After two series of her sketch show Victoria Wood - As Seen on TV (1985-86), Victoria Wood returned to longer narratives with these slices of comic observation. Modest in ambition and scale but rich in wit and acuity, the six playlets showcase Wood's eye for human foibles and her distinctively eccentric characters.
Wood appears in each story as (more or less) herself, a reluctant participant in her friend's fruitless efforts at self-improvement. In 'Staying In', she faces ordeal by dinner party thanks to Jane (Deborah Grant). 'Val de Ree' sees Victoria and the similarly inexperienced Jackie (Celia Imrie) struggling with a recalcitrant tent and masquerading as seasoned explorers to satisfy a haughty hostel warden (Joan Simms). In the gloriously titled 'Mens Sana in Thingummy Doodah' she rebels against health fascism by leading an illicit outing to a cafe for a fry-up.
Imrie's tour rep in 'We'd Quite Like to Apologise' is one gem - maddening cheeriness untempered by an ounce of competence or empathy - and Susie Blake has a brief but splendid cameo in the same story as a cynical check-in attendant, while Julie Walter's loyalty is rewarded with two of the choicest parts: Pam the daytime TV demagogue, in 'Over to Pam', and Nicola, the out-of-her-depth manageress of Pinkney's Health Farm in 'Mens Sana...', whose vapidity is exceeded only by her merciless demolition of the English language ("if you should need me at all during the periodical which you're with us, just examine a member of staff who's approximate").