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Up The Women - Kathy Griffiths picks her TV highlight of the week

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: May 25, 2013

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A SITCOM about the activities of the Olympic organising committee probably didn't sound the most promising idea when pitched but Twenty Twelve became a classic, producing nominations and awards all over the place.

So you should approach this new show about a group of would-be suffragettes in 1910 Banbury with an open mind.

However, do consider that it is written by and stars Jessica Hynes, virtually unrecognisable as bookish yet secretly militant Margaret who is determined to stand up for herself and turn the Banbury Intricate Craft Circle into a women's suffrage organisation.

It is the kind of rebranding her ghastly Twenty Twelve alter ego Siobhan Sharp —of PR firm Perfect Curve — would embrace with open arms.

Here the biggest challenge between Margaret and her forward-thinking ambitions is dreadful bossy Helen who does not like anyone having any ideas and certainly has no intention of giving them any credit if they do.

And here I touch upon the show's real selling-point – its cast, who pretty much have all the A-list of top British shows covered by their CVs.

If you wanted to play a Six Degrees of Separation using them and who they have all worked with, it wouldn't you long to have an entire generation's best-loved programmes covered. Not only Hynes with her Royle Family and Spaced links, but here is Bafta-winning The Thick of It star Rebecca Front, all corseted up for her role as battleaxe Helen.

Her wonderfully fruity and rebellious mother, who instantly delights in backing Margaret's bid, is Call the Midwife's Judy Parfitt.

Plebs' Ryan Sampson and Gavin and Stacey and Miranda regular Adrian Scarborough play the — granted, fairly useless — males that pop up in the church hall where the craft circle meets.

Probably the one who drew the short straw — or perhaps embraced the biggest challenge — when it came to the costume cupboard is Vicki Pepperdine.

Most usually seen as the awful doctor in Getting On, she sports the best comedy teeth I've seen since Dick Emery's vicar as spinster Gwen, who is put in charge of refreshments and rosette making.

Though the first episode introduces the characters and keeps them firmly inside the church hall it still has some good lines, and suggests a promise of even better along the line. And far better a smaller debut and potential to grow a following on BBC4 than a big trumpeted arrival on mainstream station only to be greeted by dismay and criticism, that poor Vicious has faced.

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