Hunderby, Sky Atlantic, Monday, 10pm / Bad Sugar, Channel 4, Sunday, 10pm / Good Cop, BBC1, Thursday, 9pm

Julia Davis's dark reworking of du Maurier's 'Rebecca' is funny, clever, and absolutely filthy

Of all the mysteries in Julia Davis's latest series, Hunderby, perhaps none can trump that surrounding its revered creator.

How, interviewers have repeatedly wondered, can the reserved, self-deprecating woman in front of them be the same one responsible for some of the most disturbing TV comedy of the last decade? Chiefly Nighty Night, the sadistic sick-com which saw a deranged suburbanite breaking up marriages, poisoning priests, and inseminating herself with semen-spattered pie and mash. And then Lizzie and Sarah, a 2010 pilot about two abused wives whose wet-weekend-in-Dungeness levels of bleakness convinced the BBC to schedule it in the treasured time-slot prefacing late-night Ceefax.

Well, the plot only thickens with, Hunderby, which is less overtly shocking than those previous works but just as bizarre: a Gothic burlesque both finely mounted and fetidly imagined. Set in "the year of the Lord 1831", as the sonorous narration has it, it tells the story of a shipwrecked, amnesiac ingénue (Alexandra Roach) who washes up in an English coastal village and falls into marriage with its widowed pastor, Edmund. But her real misfortune is to have been cast into a particularly demented riff on Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, complete with devious housekeeper Dorothy, played by Davis herself, gruesome meal options, and endless servings of verbal and physical humiliation. "I take much comfort from your simplicity ... both of looks and character," Roach's hubby-to-be tells her early on, getting things off to a deliciously inauspicious start.

The script, needless to say, is one, long zinger, parodying high-falutin' costume-drama diction with an exquisite mixture of savagery and scatology. I loved Edmund's excruciating comparison of his first and second wives' pudenda: "Arabelle was smooth as ham – nature did not busy her broken mound with such a black and forceful brush". And Dorothy's sombre update on her master's mother's medical condition: "Her bowel has still not spoken, Sir ... though I fancy I caught a whisper." I could go on – and certainly will outside this column, so watch out friends, colleagues and quote-haters! – with countless other lines, whose surreal artistry you wanted to roll over your tongue and savour. Meanwhile Nighty Night fans will know what I mean when I say that the phrase "bubbly milk" could well become the new "Hiya Kath!"

But will the series have the impact of that cult favourite? Probably not – for all its perverse imagination, the tone is more muted, the humour less obvious and the literary conceit possibly more limiting. Though what chance it has rests with Davis's fabulously callous Dorothy; with her Medusa-like stare and simmering sexual pathology, she makes Mrs Danvers look like Mrs Doubtfire.

On the other hand, not even Davis could rescue star-studded self-indulgence Bad Sugar, written by Peep Show duo Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong and the centrepiece of Channel 4's presumptuously-titled Funny Fortnight. The problem was the premise: a spoof of the telenovella, which, for the uninitiated, is a type of high-camp, short-form Spanish-language soap opera. Which prompts at least three questions: first, who has actually seen a high-camp, short-form Spanish-language soap opera? Second, why spoof a short-form, high-camp Spanish-language soap opera with British characters in a British locale? And finally, does high-camp, short-form Spanish soap opera not fall somewhere beside Donald Trump in the beyond-parody stakes? And so it was that, without any decent material to play with, a blue-chip cast (Davis, Sharon Horgan, Olivia Colman, Reece Shearsmith) mugged away exhaustingly. The pilot began with a fake "Previously on ..." montage, although I assume the corresponding "Next time on ..." montage was for real since a full series lies ahead. Which makes you wonder if all the good comedy commissioners have scarpered to Sky Atlantic.

And finally: another week, another cop drama. BBC1's new four-parter Good Cop was trailed with the USP that it focused not on a maverick detective, but an ordinary bobby. Other than that, though, it was all entirely off-the-peg: think speeded-up traffic shots, underlit interiors, lashings of dramatically climactic rain, smirking gangsters, and impulsive but fundamentally decent heroes. When it comes to the small screen, the Emperor's New Clothes are truly the Policeman's New Uniform.

Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Arts & Entertainment
Rory Kinnear in his Olivier-winning role as Iago in Othello

Oliviers 2014Actor beat Jude Law and Tom Hiddleston to take the award
Arts & Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is best known for this roles in Sherlock and Star Trek
TV

Arts & Entertainment
theatreAll hail the temporary venue that has shaken things up at the National Theatre
Arts & Entertainment
musicShe is candid, comic and coming our way
Arts & Entertainment
booksHer new novel is about people seeking where they belong
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

    Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

    Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
    Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

    Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

    The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers