In a year of celebrity deaths, the one that struck me most was Victoria Wood’s. It seemed shocking that someone who was still at the top of their game and producing brilliant television comedy and drama was being taken from us. No retirement, no dwindling into irrelevance. Just one day, gone.

Television obituaries tend to be clip shows, and, as we reach the anniversary of Wood’s death, so we have Our Friend Victoria, a clip show of her best works, each based around a theme and presented by a close friend and colleague. The most recent episode, for instance, focused on her take on appearance and was presented by Maxine Peake, who was discovered by Wood when she was casting for her sitcom Dinnerladies. The episode featured stand-up, sitcom clips and sketches around diet, fashion and beauty.

Amongst the highlights was Wood’s many mockings of exercise classes and their over-exuberant but under-qualified instructors, including ‘Fattitude’, the class for ‘Fatties with Attitude’. This was Wood showing that she was more than just someone who could write killer lines with perfect word choice and throw together a great comic song, she could also do physical comedy as well.

The drawback of shows like this though is, however well intentioned, the need for talking heads as it were distracts from the clip. A good example in this episode was the Shoe Shop sketch, a personal favourite of mine. Played out in full, this is a sketch that builds on the manic energy of eccentric shop assistant Julie Walters, her exaggerated mannerisms becoming more frantic with each line. Instead, it is interrupted whilst Walters discusses the rehearsals and other contributors offer their views, cutting of the energy and making the sketch feel oddly disjointed. Weirdly, in praising Wood, they accidentally tarnish the very beauty of the scenes they are trying to sell.

So what’s the solution? Well, one option is to perhaps make the show twice, one with the sketches just as they are, the other with a ‘commentary’. Whichever is screened on TV, the other could be made available online. The other is just to show Wood’s work in its entirety, either on screen or online, with a red button service for commentary for anyone who wants it.

This gripe may seem unkind, but I feel it is justified. When you are celebrating someone for being funny, you want people watching to find it funny. Anything you do to distract from that lessens the brilliance that you want people to see. Wood made a career out of sketches that built in energy and the viewer deserves to see that uninterrupted. We are watching to see her, not to hear what everybody else thought about her.

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