There is, as with many comedies, a lot more fun to be had once the setup of Yonderland – Sky1’s new comedy series from the makers of Horrible Histories – is over and done with.
Fortunately, about halfway through ‘The Chosen Mum’ everything clicks into place, and the format is established. From then on in you get a feeling of what Yonderland might be like in later episodes. That’s not to say the setup is bad, just that it’s not as much fun as what follows.
Once Debbie – a bored housewife whose kids are at school for the first time – is led into a magical realm by an elf, we meet the Elders of Yonderland. Debbie’s husband and kids aren’t bad people, they just aren’t there a lot of the time. The skills that she uses day in day out at home turn out to be transferable when it comes to being the prophesised chosen one of a fantasy realm under the threat of darkness and doom.
The setup is done, and then after the break we get our first quest and set out into Yonderland proper. This is reminiscent of early Mighty Boosh episodes, with an adventure every episode and a healthy dose of the nonsensical. The integration of actor and puppet is smooth, you barely question it as the show falls instantly into Henson-esque absurdity the second Debbie enters Yonderland via her pantry. More puppets, more weirdos, more laughs.
The Oracle will give Baybond slash fic writers about four years worth of material. Jim Howick’s crone is Terry-Jones-in-drag-level-funny. Of the Elders, Simon Farnaby stands out as one obsessed with nudity. Martha Howe-Douglas as Debbie gets to a lot of solid, funny reaction work, holding everything together without getting to join in with the insanity to the same extent.
The script gives everyone, including Dan Skinner (in the potentially thankless role of Debbie’s husband, Peter), at least one laugh out loud line. The weak spot so far is that Debbie’s elf guide is a tad featureless, doing little to stand out amidst the background, one-off characters. His sardonic talking stick, however, is much better.
This is deliriously silly stuff, featuring inspired lunacy and bodes well for the rest of the series. The foundations have been laid now, and based on this episode there’s a lot to look forward to, including a longer look at the villainous Negatus. Plus, everyone loves a quest.
Aired at 6.30pm on Sunday 10 November 2013 on Sky1.
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