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'Funny Woman' Recap: Episode 3

Daniel Hautzinger
Marge reads a magazine with a full-page photo of Barbara
Barbara's career is taking off. Credit: Potboiler Productions and Sky UK Limited

Funny Woman airs Sundays at 9:00 pm on WTTW and streaming. Recap the previous and following episode.s
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After her father had a stroke that sent him to the hospital the day before she filmed her first TV show, Barbara might have an attack of her own: a nervous breakdown. She brings a photo of her father to her dressing room before the taping and struggles to smile. She overhears dismissive chatter about her through the intercom, and doesn’t realize the writers are playing a joke on her when they reveal a long list of last-minute edits. Her nerves threaten to paralyze her.

Dennis orders everyone out of her dressing room and reassures her. But when it comes time to go on set before a live audience, Barbara realizes she’s on her period, and she’s wearing white pants. She refuses to leave her dressing room, forcing the recording to be delayed. The costumer brings her new pants and a tampon, which Barbara has never before used – her Aunt Marie disapproved.

Finally, she makes it to the set, and the taping begins. She charms the audience as a heavily accented cleaning lady who pretends to be her educated husband’s wife for a dinner party with his boss. She even manages to play the mistake of bumping into a camera off for laughs, although much of the production team is annoyed by her inexperience.

After the taping, she rushes off to catch the last train to Blackpool to see her father, turning down an invitation to join Dennis and the others at a bar. They all worry that the audience didn’t laugh enough and that the TV executive Ted Sargent didn’t like the pilot and won’t order a series.

Back in Blackpool, Barbara helps her stressed-out Aunt Marie tend to her father once he returns home from the hospital. George can’t go back to work at his candy factory, his stroke having made him a liability, so Marie appreciates Barbara’s help. Barbara settles the family’s bill at the butcher, where her ex-fiancé Aiden tells her they could have had it all together, before dismissing the bill as on the house.

When Barbara’s show airs on TV, Aunt Marie dons her best hat for the celebratory occasion, even if she is a bit scandalized by the kissing on air.

The show receives lukewarm reviews, although critics liked Barbara. Dennis makes a pitch to Ted to expand it into a series and asks to direct in place of Bert Redwood.

He then calls Barbara in Blackpool to tell her the news, which she receives badly. As her father and aunt console her, she flatly says that Ted greenlit the series.

George tells her that she has to go to London right away to take part, or he’ll have another stroke. He won’t have any of Marie’s objections that Barbara is needed at home.

Ted wants the first episode in about six weeks, so the team sets about putting together a script. They’re eager to push boundaries with the comedy and address modern social issues. Bill pitches making Jim queer, but the others say Ted would fire them. Instead they develop a plot about issues in the bedroom for a newly married couple, pinning it not on the woman but on the man’s psychological issues.

Meanwhile, Barbara gets a spot on a popular TV variety show and another interview with Diane Lewis, for a new magazine for the “new woman.” Diane goes shopping with Barbara for a new dress for the variety show, bringing along a photographer. They first visit the department store at which Barbara used to work, annoying Barbara’s old boss and causing chaos. Diane then gives Barbara a modern, revealing dress to try on at another store, and Barbara goes with it.

She buys a TV set, wine, and sardines to watch the variety show at her flat with Marge. Dennis watches at home and laughs at Barbara’s antics, angering his highly educated but humorless wife Edith, who calls Barbara a “dumb blonde,” and then apologizes, admitting she feels threatened.

A magician from the variety show asks Barbara on a date, which she initially shoots down until she realizes it’s to a hip club. But when they arrive, the bouncer won’t let them in – they’re not on the list. Luckily, Diane appears and gets them access. A drugged-up young man offers Barbara another party and a snort of coke after the magician hits on her. Barbara purposefully coughs the coke off the man’s finger and then flees the club and both men with Diane.

At rehearsal of the new script, Clive is appalled to learn that he’s playing an impotent virgin. Barbara is a little worried that her friends and relatives back home won’t be able to separate her from her sexually experienced character, especially since her character is named Barbara – she accidentally reveals her real name to the team. She consoles Clive by saying that his character’s obvious emotional distress is kind of sexy.

Dennis sends Clive and Barbara off to get lunch on the production, and they head to a fancy restaurant known for hosting celebrities. Noticing people’s glances, Clive tells Barbara to follow his lead as they give everyone something to talk about. He takes her hand and kisses it before gazing into her eyes and telling her he’s never met anyone like her.

They end up at his house and sleep together. Clive says not to tell the team; he has heard Dennis takes a dim view of cast liaisons.

But when the next show is filmed and Clive and Barbara linger in their staged kiss, Dennis and the writers realize what has happened between the two actors.