TitleBefore Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, and later Terry Gilliam, were members of the cast of the sketch comedy show, Do Not Adjust Your Set.

It’s hard to believe this show was originally conceived to be a children’s program. I can’t figure out why. All the sketches and references seem to be geared more towards adults and adults did start tuning in. That’s probably how it evolved into what became Monty Python. Who knows what would have happened, if anything, if it had Caststayed a “kiddie program.”

More than a sketch comedy show, it’s really more like a variety show with musical performances by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, headed by Neil Innes, who contributed musically to many other Python projects including “Monty Python and The Holy Grail” and “The Rutles.”

One recurring sketch is about crime fighter, Captain Fantastic. I found it too long and not all that funny. Overall, I thought the shorter sketches were funnier than the longer ones. To me, the best sketch was during the last part of Bonzo Dog Band the last episode of Season 1, counting down to the end of the series. It was reminiscent of The Election Night sketch from Monty Python.

Because I’m such a Python fan, I thought I’d like this show more. But I think for the very same reason, I wasn’t crazy about it, although it was interesting to see what Monty Python’s Flying Circus evolved from. I haven’t seen Season 2, but considering I wasn’t crazy about Season 1, I don’t feel that deprived.

If you’re as big a Python fan as I am, you might want to check it out along with the John Cleese/Graham Chapman prequel to Python called At Last the 1948 Show.

MAIN CAST:
Eric Idle
Michael Palin
Terry Jones
David Jason
Denise Coffey

Total Seasons: 2 (27 episodes)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 1
In Production: 1967 – 1969
Viewer Discretion: Suitable for all ages

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CrackerHe’s overweight, overbearing, smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish. He’s arrogant, foul-mouthed and sarcastic, yet at the same time brilliant. And when it comes to making a suspect crack, you can’t do better than Fitz.

Dr. Edward “Fitz” Fitzgerald is a forensic psychologist who consults with the Manchester police department, though not always with open arms. Fitz does help close cases. He’s sometimes aggressive when he’s interrogating suspects, but he gets them to tell the truth, to Crackercrack. The problem with Fitz is, though he may be good at his job, he’s terrible at his personal life. His excessive drinking and addiction to gambling puts a strain on his marriage. He has a fling with a colleague and difficulties with his only brother.

Each case plays out over the course of two or three episodes. They involve cases of murder, rape and kidnapping. Fitz has the gift of being able to get into the head of the criminal psychopaths, find out their motives to crack the suspect and the case.

CrackerRobbie Coltrane, who is probably better known as a comedian, or as Hagrid in the Harry Potter films, is great as Fitz. Even though this is a drama, Coltrane brings his Scottish humor to his character. He also won three consecutive BAFTA awards for his role as Fitz.

Several actors of note appear as main characters in the series: Christopher Eccleston, many years before he ever thought he’d be cast as the 9th Dr. Who; and Ricky Tomlinson, who I’ve only seen in the comedy, The Royle Family. Guest stars include Jim Carter (Carson on Downton Abbey), James Fleet (Hugo on The Vicar of Dibley), Samantha Morton and the fabulous film actor Robert Carlyle.

MAIN CAST:
Robbie Coltrane – Dr. Edward “Fitz” Fitzgerald
Christopher Eccleston – David Bilborough
Ricky Tomlinson – Charlie Wise
Geraldine Somerville – Jane Penhaligon
Lorcan Cranitch – Jimmy Beck
Barbara Flynn – Judith Fitzgerald
Kieran O’Brien – Mark Fitzgerald
Tess Thomson – Katie Fitzgerald
Ian Mercer – George Giggs

Total Seasons: 3 seasons (23 episodes and two specials)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: All
In Production: 1993 – 1996, 2006
Viewer Discretion: violence, language, adult situations, nudity

The Street

Posted: July 6, 2013 in Drama
Tags: , , , ,

The StreetThe Street follows the lives of several different families who live on one street, Bold Street, in Northern England. Each story intertwines with the others and shows how small events or bad decisions can change someone’s life significantly like when a school teacher is accused of flashing or The Streetan up and coming football star is caught stealing.

