Series Mania 2023 Review: FUNNY WOMAN, From Beauty Queen to Comedy Queen

Gemma Arterton portrays a British counterpart to Lucille Ball in an adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel about the small screen revolution.

Contributor; Slovakia (@martykudlac)
Series Mania 2023 Review: FUNNY WOMAN, From Beauty Queen to Comedy Queen

British filmmaker Oliver Parker, who directed the spy comedy Johnny English Reborn and the feature-length Dad's Army, based on the TV classic series of the same name, directed the small-screen adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel, Funny Woman.

Hornby's seventh novel follows a young girl from a working-class background, Barbara Parker, in 1960s Blackpool as she trades a beauty queen crown in the local pageant for a dream of making it as an actress in London. Hornsby's novel, set in the period that became the golden age of entertainment, navigates behind-the-scenes of the cabaret industry.

Morwenna Banks and Will Smith, who penned the script, shape the young-girl-in-a-big-city narrative as a period biopic. The story tracks the origins of Barbara's pioneering career in a male-dominated industry. Hornby cited the lack of an influential star such as Lucille Ball in the British history of TV and thus created Barbara Parker.


Barbara Parker is a fictional character portrayed by Gemma Arterton, yet the era depicted in the series answers why women would have a hard time becoming the leads, especially in slapstick comedy.

Arterton plays Parker as a young naïve girl, a fish out of water, who meets the surprising misogyny of the big world in London. Despite being treated as an object, and a near-rape that ends with a slapstick denouement, Barbara remains upbeat and unbending in seeking out opportunities in show business while working in a department store.

Rupert Everett, guised under heavy make-up as talent manager Brian Debenham -- Morwenna Banks plays his equally eccentric wife -- gives Barbara a chance. The overly theatrical talent manager, a role Everett apparently enjoyed, sends the young statlet on a series of castings.

A combination of circumstances, Barbara's charming chutzpah, and improvisational chops opens a door to the big league. David Threlfall (Shameless) stars as Parker's caring father, who supports her after she spurns marital prospects to a local young butcher in Blackpool, and encourages her to shoot for the stars.


Funny Woman is a feel-good comedy series about the first British female comic in an alternative history style. While Arterton portrays the protagonist as happy-go-lucky and radiant, the depiction of the swinging 60s does not avert the wide-spread sexism and gender-bias.

Funny Woman is available on Sky Max.

Funny Woman

  • Gemma Arterton
  • Tom Bateman
  • David Threlfall
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Gemma AthertonNick HornsbySeries Mania 2023Gemma ArtertonTom BatemanDavid ThrelfallComedy

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