Written by Diane “Philomena Cunk” Morgan, as she’ll probably be known as for the rest of her life, Mandy started out life as a one off pilot last year where Morgan’s Mandy is a slightly obsessive type, who in that episode was determined to obtain a beautiful if expensive sofa no matter what. That entailed her trying to steal it, and then trying to raise the cash to buy it by working as a Princess Diana lookalike, taking part in a medical trial, and then being a contestant on a teatime quiz show, with her succeeding with the latter after she blackmailed host Rick Edwards.
It was a mixture of the oddly mundane and the rather absurd, and an effective, very funny creation it was too, and for once the BBC did the right thing and commissioned a full series, a further six episodes all of which are fifteen minutes long. Now they’re airing two back to back each week, and the two which aired last night were just as funny as the pilot episode, skilfully containing that combination of wry realism and slight silliness once again.
The first was the stronger of the two if only because as with the pilot it saw Mandy in a variety of different environments, from her interviews at the job centre to the shitty jobs that she was forced to do. That led to some nice satire of the horrors of what it’s like to be a job seeker, a sharp bit of mockery of industry training videos, and some fun daftness as Mandy was forced to smash tarantulas with a hammer, except when she didn’t and seventeen people died. Oh, and she then shortly afterwards burnt down a chicken shop, but despite all this madness it manages to be ridiculously over the top without ever feeling unbelievable, which is impressive indeed.
The second episode wasn’t quite as good, but only slightly so, and it still continued to be pleasingly appealing as after chatting with her friend Lola (Michelle Greenidge) who suggests “Your constant failure allows other people to shine”, Mandy decides she wants to achieve something in life, and that something is winning the local line dancing endurance competition. But before she knows it her old friend Susan (Maxine Peake) arrives, who previously betrayed her when both appeared in an episode of the Touch The Truck game show, and who it looks like will once again do whatever she can to screw her over. Perhaps because it was limited to only the one storyline it wasn’t quite as funny as the first episode, but it definitely still had its moments, and seeing Maxine Peake imitate Mandy, and an appearance from a lucky voodoo head both made me laugh, as did the strong payoff to the episode, even if that means that Maxine Peake’s appearance in the series will sadly be limited to just this episode.
Morgan’s definitely created a very funny and likeable character here, one who manages to generate chaos without it ever seeming too ludicrous, and given how many people died because of her actions that’s quite the thing. The supporting cast so far have all been excellent as well, with Greenidge especially superb, the soundtrack notably adds to the strange but funny feel the series has, and based on these two episodes and the pilot Morgan really deserves to have another hit on her hands.
You can watch the episodes on the BBC iPlayer here.