Now even though there are a lot of families depicted in this show, this is not a feel good family show. Most of the families are not very happy. But I found the performances very good and each episode does have a relatively positive ending, at least in the first season.

I found the stories similar to those in Accused, where ordinary people are forced to make decisions that turn their lives around. And this was the first time I had seen Joanne Froggatt in a role other than Anna on Downton Abbey.  And Sue Johnston from Waking the Dead played a very different role here as well.

I was only able to see the first season. I’d like to see the second and third at some point.

MAIN CAST:
Jane Horrocks – Angela Quinn
Timothy Spall – Eddie McEvoy
Jim Broadbent – Stan McDermott
Neil Dudgeon – Brian Peterson
Lindsey Coulson – Ann Peterson
Joanne Froggatt – Kerry
Jody Latham – Billy Roberts
David Schofield – John Roberts
Christine Bottomley – Yvonne O’Neill
Lee Ingleby – Sean O’Neill

Total Seasons: 3
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 1
In Production: 2006 – 2009
Viewer Discretion: adult situations, language, nudity, violence

My HeroGeorge Sunday is a mild-mannered, and maybe a little odd, owner of a health food store. But he’s also, secretly, Thermoman, superhero from the Planet Ultron. When he saves an Earth woman, Janet Dawkins, from falling into the Grand Canyon, Thermoman/George falls for her.

So, George woos Janet and they move in together. While Janet is working as a nurse, George, as Thermoman, flies all over the world thwarting danger. One of his many superpowers is that he can smell volcanoes, floods, earthquakes and mudslides anywhere in the world.

Thermoman may be a super smart superhero, he has trouble being a normal guy, being a normal boyfriend to Janet. He often flies off to the US to visit his American cousin, Arnie, a former superhero himself. George is very ignorant of Earth ways, which makes him look like an idiot, so he seeks out Arnie for advice.

In addition to George and Janet, there are a lot of other colorful characters on the show. Janet Janet, Mrs. Raven, Piersworks for egotistical Dr. Piers Crispin, who appears quite often on television, yet tells his patients, “I’m always here.” Janet’s mother is always trying to get Janet interested in Piers because he’s famous and successful.  There’s sourpuss Mrs. Raven, the office receptionist. She’s mean to everyone, but mostly the patients. She has a set of triplets that she hates. And there’s next door neighbor, Tyler, who’s an absolute nutter and knows George’s true identity.

It’s a silly show, but fun to watch. I enjoyed just listening to Ardal O’Hanlon’s Irish accent.

My Hero kind of reminds me of the early US TV sitcoms like Betwitched, I Dream of Jeannie and My Favorite Martian or even Mork and Mindy where the main character has powers that he or she is trying to hide from family and friends.

MAIN CAST:
Ardal O’Hanlon – George Sunday/Thermoman
Emily Joyce – Janet Dawkins
Geraldine McNulty – Mrs. Raven
Hugh Dennis – Piers Crispin
Lill Roughley – Ella Dawkins
Tim Wylton – Stanley Dawkins
Lou Hirsch – Arnie
Philip Whitchurch – Tyler

Total Seasons: 6 (51 episodes)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 2
In Production: 2000 – 2006
Viewer Discretion: Some adult situations

Title

When the old vicar of Dibley dies suddenly, the village awaits the arrival of their new vicar. But they are stunned to find out that this vicar is a woman! And what a woman! Her name is Geraldine Granger and she’s not your traditional vicar. She’s a chocoholic, loves rock and roll music and alongside her picture of Jesus on her wall, she has photos of movie stars Mel Gibson and Sean Bean.

Dawn FrenchEven though this vicar is not what Dibley expected, she soon wins the hearts of the villagers and is accepted and loved by everyone.

Like most popular and entertaining British comedies, The Vicar of Dibley features a cast of eccentric characters. There’s Owen Newitt, the farmer who really loves his animals; Frank Pickle, who apparently could bore anyone to death; Jim Trott, who has trouble spitting out a coherent sentence; Letitia Cropley, who creates the most memorable original recipes; Hugo Horton, a shy, simple, but caring young man; and David Horton, Hugo’s overbearing, Castegotistical father and Chairman of the Parish Council.

