the hilarity seeps in almost subliminally. It's subtle.
This works because the cast is spectacular and their characters are meaty. The more deadpan they get, the funnier they are...and the more uncomfortable you become, because -- unlike Ab Fab -- these folks are REAL.
Best of all is bad mom and manic show producer Helena de'Wend, played by Natasha Richardson. Her style of acting is indescribable: mush-mouthed, violent, and totally insane. She's a textbook Jennifer Saunders character played to perfection.
I leave you with a clip of one of their production meetings. I can only hope that the rest of the episodes are just as good...though next time Saunders makes a new series I'll be even MORE afraid of watching it.