In 10 Words or Less
Yet another season with a mismatched mistress and butler
The Story So Far
"Two's Company" is a British sitcom from the late '70s about Dorothy (Elaine Stritch), a sharp-tongued American expatriate author living in England, and Robert (Donald Sinden), her oh-so-proper manservant. In the first season, the show established the leads' love-hate relationship, while the second season saw their semi-friendship blossom a bit. It didn't break new ground, but starred a pair of excellent actors. Picture one of the "Golden Girls" living with Mr. Belvedere.
Acorn Media released the first season of the show in May of 2004, and the second in January of 2005. DVDTalk has reviews of both: Season One | Season Two
With its minimal cast and adversarial relationships, there's really no comparison to "Two's Company" on American television, where arguments tend to be substitutes for sexual tension. The most similar series is perhaps "The Odd Couple," but it's nowhere near as witty in terms of dialogue. Watching the exchanges between Stritch and Sinden is like listening to an orchestra, as the two master comedians play off each other to create a wonderful rhythm.
While the previous seasons have been standard sitcom fare, the third season is exceedingly British in content, with several plots being impossible to separate from the country, like the concept of not wanting a freezer, having lunch with the Queen and the class system of England. "The Politicians" in particular is an episode-long parody of the British Parliamentary system. The show is still funny if you don't understand the particularly foreign concepts, but some knowledge of Britain will certainly help.
Of the short third season, the best of the bunch is likely "The Critic," as it utilizes the classic sitcom plot of reversing roles, as Robert gets to wade into Dorothy's waters by savaging her books in a criticism content. Most examples of this plot don't go as far as having the master serve his servant tea, but "Two's Company" was rarely subtle. "The Take-Over Bid" certainly proves that, with two of the most obnoxious servants ever and their sycophantic attempts to undermine Robert.
On a side matter, it's interesting to observe the anti-American rhetoric expressed to Dorothy, especially from today's distance. The concept of "the ugly American" has only grown over the years, but even here, in 1977, the feeling is palpable. In "The Picnic," Dorothy's American friends are portrayed as moronic, braying donkeys, and condescension is the only language used when discussing American affairs. It certainly was a less PC time, but one wonders what the view of a Dorothy-like character would be today. It's also worth noting that Dorothy ends up on top of her arguments with Robert, so perhaps all the bias is a way to balance the show.
• The Invitation: Dorothy receives a last-minute invitation to have lunch with the Queen, sending her and Robert into preparation madness.
• The Freezer: Robert considers quitting because Dorothy wants to buy a freezer for the house.
• The Pet: When Dorothy gets a dog, it rubs Robert the wrong way.
• The Take-Over Bid: Robert bristles when Dorothy's chauffeur wants to take his job.
• The Virus: Dorothy gets a virus, which leads Robert to fake his own illness in order to take advantage of the home-help assistance he hired.
• The Critic: Robert dives into Dorothy's literary world with a savage criticism of her work.
• The Picnic: For Dorothy's birthday, Robert attempts to take her and two of her American friends on a picnic in the countryside.
• The Politicians: Robert's class biases shine through when Dorothy plays host to two members of Parliament.
This one-disc set includes all eight episodes of the third season of the series, each running around 22 minutes long. The disc comes in a standard keepcase with an insert that reproduces the cover art and lists the episodes. The menus are static, following the series' established look, with the main menu accompanied by the show's theme song. Options include episode selections and a "play all" choice. There are no subtitles and no closed captioning.
The image quality is about the same as the second season's DVD, with the material looking its age. There's a good deal of noise and grain evident, and the picture is a bit soft, without much in the way of fine detail. Exterior scenes look dark and in even worse condition, but that's likely caused by the shooting conditions, technology and budget of the time. These episodes look exactly as one might expect, with the color scheme coming off a bit red, with that color burning bright.
The audio, presented as a Dolby 2.0 track, is as flat as most '70s sitcom soundtracks. It's a simple presentation, with rapid-fire dialogue, punctuated by the laugh track and some bits of music. There's no distortion to it at all.
Once again, the only bonus features are text biographies of Stritch and Sinden, which are repeated on all three seasons so far, and filmographies for the rest of the actors featured in this season. If you're picking up this disc, you've picked up the others, and you know the story already.
The Bottom Line
I realize I am repeating myself, but there's no way in hell that anyone taking a look at Season Three hasn't already done the same for Seasons One and Two. If there's one thing this line of releases has for it, it's consistency, as the total package remains just as good as it was in the previous seasons. If you've never seen this show, you could probably jump in at this point and not miss a bit, but going back to the beginning and working your way to Season Three is preferred. As with most Britcoms, the seasons are short, so you won't have to invest much time to catch up, and there's only one more season to go. Give it a rental if you enjoy those older Britcoms they show on PBS.
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.