But the looniest character of all is Alice Tinker, Geraldine’s verger (assistant – yeah, I’d never heard of that word either.) Alice is sweet and lovable, but she’s pretty dim. When the village is looking for a celebrity to appear at a church event, Alice suggests her cousin, Reg Dwight. Everyone thinks it’s Elton John, but it turns out, it’s just an ordinary Reg Dwight. Alice is in love with Hugo Horton, but Hugo’s father can’t stand the girl.

Some of the funniest scenes are after the ending credits when Geraldine tells Alice jokes that she just doesn’t get no matter how much explaining the vicar does.

This is one the classic BBC shows that airs on PBS stations nationwide.

MAIN CAST:
Dawn French – Geraldine Granger
Emma Chambers – Alice Tinker
Gary Waldhorn – David Horton
James Fleet – Hugo Horton
Trevor Peacock – Jim Trott
Roger Lloyd-Pack – Owen Newitt
John Bluthal – Frank Pickle
Liz Smith – Letitia Cropley

Total Seasons: 3 (20 episodes)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 3
In Production: 1994 – 2000
Viewer Discretion: Some adult situations

Title

Father Jacob is a Roman Catholic priest. His duties include determining the validity of miracles for the Vatican, but he also performs exorcisms.

Father JacobThe series opens with the death of Mother Teresa in Calcutta and the healing of a boy with leprosy. Flash forward several years and a young girl demands that Father Jacob perform an exorcism on her father, who she thinks is possessed. This is the beginning of a series of possessions and exorcisms, murders and demonic mayhem. Father Jacob soon becomes tasked with not only sending demons back to Hell, but trying to keep them all from escaping.

This is a very unusual show, more horror than drama or mystery really. It’s Apparitionsdefinitely not for everyone. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen some reviewers call it ludicrous. I didn’t think it was that bad. But it is surely a departure from the other types of UK programs I tend to be drawn to.

I thought Martin Shaw did an excellent job as Father Jacob. And it was a chance to see Siobhan Finneran, O’Brien from Downton Abbey, in another role, although Sister Ruth is not too much different than O’Brien.

MAIN CAST:
Martin Shaw – Father Jacob
John Shrapnel – Cardinal Bukovak
Luigi Diberti – Monsignor Vincenzo
Rick Warden – Michael
Elyes Gabel – Vimal
Michelle Joseph – Sister Anne
Siobhan Finneran – Sister Ruth

Total Seasons: 1 (6 episodes)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 1
In Production: 2008
Viewer Discretion: Language, adult situations, nudity, violence

Thorne

Detective Inspector Tom Thorne investigates two murder cases, each unfolding in three episodes.

Sleepyhead:
Three young women are found dead. It looks like they died from strokes caused by pressure being placed on their heads and necks. The fourth victim survives, but is totally paralyzed and unable to communicate. Did the killer intend to let her live? Thorne believes this final victim, Alison, must have seen her assailant and he goes to extreme measures to try to get the Thorneinformation out of her.

Scaredy Cat:
Two women have been murdered near St. Pancras tube station, but in very different ways. Thorne discovers there are other murders from the past that are similar and determines there are two serial killers at work.

ThorneThis series doesn’t stand out as exceptional, but I did enjoy it. There are some surprises at the end of each episode that will keep you watching and enough misdirection to keep you guessing who the killer is. And something I’ve always thought interesting about British crime dramas is that they are able to successfully do their jobs without carrying firearms. How do they do that?

If you are fans of the US show, The Walking Dead, you’ll be familiar with David Morrissey who plays The Governor, but might be surprised to know that he’s originally from Liverpool. (Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick on that show, is also a Brit!)

MAIN CAST:
David Morrissey – Tom Thorne
Eddie Marsan – Kevin Tughan
Aiden Gillen – Phil Hendricks
O.T. Fagbenle – David Holland
Lorraine Ashbourne – Brigstocke

Total Seasons: 1 (6 episodes)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 1
In Production: 2010
Viewer Discretion: Language, violence, adult situations

Title

He calls himself the UK’s go-to dwarf. He’s been in such blockbuster films as Return of the Jedi, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Harry Potter films and had the title role in Willow. His name is Warwick Davis.

