The title song for “Smack the Pony,” a camp cover of Dusty Springfield’s “In the Middle of Nowhere” (sung here by Jackie Clune) sets the stage for this irreverently funny female sketch comedy series from Bravo via Britain’s Channel Four. But don’t be fooled by the “all chicks” label. This isn’t the estrogen brigade’s answer to Comedy Central’s “The Man Show.” In fact, “Smack the Pony” is an eclectic, all-inclusive show where any real or perceived male bashing is just one of the possible side effects.
Created by Fiona Allen, Doon Mackichan and Sally Phillips, “Smack the Pony” is a blend of observational humor mixed with physical comedy and the just plain silly. Not as involved as “Tracey Takes On…” or as scatological as “Benny Hill,” “Smack the Pony” exists in the comedic universe somewhere between “Kids in the Hall” and “Saturday Night Live.”
And like those other series, some sketches such as the psychiatrist who desperately tries to convince her patient that he has feelings of transference works really well while others like the recurring video dating clips too often fall flat. Still there’s something ultimately refreshing about a group of attractive women with complete lack of inhibitions who are not the least bit unwilling to make total fools of themselves for the gag.
You would be hard-pressed to find an all-female sketch comedy show anywhere else on TV, let alone a show written predominately by women, but it’s not exclusionary humor, nor is it particularly suited for British sensibilities only. Universal themes and comedic targets include Riverdance, the new-age movement, the medical community and Lilith Fair-like rock groups.
Competition between women and professionals is a major recurring theme, one that resonates hilariously in a surgical sketch in which two doctors get into, let’s just say, a blood battle.
The menu-length list of writers, however, reinforces the notion that there can be too many cooks in the proverbial kitchen. Although the frenetic energy of a collaborative effort like this can yield some hilarious results, the overall feel is a bit hectic and inconsistent. One half hour of “Smack the Pony” packs in more than a dozen of varying sketches without any sort of common theme.
Still, director Dominic Brigstocke manages to cull all of this comic energy into what is ultimately an entertaining package with help from Nick Arthurs and Gary Dolliner, two of the busiest editors on the other side of the pond.
Bravo has procured the rights to all seven original episodes of the series, so the unavoidable heavy rotation of “Smack the Pony” episodes should help with the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it jokes while adding to the show’s innate cult appeal.
The three main cast members are a real find — talented chameleons who create new looks and personas for each sketch. Phillips has a particular gift for accents; Mackichan is particularly adept at playing the hysterical, while Allen does both the straight person and sex kitten with panache. Supporting cast members including Sarah Alexander and Darren Boyd are equally talented and kept fairly busy.
Technical credits for “Smack the Pony” are much more uneven than the slick and polished stuff Americans audiences are used to, but that doesn’t take away from the comedy. However, inconsistent sound quality does pose a problem, especially when dealing with some of the heavier British accents. Eye-catching title graphics by Swifty and intricate production design by Jonathan Paul Green are above par.