In "Two's Company", Jack Tripper and Janet Wood have bumped off Chrissy, but have to make it seem like she's still alive, in order to keep the apartment. Hilarity ensues as they carry her corpse around. Or not. Either way, you've probably never heard of the show.
A British sitcom from 1975, "Two's Company" brings together American stage star Elaine Stritch and English movie star Sir Donald Sinden, in a mismatch comedy that, though dated, is still quite funny. Stritch is Dorothy, an American author living in London. Looking for help around the house, she hires Robert, the stereotypical British butler. What results is a culture clash between American and Brit, liberal and conservative, chauvinist and feminist, as a series of bets between them represents the power struggle between employer and employee and master and servant.
The key to the show is the dialogue. While not loaded with punchlines like other Britcoms, the script is fast-paced, with witty exchanges between Dorothy and Robert. What is mainly a two-person show moves quick, as they play a game of verbal oneupsmanship. Each episode's set-up comes right out of the "Big Book of Britcom Plots," so it's not hard to see where the story will go within the first five minutes of each show. But even at that, there's a fresh feeling to this show, which mostly comes from Stritch's abrasive character and her fish out of water experiences living in London.
You have to be a fan of the Britcom style to enjoy a show like this. The laughs are either bolder than US comedy, or much more subtle and rooted in word play. TV is not made this way anymore, which is unfortunate, because these British series were always pure fun. While Sinden's Robert is one of the forerunners of just about every British manservant stuck working for an uncouth American since ("Mr. Belvedere", "The Nanny"), you'd be hard-pressed to find a character similar to the rough-edged Dorothy. She's just not the kind of woman people would tune in to see very often.
The show opens with a dated animated sequence with a Broadway-style theme sung by Stritch and Sinden, and closes with the traditional credit crawl over the audience's ovation for the actor on-screen. These legacies of the '70s really set the right mood for enjoying this show. Overall, it's not one of the great Britcoms, but it's worth a spin in your DVD player, if only to watch two tremendous actors play off each other.
This one-disc set includes all six episodes of the show's first season, each running around 25 minutes long. The episodes include "The Bait," "The Housekeeping," "Dorothy's Electrician," "The Patient," "The Romance" and "Robert's Mother."
• "The Bait" - Dorothy is looking for a butler, but Robert doesn't want to work for an American. A bet changes everything.
• "The Housekeeping" - Robert stages a quiet protest against Dorothy's lack of spending on household needs.
• "Dorothy's Electrician" - Dorothy hires a bumbling electrician against Robert's suggestions.
• "The Patient" - Robert twists his ankle and needs to go to the hospital.
• "The Romance" - In exchange for watching a cricket match, Robert pretends to be Dorothy's husband.
• "Robert's Mother" - Robert's mother makes life difficult for him (and Dorothy) with a visit.
An insert lists the episode names.
For an independent British sitcom from the mid '70s, the transfer is quite good, if a bit soft and grainy. Presented in full-screen, the colors are spot-on, with no evidence of any digital issues. The only sore spot is the animated openings of each episode, which have additional grain, as well as scratches.
The audio is a Dolby Digital 2.0 track. There are slight music stingers between scenes, and a heavy laugh track, but neither interferes with the dialogue, which is really the only element of any importance.
The only bonus features are text biographies of Stritch and Sinden, and filmographies for the rest of the season's actors. The biographies are of a decent length, giving a good background on each principal.
Fans of the American versions of this "wise butler" story would be treating themselves right by checking out this original take on the idea (or, go back even further and see the 1948 film Sitting Pretty). There's a reason Elaine Stritch has a shelf full of acting awards and why Donald Sinden was knighted. "Two's Company" shows you that reason, as these fine actors rise above the material, even if it is dated, nearly 30 years later. Definitely worth the rental, or a purchase if you're a Britcom fan.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.