The Worst Week of My Life – Acorn TV
On the cusp of New Year’s Eve, you might think this title is a fitting summation of 2020, especially if we changed the word ‘week’ to ‘year’. In actuality, it’s the title of a British situation comedy, which I thought a most appropriate way to end this trying year. Yes, let’s stare 2020 in the face and laugh. The world is still full of endless silliness and the best remedy for the blues is a good laugh.
When it comes to making people laugh, John Cleese has a pretty good track record. Now that he’s getting a little long in the tooth, he’s written a biography and been touring the world with a stand-up comedy act that he promotes as ‘the last chance to see me before I die’. Has it really been fifty-one years since the British comedy series ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ began? It was only six years later (1975) when Cleese stepped into the role of Basil Fawlty in ‘Fawlty Towers’. Both of these series helped secure Cleese a unique spot in the pantheon of British comedy and it’s not hard to see his influence on a later generation of British comedy actors.
A case in point is the 2015 British series ‘The Worst Week of My Life’, a three season Brit-com based on an Italian movie from 2011. Watching the hapless Howard Steel (played by Ben Miller) crash through the week before his wedding to Mel Cook (played by Sarah Alexander) is like watching Basil Fawlty battling the malevolent fates that continually beset his life. Howard doesn’t project the same kind of inflated arrogance that makes everyone laugh and cheer when Basil gets his inevitable comeuppance, it has more to do with Miller’s mannerisms that signal his John Cleese admiration and inspiration.
For those that enjoy the zany goofiness of Basil and the Pythons, the ‘Worst Week of my Life’ is an enjoyable way to spend a few hours. The series begins with an office celebration for Howard Steel, a publishing executive. The first intimations of impending disaster start when Cassie (played by Raquel Cassidy) manages to throw the party into confusion by announcing publically that she’s pregnant with Howard’s baby. Since Howard’s only had a one-night stand with Cassie at a Christmas party two years prior, the numbers don’t add up.
Cassie, it appears, is obsessed with Howard and is going to stop at nothing to prevent the impending nuptials. Howard, on the other hand, is girding himself for a few days stay with the in-laws to be. Mel’s father, judge Dick Cook (played by Georffrey Whitehead) is a staid no-nonsense sort of fellow who takes an immediate dislike to Howard. Mel’s mother Angela (played by Alison Steadman) is more willing to give him a chance, despite an avalanche of horrors that Howard unleashes, including the demise of Angela’s dog, unwittingly thrown into a cement mixer.
Of course there are the usual kind of ploys arising from the plot that one would expect from a wedding comedy – everything from losing an heirloom ring, problems with the best man, the wedding program to stag night fiascos. Add to this mix the devious plots of the deranged Cassie, who manages to kidnap both the groom and bride on separate occasions. The concoction is full of sight gags and belly laughs – the kind of froth the British excel in making. By the middle of series one, the only question arising is whether the two lovers can be united by the end of the century, let alone by the day of the wedding.
Like many British series, there is a constant string of people arriving on the screen that have you wondering – ‘where have I seen them before?’ It was fun to see Alison Steadman outside of ‘Boomers’ and Janine Duvitsky playing Eve, Howard’s secretary – a character just as dotty as the one she played to perfection in ‘Waiting for God’.
Yes, for downright ridiculous situations and continuous laughs, you can’t beat British comedy – unless perhaps you elect someone like Donald Trump to lead your country.