I absolutely love Catherine Tate, a fantastic actress and comedian famous for THE CATHERINE TATE SHOW, a superbly funny sketch show, CATHERINE TATE’S NAN, ditto, and the more recent NAN movie, showcasing- you guessed it- Catherine Tate’s fictional character, Nan, aka, Joanie Taylor.

The sketch show introduced us to such iconic comic characters as the aforementioned Nan, a foul-mouthed old biddy living in a council flat, who’s sweet as pie to people’s faces and then tears strips off them the minute they’re out of earshot. ‘Wot a fuckin’ liberty!’ Tate’s Lauren the Schoolgirl, the bane of schoolteachers everywhere, has also passed into comic legend with her irritating catch-phrase and answer to everything, ‘Am I bovvered?’

Catherine Tate has worked in films, other people’s sitcoms and voice-overs, but now she’s back on our screens as Laura Willis, an events planner-turned-prison governor, in original Netflix comedy sitcom, HARD CELL. My kids and I binge-watched all six half-hour episodes last night and we absolutely loved it.

Laura Willis, prison governor of fictional women’s prison HMP Woldsley, is what you’d call a sort of bleeding heart liberal boss, rather than the hard-ass prison gaffer who thinks the inmates are scum and should be treated as such. Laura thinks she knows what her prisoners need and she operates an open door policy so that the lines of communication should be forever open. There’s such a thing as too open, though…

In HARD CELL, Laura has rather unwisely spent the funds allotted to her for plumbing on a prison version of the musical WESTSIDE STORY, because she believes that creativity for the women in her care is the key to their rehabilitation. She’s also preparing a TED Talk on the subject, with the fabulous title of, I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS, so fabulous that she might just end up being sued for it by its original owner…!

As well as playing Laura, the head honcho of this women’s nick, Catherine Tate portrays five other characters; firstly, my favourite character, Marco, a prison guard second and Essex boy first, obsessed with his looks and the fact that he once made it down to the last 32 on Love Island. Wow. So impressed…! Needless to say, he hates his job and thinks he should be living it large on TV.

Then there’s shy new inmate Ange, who believes that all people are ‘inherently good’ and whose lack of toughness will make her easy prey for the other women, and Big Viv, aggressively Scottish and just plain aggressive, but ‘singing is her happy place,’ and she’s hooked on the Kardashians and does a really ‘funny’ impression of them…

Catherine Tate plays Ros as well, a wacky Irish prisoner who loves her Mammy, but her Mammy, also played by Catherine Tate, is a selfish wagon who only wants the money that Ros has managed to fleece off her ‘lover’ on the outside, Sebastian. Sebastian is a lovely black man who believes that all of Ros’s big whopping lies about their future together are true. Like mother, like daughter, eh?

I love Cheryl Fergison, formerly Heather Trott from EASTENDERS, playing herself in the role of guest celebrity director of the prison musical, which is beset with difficulties from day one. Peter Singh plays Gary, a sunny, optimistic guard who loves both his job and Heather from EASTENDERS, so he’s pretty happy with life right about now.

Christian Brassington portrays Dean, Laura’s second-in-command, whose main goal in life seems to be get Laura to admit that she desperately needs a ‘number two.’ Yep, it’s a running joke. And if you’re wondering where you’ve seen Niky Bradley as inmate Anastasia before, I think it’s because she looks a lot like Danniella Westbrook, who used to play Sam Mitchell on EASTENDERS. A strong EASTENDERS flavour to HARD CELL, I must say.

Not every joke hits the mark but it’s warm and funny; my kids and I thoroughly enjoyed this show and we would definitely watch a sequel if one is commissioned. We had fully intended to watch BEN HUR or some other Biblical epic for Good Friday, which was yesterday, but, well, somehow Netflix won out again. You know how that can happen. Enjoy HARD CELL if you watch it, and Happy Easter to all my readers. I know there’s at least two of you…!


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

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