Hunderby returns | TV (p)review by Steve Bennett

Hunderby returns

TV (p)review by Steve Bennett

Three years have passed since the show was on air, but in Hunderby it has been barely months.

Scheming continues apace, not least Davis's poisonous housekeeper Dorothy, psychopathically plotting to keep the master of the house, Pastor Edmond (Alexander Macqueen) from leaving her, and sticking her oar in the relationship between Helene (Alexandra Roach) and Dr Foggerty (Rufus Jones channelling Colin Firth) convincing them both that childbirth had made sex a no-no. In fact there are so many jokes about the damage the baby has done to Helene's 'trouser mouth' that this the first period drama that's not so much bodice-ripper as perineum-ripper.

Davis's script is an almanac of grotesquely grandiloquent euphemisms, filth made elegant by her twisted imagination. It works both because of the florid Daphne Du Maurier-style language and because the mores of 1830s society deemed that anything even slightly indelicate must be addressed only by metaphor. Though it's a very twisted world where homosexuality must be repressed, while accidental incest seen as a minor inconvenience

There seems to be more focus on plotting and character in this first of two hour-long specials, which Davis attributes to co-writer Barunka O'Shaughnessy's discipline and which lessens the dependence on gross invention that might otherwise have diminishing returns. It means that in the final third or so the narrative points come to a head at the expense of some gags, but also gives a mounting dramatic tension to lure viewers back next week.

The comedy is, of course, a mixture of the jet-black and the sick, quite literally in the case of the ailing pastor. The repressed emotions and overbearingly censorious morality of the age give Davis something to challenge with her turpitude. And as before, the show looks a million dollars, comedy again doing on a budget what drama solves by flinging money around.

All the cast seem to relish the gothic melodrama, not least Rosie Cavaliero (putting on a brave face as the cripple Hester, cast aside into her hovel. New for these specials is both a ferocious monkey and Inside No 9's Reece Shearsmith, as the visiting pastor, repellant, lascivious and terrifying, as all-powerful and unbending as the finest witch finder.

Sky have apparently not yet made a decision on whether Hunderby should return for another full series, but Dorothy's surely got enough evil in her to go around.

• Hunderby returns to Sky Atlantic at 10pm tonight.

Review date: 10 Dec 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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