The British mystery series Hetty
Wainthropp Investigates gives us, in the show's third season, a
set of episodes that are quite consistent with the series as it has
developed so far. That's a good thing if you're a big fan of the
series - you get more of what you like - but of course, the downside
is that there's a risk of the show feeling a bit tired.
Patricia Routledge stars here as the
title character, a woman who in her 60s decides to set up her own
private investigation agency, with the help of her husband and her
teenaged friend Geoffrey (Dominic Monahan). It's an unorthodox
"family" approach to sleuthing, but fortunately the fact
that Hetty does run it as a business saves the series from the
convoluted set-ups we get in stories featuring amateur detectives.
The plots are consistent with the general feel of the show: rather
than gruesome murders or high-profile robberies, we get more
"ordinary" mysteries, like missing relatives, bankrupt
store owners gone astray, stolen goods, and schoolyard intimidation.
Running through the mystery plots
are storylines involving the three main characters (Hetty, her
husband Robert, and her young assistant Geoffrey) as well as friends
and family members, like Hetty's irritating brother-in-law. The
effect is to give the episodes a "homey" feel, with the
emphasis placed more on the characters' relationships than on the
cases they're solving. At times I think this is taken a bit too far;
Routledge does an excellent job as the self-confident Hetty, but the
character isn't interesting enough in her own right to merit taking
time from the mysteries.
All in all, I felt that the nine
episodes presented here were reasonably well done, but they were
lacking a certain something to pull in viewers who are on the fence.
If you are already a big fan of this style of mystery, or of the
earlier seasons of Hetty Wainthropp, then there's really
nothing to complain about. At the same time, though, there's nothing
that makes me, a casual viewer of the show, want to watch all of the
episodes rather than just a single season or a sampling of episodes.
The episodes included here are "All
Stitched Up," "Daughter of the Regiment," "Serving
the Community," "Fisticuffs," "Childsplay,"
"Pursuit by Proxy," "A Minor Operation," "Helping
Hansi," and "How Time Flies."
The nine 50-minute episodes are
presented on three DVDs, each in its own plastic keepcase inside a
quite hideous paperboard slipcase. Well, the cover art is distinctive
at least, and consistent with earlier seasons.
I was shocked at how bad these
episodes look; in fact, I had to double-check that this is a show
from the late 1990s, not the 1970s. The image is soft and very
grainy, with edge enhancement present. Contrast is rather harsh in
some scenes, and there's a slight brownish tint to the image overall.
The episodes are presented in their
original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1.
The Dolby 2.0 track is adequate, but
that's it. The sound is generally rather flat, and sometimes has a
muted, muffled feel to it.
Text production notes and cast
filmographies are included.
Hetty Wainthropp Investigates:
The Complete Third Series delivers more of the same type of
storytelling as in the previous seasons. If you were a solid fan of
the show, you'll probably enjoy these episodes; on the other hand, if
you appreciated Patricia Routledge's excellent acting job but were
not captivated by the stories themselves, you'll probably find this
set to be too much of the same thing. I'll give the set a "rent
it" overall, as even fans of the show may want to consider the
sub-par transfer when considering a purchase.