I have been writing and rewriting the opening gambit of this review for the last 2 hours and struggled to find adequate words to start it with. So, in the grand tradition of the lady herself, I’ll try to with the king AND queen of all words: a moist plinth. Aaah, lovely.
I digress. For the last five years, Miranda Hart’s eponymous BBC sitcom has been a galloping beacon of what-we-call ‘such fun’ in an otherwise dull comedic landscape. The kind of landscape that now holds criminally unfunny, supposedly ‘ironic’ comedy like ‘The Inbetweeners’ and anything starring overgrown head boy Jack Whitehall in high regard. And don’t even get us started on “Mrs Brown’s Boys”.
So to say we were, in the words of her Sloaney frenemy Tilly, ‘utterly mortificato’ when she announced that her Christmas specials that aired on BBC One last month, were to be the last of her larks in the joke shop that we’ve known and loved for three series, is both an understatement and a terrible misjudgement on the part of Ms Hart (oooh, that rhymes). The reasons of which I’ll attempt to explain as we go on, so, again, as Tilly might say, ‘bear with’.
The final two episodes are now being released on Monday in what could well be her last comedy DVD ever. The first episode, ‘I Do – But to Who?’, shown on Christmas Day, picks up where THAT Series 3 cliffhanger ended – when both on-off love of her life Gary Preston (Tom Ellis) and her then boyfriend Mike Jackford (Bo Poraj) got down on one knee with wedding proposals a-go-go.
Naturally overcome by the situation, and the constant interference of – who else? – her mother Penny (Patricia Hodge), Miranda storms out back to the shop, declaring everyone as ‘engagement ruining idiots’. In the sanctuary of her own abode, and with best friend Stevie (Sarah Hadland) at her side for reassurance she’s making the right choice (“Don’t worry. I’m all over this like whipped cream on Gary Barlow”), it doesn’t take long for the decision she knew was the right one even at the end of series 3 to be made, as she gently lets Mike down and accepts Gary’s proposal via a Monster Munch (to replace the Hula Hoop that Dreamboat ‘I bloody love crisps’ Charlie ate).
But if you thought being newly ‘toilet door engaged’ (Stevie’s metaphor, not ours) would rid Miranda of her problems, it just creates more, with Penny and Tilly scarier than ever on the wedding planner front, and Stevie in a suitably short huff that rounds of ‘Where’s Miranda’ and games night have been shunted for coupley things with her new fiancée (who she prancées to her engagement party with ‘like human dressage’ – we’ll return to the galloping metaphor soon enough but LOVED this).
And then Gary’s freaking out (c’est chic) by the overbearingness of the situation – leading once again to Miranda’s belief he’ll get cold feet about commitment again – resulting in a very emotional final few moments. In terms of the more soap opera-y side of Miranda’s sitcom oeuvre (which we feel, like ‘Friends’ at its peak) has always made it stand out, this is the most intense episode that’s been since the infamous ‘Gary marrying Tamara the waitress for a green card’ debacle of series 2, and as our heroine slumped down in tears to the strains of Celine Dion, it did make us worry we were heading for a final episode that delivered a very anti-happy ending.
Not to say this episode was without its belly laugh moments – more specifically the ring choosing scene in the shopping centre that recalled the infamous sushi bar travellator scene from ‘The New Me’ in series 2, and the Bear Grylls style survival hen weekend Miranda and Stevie endured together that really highlighted the strength of their friendship. (And also Stevie’s love of ‘Benedict Cucumberpatch’).
The last episode, ‘The Final Curtain’, shown on New Year’s Day, was therefore a happy surprise, in a way I didn’t expect. I won’t spoil the ending completely for some of my readers who may have not seen it yet – but it toned down the dramatic upheaval of the first episode and was Miranda at her hilarious best.
Particularly highlights included the welcome return of Dominic Coleman as the ‘We Don’t Know’ browsing customer (seriously, that guy almost needs a show of his own), Dreamboat Charlie’s comparison to Miranda and Gary as being like ‘Doritos and guacamole’ (only he could draw in a crisp analogy), and – I did promise I’d return to this – the scene where Miranda rides atop a galloping horse down a deserted beach. Her assertion in that school days flashback that galloping was the way forward has finally come full circle.
So to return to my earlier statement at the start of this review then, you may wonder why I think she’s a total and actual idiot for chucking it all in now? Well. I feel rather like she is somewhat backing – or should that be galloping? – away from comedy, what she is strongest at, just because of the show’s snooty and supposedly ‘ironic’ detractors. She’s made a great point of highlighting in recent interviews of a desire to – and I’m balking even at the use of this irksome phrase – “to be taken more seriously”.
But in her great haste to run away from what has bought her to our affections – I’ve tried to get into ‘Call the Midwife’ and delightful as she is as Chummy it is too depressing a watch by far – she has forgotten one of the most cardinal rules of comedy. As her idol, and one of mine, Jennifer Saunders once said, ‘the minute you start to take yourself seriously, is the moment comedy loses its spontaneity and disregard for maturity’.
As Jennifer herself learnt though, when she bought ‘Ab Fab’ to a premature end after its 3rd series in 1995 in favour of doing painfully unfunny projects like ‘Vivienne Vyle’ (remember it? Didn’t think so), perhaps what comes next for Miranda may make her realise she’s given up on a good thing. Until then, it’s reruns on the sofa with our fruit friends whilst we pretend to be a geisha in our oven glove slippers, and spontaneous bursts into the entire back catalogue of Whitney Houston. Onwards with the show, chums.
‘Miranda: The Finale’ is released on 2Entertain DVD from Monday, priced £9.99.