Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders’ two hour celebration of the funniest women in comedy past and present premiered on Saturday 17 July 2021 on UKTV GOLD, generating massive press and social media attention plus a bumper rating for the channel.
The show was named as ‘Pick of the Day’ in every national newspaper and trended on Twitter for the full duration of the transmission. It also instantly leapt into GOLD’s top ten of the channel’s highest rating shows of the year. An encore presentation the following week attracted a further huge audience.
Filmed on a recreation of the classic French and Saunders white room set, the special allowed Dawn and Jennifer to talk in detail about the female comedy performers who had inspired and entertained them – and to enjoy watching again some of their very finest work. The programme featured carefully-curated archive footage of performances from trailblazing female artists including Victoria Wood, Lucille Ball, Joan Rivers, Lily Tomlin, Ruth Buzzi, Goldie Hawn, Ruby Wax, Hylda Baker, Irene Handl, Whoopi Goldberg, Hannah Gadbsy, Catherine Tate, Carol Burnett, Betty White, Amy Poehler, Miranda Hart and many others.
Dawn and Jennifer recounted stories and experiences from their own careers, including how Victoria Wood watched them as a raw act at the Edinburgh Fringe and offered them words of memorable encouragement; what working with Ruby Wax taught them as comedy writers; how watching Whoopi Goldberg’s stand up set in New York inspired Dawn; and how a sketch in their French & Saunders series evolved into the creation of Absolutely Fabulous.
French and Saunders: Funny Women was executive produced by Glen Middleham and directed by the BAFTA Award-winning Barbara Wiltshire. The programme was commissioned for UKTV by Helen Nightingale and ordered by Gerald Casey, the channel director of GOLD.