Last Night's Viewing: A Very British Wedding, BBC2
The Mimic, Channel 4
The title of A Very British Wedding is a bit of a tease. It relies on the assumption that most of us will read it with an unwitting cultural parochialism, sketching a picture in our heads of a country church, a bride in white and men in tailcoats. And then you watch and find that it's actually about a Punjabi wedding or an Eastern European one and you're meant, I guess, to do a slightly guilty double-take and say, "Oh... of course... the definition of British is so much more interesting than it used to be."
I couldn't help but wonder what the participants made of the title, though. Kami and Dev surely think of themselves as British – second (possibly third?) generation Sikhs living in Bradford and Doncaster. But do Sasha and Vlod, Latvian and Ukrainian respectively, and still very much getting to grips with the language? The only thing that was British about their wedding was the jobsworth registrar who wouldn't let the traditional Ukrainian cake through the door.
Never mind the title, though, because the programme itself was very sweet, notionally about nuptial traditions and religious practices but actually about the universal emotions that tend to well up at a wedding, not all of them uncomplicated. Although Kami and Dev's marriage was a perfect modern blend of love-match and parental arrangement, for example, Kami was still going to live with Dev's parents after the wedding, as tradition dictated, and saying goodbye to her mother was obviously a wrench.
At one point, it looked as if she was being taken off to her own execution in the hired Roller, so copious were the tears. And Vlod was feeling distinctly homesick too. His family couldn't come to Britain for the wedding because of the cost, so occasionally checked in on the celebrations via a Skype link, looking on approvingly as everyone drank the local vodka they'd sent over.
There were some unfamiliar details. Kami and Dev had to split up for six weeks before the wedding to comply with tradition and Kami's hen party looked like a seemly affair – the very British tradition of tottering down a provincial high street waving a giant inflatable penis round your head having not yet infiltrated the Sikh community. At Vlod and Sasha's, meanwhile, the idea that ribald vulgarity should play a part in any good splicing was taken even further than is conventional here.
Rather than simply relying on the best man for off-colour jokes, Eastern European weddings feature a "joke planner" who goes to great lengths to make the event a laugh-riot. Sasha's best friend, Julia, had arrived from Latvia with boxes of comedy props, including two potties, boxing gloves and... yes... a set of nurse's uniforms. Of course, the really interesting bit of a marriage only starts now, but that would be a different series.
New Channel 4 comedy The Mimic appears to have been built around the ability of its lead actor, Terry Mynott, to do impressions and there are moments when you wonder whether he provides a solid enough foundation. His Terry Wogan was very wobbly and his David Attenborough was a weird hybrid of Alan Bennett and Ian McKellen. Other impressions are so left-field they have to be visually signposted or cued up by a line of dialogue to make sure we get them.
But there was a promising little sequence as Martin (Mynott's character) sat slumped in front of his television and Morgan Freeman and James Earl Jones fought it out over who was best at adding gravitas to a natural-history programme. It's a comedy of underachievement essentially, complete with marimba noodling on the soundtrack to signal the underlying pathos, but it has some lovely downbeat moments and funny silences where some comedies might strive (unsuccessfully) for a big guffaw. Look out for Jo Hartley as Martin's friend Jean too. She's very good, so quietly you might miss it.
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