Brutality, murder, sexual deviance and illness don't sound like the most promising subjects for comedy. But then Julia Davis is no ordinary comedian. In a rare interview, she talks about movies, motherhood and where the "dark" stuff comes form.Eleanor Morgan, The Observer, 11th April 2010
Both Lizzie and Sarah are fiftysomething housewives in marriages of dull horror, which they keep meticulously dusted and polished. Sarah's husband has sex with her with a pillow over her face - when he finishes, she says, meekly, "Thank you".
Lizzie is in thrall to her au pair, Benita. Huge, sullen and ripe, Benita sits in her bedroom demanding cheese toasties and leaving the door open while she has sex with Lizzie's husband.
When Lizzie's husband says he wants a divorce, Lizzie and Sarah go to a bar, get very, very, drunk, find a gun and accidentally start killing everyone who has wronged them.
"We must remember to stop killing now!" Sarah says, at one point, before killing again.
Although it is the nature of the human brain to sort things into order, it's impossible to work out who is best here - Hynes or Davis. Both are so brilliant at embodying the millimetre-thick cheeriness - brittle as insect carapace - that grows over decades of deep, blood-and-bone pain. Hynes makes Sarah's eyes as sad as an Old English sheepdog's. Davis gives Lizzie a mouth of nervous twitching and breathless dry laughter. That they're doing all this to comic effect is to remind you, yet again, how comedy really is superior to all other genres.
As if this weren't enough, Davis and Hynes also play two teenage girls in the show - all lipgloss, "Babe!" and bird-like opportunism. In one shot, Davis sucks her thumb in the most sullen and aggressive manner imaginable, as an act of triumph over Lizzie. It's only one second long, but if you wanted to point at the most perfect vignette of a certain kind of self-obsessed, post-X Factor 21st-century teenage girl, it's all there.
However, despite being one of the most startlingly original pilots of the past few years, the BBC broadcast it at 11.45pm on a Saturday night on BBC Two - the kind of place I might hide a dead body, or the Ark of the Covenant, if I really didn't want them discovered.
Just to recap here: Hynes is the co-creator and co-star of Spaced, one of the most popular, groundbreaking and influential comedies of the past ten years; Davis is the writer and star of Nighty Night, regarded, again, as one of the best comedy series of the past ten years.
I will be honest with you - this has made my Patriarchy Alarm Bell go off. I can't imagine two male comedy performers, of equal stature, being shunted into this kind of slot, with so little publicity. Obviously the BBC is suffering from some odd manner of broadcasting shellshock, and commissioning only the most timid and inoffensive of programmes, in some manner of abject pre-emptive cringe at the prospect of an incoming Tory government. I get all that.
But, really, it's hard not to echo the comments of Simon Pegg on Twitter: "Jeez Beeb - grow a pair!!"Caitlin Moran, The Times, 27th March 2010
This show is not only funny and tight-as-a-drum, but it's incredibly brave. With its dream-team cast of Davis, Hynes, Heap and Eldon (along with a few other familiar faces), this show clearly has legs. It would be a terrible decision if the BBC don't turn this into a full-on series. However, let's not forget, this is the company that wimped out on the fantastic Pulling.Mof Gimmers, TV Scoop, 22nd March 2010
Lizzie and Sarah was a Stygian comedy about the lives of sexless middle-aged women written and performed by Julia Davis and Jessica Hynes. Its broadcast reminded me of the line that the late great editor of the Sunday Express, John Junor, used on his writers: "Laddie, your piece is excellent - and if I were to publish it I would not change a word." BBC Two did not spike Lizzie and Sarah but it did put it out at 11.45pm on Saturday night. It was certainly strong stuff. (Sample line: "Oh, John loves big boobs. He always says I was two soggy old socks pre-children and with all the breast feeding and wotnot he just tells people I had a double mastectomy.") But Davis and Hynes, who cleverly also played two vacuous teenage girls whom their husbands do deign to lust over, were superb. The build up to a Thelma & Louise climax was fuelled by a high-octane anger. Henry Normal of Baby Cow who made the pilot tells me that he has not lost hope of its becoming a series. He'll be lucky. By Friday the BBC had not even confirmed it would be on iPlayer. If you missed it - and you probably did - you can, however, download it on iTunes.Andrew Billen, The Times, 22nd March 2010
"We can't get away with that, can we Jessica?"
"Oh go on Julia. So Michael will put a pillow over my head so he doesn't have to look at me when we're having sex. And I'll almost suffocate. Then, when he's done his business, I'll say thank you, really meekly, trying to hide my tears."
"Ha ha ha, brilliant. And my husband John can have sex with the obese Brazilian au pair - pumping away loudly, enthusiastically and frequently, all over the house and in full view of everyone. I'll clear up after them, pretend it's not happening, play Boggle and make toasties . . . "
We know about Julia Davis's inappropriateness from the wonderful Nighty Night. But here, with her new partner in crime, she's cranked things up - or plumbed new depths - to a whole new level of excruciating. Ouch, it's painful - it has you wincing and squirming, clenching and screaming inside. Then exploding with laughter. Because it is very, very funny.
It's not just about shocking, though, and getting away with things (an awful lot of things, it must be said - 11.45pm is really the only time this could possibly have gone out). Lizzie and Sarah is also beautifully observed. It is far-fetched, but not that far-fetched. This is not a million miles away from stuff that goes on in pretty much every family (infidelity, ageing, insensitivity, cruelty, Boggle). And it's this - the recognition and familiarity - that makes it both so painful and so funny. In fact, when Lizzie and Sarah stop being walked all over, go postal and start to take revenge with a gun, it becomes less successful, I think. Because suddenly it's less believable. Still funny, just not so painfully so.
Anyway, it's a treat - brave and hilarious. With brilliant performances, too, particularly from Jessica Hynes (who, along with Julia Davis, plays a 16-year-old as well as a 56-year-old). It would be criminal if this pilot wasn't turned into a series - though, with a large percentage of the characters now dead on the floor, there may be some logistical issues to sort out. No worries, Davis and Hynes can just get together and dream up some more. I'd like to meet anyone they come up with.
If it was too late and you missed it (maybe you were in bed with a pillow over your head), go and watch Lizzie and Sarah on iPlayer. And if you did see it, watch it again. You'll notice things you missed first time round, like the boobs drawn on the zeros in 2009 in the poster for Vicki's memorial concert. "Vicki Bobin, 'she fell asleep with angels', 1993-2009" (with boobs). Vicki was run over by her own pervy father, who was distracted by her friends in their netball kit. See what I mean about the inappropriateness?Sam Wollaston, The Guardian, 22nd March 2010
Julia Davis is certainly no stranger to black comedy, having already appeared in twisted shows like Human Remains and Nighty Night, but it's a little surprising to see Spaced's Jessica Hynes (nee Stephenson) partnering her to write and star in a black-hearted tale of suburban revenge...
Lizzie (Davis) and Sarah (Hynes) are two fiftysomething housewives living in suburbia, both married to loathsome husbands who treat them with callous disregard and sneering contempt. Lizzie's husband John (David Cann) is having an obvious affair with their corpulent, lazy housekeeper Branita (Jessica Gunning); Sarah's husband Michael (Mark Heap) has taken to having meaningless, functional sex with her while he hides her face behind a pillow. Both introverted women are cowed into submission and have allowed themselves to accept their lot in life, as unloved slaves whose only escape from tedium and bullying is an amateur dramatics society. However, after a day of particularly unforgiveable treatment by their other halves, Lizzie and Sarah find themselves pushed to breaking point and, having come into possession of a handgun, decide to enact their revenge...
Lizzie And Sarah is of a particular style and content that many people just won't find particularly funny, that much is certain. Indeed, the BBC were allegedly so dumbfounded by this pilot's depressing tone that they scheduled it for a Saturday night graveyard slot of 11.55pm, so the chance of a full series doesn't look likely. If one is even necessary, as the story appeared to reach enough of a conclusion that I can't imagine what else Lizzie And Sarah would have to say. It was effectively 15-minutes of matrimonial bullying that segwayed into a domestic revenge scenario that lacked imagination because it was basically comprised of shooting their psychological aggressors dead with a gun they'd stolen from a thief.
The titular characters themselves were interchangeable; having no meaningful differences in temperament, accent, lifestyle, or taste in men. Their horrid husbands were likewise peas in a particularly odious pod. A subplot involving a memorial for a girl ran over by her own father's (Kevin Eldon) car, which inspired a musical memorial performed by two teenage classmates (Davis and Hynes), who gyrated to the Sugababes' Hey Sexy for the approval of a talent scout in the crowd, just felt misplaced and could have been cut entirely.
As a fan of Davis, Hynes and black comedy in general (which nobody does quite like us British), Lizzie And Sarah certainly had decent moments of chilling humour, uncomfortable bad taste, and jokes so near the knuckle they drew blood. However, a feeble storyline, near-identical characterisation for the leads, and unimaginative vengeance (just shoot the browbeaters), dealt enough blows to make this pilot feel like a wasted opportunity. I'd like to believe Davis and Hynes knew there'd be little hope of a full series, so opted to complete their story here, because I don't see any reason or need for more.Dan Owen, Dan's Media Digest, 21st March 2010
Hartley Pool reviews Lizzie And Sarah.Hartley Pool, Chortle, 21st March 2010
We at The Velvet Onion love an underdog, and Lizzie & Sarah is no exception. The new pilot from Julia Davis & Jessica Hynes has been buried in a graveyard slot this evening, and its been up to friends of the pair (including Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and our own Noel Fielding and Dave Brown) to plug the show for them!didymusbrush, The Velvet Onion, 20th March 2010