Barking - DVD review
Unessential DVD release of the short-lived C4 sketch show featuring David Walliams, Peter Kay and more
Back in 1998, Peter Kay, Catherine Tate, David Walliams, Omid Djalili and Mackenzie Crook were all looking for a big break in their comedy careers. The Fast Show had ended on the BBC the previous year and it would be another 12 months before the League of Gentlemen would unleash their own brand of slick-black broken comedy onto the nation’s TV sets.
Over on Channel 4, a decent sketch show had eluded them since Absolutely turned the lights off on Stoneybridge in 1993. Then along came Barking, a showcase for the writing and acting talents of some up-and-comers, and while it may have lasted one poorly-received series of six episodes, its roster of future star names gives this DVD release a strong curiosity factor. Of course, it goes without saying that, being a sketch show, it’s something of a mixed bag but there’s a healthy amount of decent moments to justify pursuing your own curiosity.
Walliams does his exaggerated camp thing as a Royal Family obsessive while he also gets to drag it up as a society wedding planner with ideas well below her station. Crook is virtually unrecognisable under a beard as the sadistic maths teacher Mr Bagshaw while Djalili is underused as a Nigerian therapist with his own psychological difficulties. Kay pops in for one scene as a lonely DIY expert and Tate crops up in various guises, most winningly as a right-on PC warrior who manages to offend those she claims to be have solidarity with.
The strength and longevity of the best sketch shows is largely down to the running gags and here they are poor fare: Marcus Brigstocke as an annoying pilot, the miniature-village enthusiasts who take their hobby a little too seriously or the surgeon who treats all his patients as though they are little children. Barking was never as mad as it thought it was and the show’s bite was largely toothless.