I’m always intrigued at what age a person discovered Victoria Wood, and where she was at in her career during that same time. I’ve come to realise that, for the most part, people can be split into four different categories;
Category 1: Victoria Wood As Seen On TV
First airing on Monday nights in January in 1985 on BBC2 at 9pm, VWASOTV was my first experience of Vic, and I enjoyed her with my sister and my Mum. It is a rare thing to find a television programme that you can watch with your children – especially when they are 8 years apart in age – and each of you stay engaged and find it funny; but with VWASOTV that is exactly what Vic achieved – at least in our house.
Category 2: An Audience With Victoria Wood
If VWASOTV did not penetrate your psyche, then there was a chance for viewers of ‘the other channel’ to join the club with this 1988 production from LWT, which Victoria recorded in front of a celebrity studio audience whilst six months pregnant with her first child (she kept this secret from all but her nearest and dearest, and her clever choice of outfit for the show helped to hide the secret). A one-off special, this saw us first meet Kimberley’s beret-wearing mate and brought the mammoth hit Freda & Barry (known to most of us as ‘Let’s Do It’) to our attention.
Category 3: dinnerladies
Victoria Wood’s sitcom set in the canteen of a busy factory in the North of England was dogged by contrast competition from fellow northern lass Caroline Aherne’s The Royle Family for both ratings and awards, when they both appeared on the BBC at the turn of the century. However, in the following 20 years, dinnerladies has proven itself to be a slow burn with the British public, not least of all due to constant replays on UK Gold, Yesterday and other channels dedicated to repeating classics. Crucially, there are many lovers of dinnerladies who are too young to remember any of her other significant output or indeed Victoria herself when she was alive.
Category 4: The Early Adopters
There is a final category of people – and I am not included amongst them – who have been championing Vic and her work for much further back; whether that be 1982’s Granada sketch show Wood & Walters, her plays Talent, Good Fun, Happy Since I Met You & Nearly A Happy Ending; her appearances on That’s Life or even her competing on New Faces in the Seventies. To these die-hard fans, I can only bow – and let them through to the front of the cue for extra custard.
However you discovered Vic – or if I and my show LOOKING FOR ME FRIEND will becoming your ‘entry level’ – I hope you enjoy her as much as my mum, sister and I have. And thank God she left us such a legacy of laughter to get us through the tough times.