by Jef Burnham
On DVD March 25 from Acorn Media.
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Originally aired in the U.S. on the Oxygen Network, the series features an ensemble cast from some of the U.K.’s finest comedic films and series. It has been described as “Desperate Housewives meets The Sopranos,” but I believe that’s being really unfair to, and ignorant of, the keen satire and wit that transcends the often forced risque nature of Housewives and the pretty straightforward approach to the mob in The Sopranos. The eight-episode British series, with its humorous look at the dark realities of life in the seemingly perfect suburban village of Little Stempington, is more akin to Edgar Wright’s 2007 film Hot Fuzz.
Joyce Hazledine and her husband, Jeremy (Ralph Ineson, who played the misogynistic Chris Finch on U.K.’s The Office), hope to find peace from the big city as they settle down in the picturesque London suburb. They haven’t finished unpacking when Joyce is unwillingly recruited to participate in a fierce gang war. These gangs are not composed of your average teenage hoodlums, but Uzi-wielding housewives. One gang wants to keep the village clean by any means necessary, including forcing teenagers to pick up dog feces at gunpoint. The other gang, led by the sinister Camilla Diamond (Anna Chancellor of Four Weddings and a Funeral), who might as well be a character on Desperate Housewives, plots to flood the streets with drugs—an industrial strength estrogen patch from France that could turn Little Stempington into a 24-hour orgy.
The writers utilize juxtaposition as the series’ primary source of humor. The housewives store Berettas in their Tupperware, collect protection money from The Wicker Barn and the public library, and wear sundresses whilst burying landmines. There is also the occasional bit of coarse language and random expletive from these seemingly timid women, garnering a good deal of laughs.
Although the series is very well done and feels as though the entire cast and crew understood the humor and satire the writers were shooting at, I found it was missing the depth that made Hot Fuzz so great. Some of the characters in Suburban Shootout are pretty well fleshed out, but most are very two-dimensional, which I suppose allows for more laughs, but takes away from the overall effectiveness. Or perhaps the problem is that the humor never quite gets as dark as it could. The series is a fun watch, but there is definitely that certain something missing that would give it endless rewatchability.
Jef Burnham is a writer and film critic in Chicago.
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