In Life’s Too Short, Warwick plays a fictional version of himself. He runs “Dwarves for Hire,” a talent agency where he represents other dwarf actors. But he tends to take the best roles for himself. Warwick says that he started the business to try and dignify dwarves, show the world that they’re not just silly court jester types, yet Warwick constantly makes a fool of himself in every episode.

Warwick and EwokLiving the small life is not all fun and games. Warwick’s accountant is bad at math, so much so that Warwick is in serious debt. He owes a huge sum in taxes. But Warwick looks at his accountant as a mate, actually more of a stray dog that he’s been feeding for 25 years. Warwick’s wife, Sue, wants a divorce and starts dating her divorce lawyer. And the only applicant for the secretary job at Dwarves for Hire is dimwitted, slow, Cheryl, who Warwick hires out of necessity.

Warwick believes he’s a big Hollywood star, but nobody seems to know who he is. He tends to always be in costume and make-up for his films so nobody recognizes him. And even though he was without make-up in Willow, no one seems to be familiar with that film. (I love Willow.)

Life’s Too Short is very much like The Office and Extras, done in the mockumentary style that creators Ricky Gervais and Warwick and Johnny DeppStephen Merchant are known for. The two met Warwick while working on the second series of Extras. Davis told Ricky and Stephen about his life as a dwarf, what he has to deal with on a day-to-day basis. This was the genesis of Life’s Too Short.

Well-known guest stars make cameo appearances: Liam Neeson comes to ask Ricky to help him get some comedy roles—quite a funny scene; Johnny Depp wants to study Warwick for his new role in Tim Burton’s Rumpelstiltskin; Helena Bonham Carter needs Warwick to stand-in for a child actor; and Sting wants him to sponsor a disadvantaged child.

MAIN CAST:
Warwick Davis – Himself
Ricky Gervais – Himself
Stephen Merchant – Himself
Rosamund Hanson – Cheryl
Steve Brody – Eric
Jo Enright – Sue

Total Seasons: 1 (7 episodes)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 1
In Production: 2011
Viewer Discretion: Language

Call The Midwife

After completing her training as a nurse and midwife, Jenny Lee comes to Nonnatus House in London’s East End. The year is 1957, post-World War II and babies are booming. When Jennifer arrives at Nonnatus House, thinking she had accepted a position at a private hospital, is surprised to find that it is actually a nursing convent.

Jenny LeeJenny was brought up in a well-to-do, middle-class family and finds herself thrust into a world of poverty and squalor, dire living conditions she’s just not used to. It’s a huge culture shock to her, but she soon becomes accustomed to this new situation in which she must live and work. She loves her job, bringing new life into the world.

Nonnatus House is run by Sister-in-Charge, Sister Julienne, played by Jenny Agutter. Pam Ferris (Rosemary & Thyme) is Sister Evangelina, who has the same background as some of the mothers-to-be that she takes care of. Eccentric Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt) is in her 90s and is sometimes “not all there.”

There are several other girls at the convent who share the midwifery duties Call the Midwifewith Jenny and the sisters. “Chummy” Browne, also from a privileged background, is a large girl with an even larger heart. She’s played by Miranda Hart (Hyperdrive). I love her. She’s so much fun to watch. She’s funny, clumsy, shy, but always entertaining. Trixie Franklin (Helen George) is the glamour girl of the bunch. She loves fashion, jazz and is a bit of a flirt. Cynthia Miller (Bryony Hannah) is a quiet and sensitive girl who sometimes gets too emotionally involved with her patients.

The series is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth and was extremely well-received in the UK when it first aired. It was also widely acclaimed in the US when it started airing on PBS. Though it’s not a show I would rave about, it is a nice character study and an interesting look at the work and personal lives of women of that time period.

