Ladies of Letters Review: Better off on Radio

February 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Ladies of Letters, ITV3, Tuesday 3rd Feb, 10:00pm Alert Me

It’s official: misleading titles should be banned. You see ‘Ladies of Letters’ on the OTB listings site and you think: ‘WW2-torn sapphic lovers, forced to communicate their doomed romance via the medium of fountain pen’.

Pinching yourself for realising no ITV3 controller would ever commission such genre-challenging, head slappingly genius programmes like that, you sit down, get serious and ponder something more highbrow: ‘Intellectual, PHD and BSC-level sapphic lovers, forced to communicate their doomed romance via the medium of algorithyms, equations and ponderously charged games of Chess’.

So what do we really get? 25 minutes of two elderly women talking about…. well…. erm…. absolutely sod all.

One of our nation’s greatest borderline GILFs (Maureen Lipman) and ‘That senile one off Dinnerladies’ (Anne Reid) join forces to produce one of the noughtie’s most inane shows. The ‘plot’ follows Irene and Vera as they develop their friendship from its beginnings as a one-off, drunken wedding party team-up to an ‘as boring as it sounds’ relationship communicating as pen-pals.

The two never actually meet each other on-screen and so the viewer is forced to watch both OAP’s as they wander around their houses speaking aloud the back-and-forth letters they are writing to each other.

You could argue that this is a hark back to a more innocent time. Before e-mails, mobile phones and texts, writing letters to far away friends held a wistful romanticism that, in the right context, could make for some captivating television. But watching two elderly widows solitarily dodder around their homes as they ponder aloud the inconsequential trivialities of a tea-lady existence is far from entrancing.

Considering the complete lack of visual fireworks (they literally do nothing but sit, walk and talk to the camera) and bland atmospherics, it isn’t surprising that this started out as BBC Radio 4 series. And I’m sure that, for a Radio 4 audience, that would have worked great.

But on television, it merely comes across as the depressing bumblings of a pair of Alzheimer’s patients, randomly ambling to a narrative audience that isn’t there and an actual audience that doesn’t want to be. Insipid, dull and completely devoid of character, ‘Ladies of Letters’ is just another strike on ITV’s lengthening list of sitcom misfires.

By Matt Risley