MAIN CAST:
Jessica Raine – Jenny Lee
Miranda Hart – Chummy Browne
Jenny Agutter – Sister Julienne
Pam Ferris – Sister Evangelina
Judy Parfitt – Sister Monica Joan
Helen George – Trixie Franklin
Bryony Hannah – Cynthia Miller
Laura Main – Sister Bernadette

Total Seasons: 2 (15 episodes)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 1
In Production: 2012 to present
Viewer Discretion: Some adult situations, language

Title

The title of this show describes it perfectly. Hyacinth Bucket (“It’s pronounced Bouquet!”) is a middle-aged, middle-class housewife. Nothing is more important to her than keeping up appearances. She’s obsessed with perfection and proper etiquette. She’s a high maintenance woman who always has to be the center of attention, the most important person in the room, unless there’s someone of even higher social status nearby. If you don’t have a title, Hyacinth Bucket couldn’t care less about you. She’s desperate to climb the social ladder, even if while she’s trying she almost always falls off. She’s known far and wide for her tasteful candlelight suppers served on her Royal Doulton china with the hand-painted periwinkles.

What makes this show so funny is that no matter what Hyacinth does to impress everyone, the harder she tries, the more she embarrasses herself. And unbeknownst to her, most people, including the vicar, either dislike her or are afraid of her, trying to avoid an encounter with “The Bucket Woman” at all cost.

Hyacinth BucketThe rest of the characters are equally as entertaining. There’s Hyacinth’s family, a constant source of embarrassment to her. She once said, “I love my family, but I don’t have to acknowledge them in broad daylight.” She’s ashamed of how they look and live – in a rundown council house with a broken down car parked in the front garden. Brother-in-law Onslow never wears a shirt, spends most of the time either in bed or watching the telly. Sister Daisy is a romantic, married to the “bone-idle” Onslow and loves reading romance novels. Sister Rose is man crazy, always waiting on phone calls from different men, most of them married. And their senile father keeps running away and getting into all kinds of mischief, including dressing up in a spaceman outfit at a department store.

The only sister Hyacinth is not ashamed of is Violet. Hyacinth boasts that Violet owns a Mercedes and a house big enough for a swimming pool, a sauna, and room for a pony. One thing she doesn’t boast about is the fact that Violet’s husband Bruce seems to have a penchant for cross-dressing.

Hyacinth is always gushing over her beloved son, Sheridan, who is never seen. He’s at Daisy and Onslowuniversity taking courses in needlework. He’s always calling his “mummy” asking for money.

Next door neighbor, Elizabeth, can never say no to Hyacinth who’s always inviting her over for coffee. But Elizabeth is so nervous being around her that she never fails to spill her coffee or break something. Elizabeth’s divorced brother, Emmet, lives with her and directs the amateur operatic society. He tries so hard to avoid interactions with Hyacinth because she keeps “singing at him” trying to get him to include her in one of his musical productions.

Richard and HyacinthAnd then there’s Richard, Hyacinth’s long-suffering, hen-pecked husband. He’s so beaten down that he just does what he’s told without argument. Like when Hyacinth makes him call the Chinese ambassador because she’s tired of getting wrong numbers, people calling in orders for a Chinese takeaway restaurant.

This is one of the classics of British TV, one you’ve probably seen airing on PBS. One of my favorite episodes is when Hyacinth finds out her neighbor is going on a lavish Caribbean holiday. Hyacinth will not be outdone. She gets some travel brochures, even though she’s not taking a holiday, and tries, in so many ridiculous ways, to get everyone to happen upon them and be impressed by her own lavish holiday.

The laugh track is a bit overdone here, but that was expected on situation comedies back then. It’s a funny show. You can’t wait to see what kind of embarrassing situation Hyacinth gets herself into. But don’t watch too many in a row, like I did. Hyacinth can really get on your nerves.

MAIN CAST:
Patricia Routledge – Hyacinth
Clive Swift – Richard
Geoffrey Hughes – Onslow
Judy Cornwell – Daisy
Josephine Tewson – Elizabeth
David Griffin – Emmet
Shirley Stelfox – Rose (Series 1)
Mary Millar – Rose (Series 2-5)

Total Seasons: 5 (44 episodes)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 5
In Production: 1990 – 1995
Viewer Discretion: Suitable for all audiences