Irish R.M. is a classic "fish out of water" comedy
situation, in this case set in rural Ireland at the close of the 19th
Century. Major Yeates (Peter Bowles) is a well-intentioned, slightly
stuffy Englishman who decides that, since his prospects of
advancement in the military aren't enough to allow him to marry his
beloved Philippa (Doran Godwin), the position of "resident
magistrate" in a remote Irish county is the right career move.
Of course, the fact that he's completely green as a magistrate and,
on top of that, knows next to nothing about Ireland leads to a
variety of misconceptions and misadventures. Based on a series of
short stories by Somerville and Ross, The Irish R.M. involves
the hapless Major in a variety of amusing situations involving his
decidedly eccentric... or perhaps just decidedly Irish... neighbors.
The Irish R.M. sometimes
pokes gentle fun at the pretensions of the British upper class, in
the form of Major Yeates, who presume to know more about how to run
Ireland than the Irish themselves. But this is by no means a
political satire; the comedy stays entirely on the level of the
personal foibles of the characters and the misadventures that they
all end up having, courtesy of Flurry Knox. It's the cast, in fact,
that really makes The Irish R.M. worth watching; Peter Bowles
and Bryan Murray turn in consistently solid comic performances, but
the supporting cast members also do a nice job.
setting and attention to local detail will also please fans of
British drama; the show was filmed entirely on location in County
Kildare, Ireland, and there are plenty of opportunities to appreciate
the scenery (especially if you appreciate watching horses and
hunting, the main excuses to get out and about in the country in
episodes of Series 1 involve an assortment of stand-alone escapades
with a few ongoing story elements involving the various characters.
The opening episode "Great-Uncle McCarthy" is probably the
best of the set, simply because the situation is fresh and new, and
we're gradually led into the absurdities of life at Trelawney House
bit by bit. In the rest of the episodes, the stories tend to be a bit
unfocused in the first half of the episode (like the rather rambling
"Trinket's Colt"), generally shaping up to offer an amusing
situation in the second half of the episode (as in "O Love! O
its somewhat uneven pacing, The Irish R.M. is a pleasant
series to watch, due without a doubt to the excellent comic acting
from the principals. Peter Bowles gives the straight-laced English
Yeates enough of a soft heart and sense of humor that he is a
realistic and likable character rather than
a stuffed shirt. Bryan Murray is perfect as Flurry, capturing the
mercurial spirit, recklessness, and essential good nature of the
character. The series, which was filmed entirely on location, also
offers an appealing look at turn-of-the-century rural Ireland and the
lives of both the "gentry" and working people.
Series 2 picks up just where Series
1 leaves off, with six new episodes. These episodes do a nice job of
handling the gently comic, slightly absurd stories that are the
hallmark of the series. The season opens with "A Horse! A
Horse!", with (no surprise here) Flurry involved in some dubious
horse-trading deals. Major Yeates, of course, gets drawn in somewhat
unwillingly... and as usual, things go well for Flurry but not so
well for Major Yeates. The following episodes offer more variations
on the twin themes of "Flurry's escapades" and "Major
Yeates having trouble with the locals." "The Dispensary
Doctor" features the major attempting to act as the patron of a
local regatta, though not without distractions courtesy of Flurry. In
"Holy Island" a shipload of rum washes ashore, but then
mysteriously disappears when the police come looking for it. "Oweneen
the Sprat" puts Major Yeates and Philippa in an unfortunate
conflict with one of the dangerous men who live in the local hills,
while in "A Royal Command" Flurry sets up what turns out to
be a quite eventful polo match. The season ends up with the charming
"The Aussolas Martin Cat," in which Major Yeates teams up
with Flurry to try to prevent Mrs. Knox from renting out Knox Castle.
Series 3 was never broadcast in the
US, but thanks to Acorn Media, fans can finally see how The Irish
RM wrapped up. The show's six final episodes are included here.
In "The Muse of Skebawn," Major Yeates has to contend with
the introduction of newfangled "moving pictures" as well as
the excessively attentive Miss Bobbie Bennett. Major Yeates' sister
Babs comes to help out in "Major Apollo Riggs," along with
Cousin Andrew, whose assistance goes a bit too far. "The Friend
of Her Youth" brings in Babs' old friend Julian, who soon
ruffles the feathers of Major Yeates' household... so much so that
Flurry Knox decides to teach him a lesson. New technology raises its
head once again in "In the Curranhilty Country," with the
Major's new motor car causing all sorts of problems. "Lisheen
Races" features conflicts with Sally and Miss Bennett, as well
as concerns for the Major's job. The series wraps up with "The
Devil You Know," with the Major offered a new post elsewhere.
Will he take it?
All in all, the third series of The
Irish R.M. follows in the same vein as the previous two series.
The show sticks consistently with the character- and situation-based
humor, steering well clear of the political, social, and religious
issues that were such a problem in the relations of England and
Ireland at that time. The English-Irish antipathy is sometimes
alluded to, especially in the final episode, but it's never brought
to the fore. As a result, The Irish R.M. maintains a light
comic tone all the way to the end. I think that the show may have
missed out on some opportunities for additional depth by steering so
firmly clear of dramatic issues, but certainly the result is
consistent. If you've enjoyed the first two series, you'll certainly
enjoy the concluding one. While the situation as a whole isn't as
fresh as it was in the first part of the first season, the actors are
clearly still having fun with their roles, and the overall level is
on a par with the previous episodes.
It's also nice to see that the final
episode wraps up the series in a satisfying way. I won't reveal any
details, but I'll say that it's a well-handled episode that fits very
well with the overall tone of the three seasons. Fans will be
This DVD set contains all three
seasons of the show: Series 1, 2, and 3, for a total of six DVDs. The
discs are in individual keepcases inside a large glossy paperboard
The image quality is unfortunately
rather poor. (One can only shudder at the thought of the lousy
storage and inconsiderate handling that these lesser-known older
television shows went through over the years...) Oddly enough, Series
1 looks the best. The episodes,
which are now more than twenty years old, show some wear and tear in
the form of print flaws, but overall the transfer more or less hits
the average mark. Colors tend to be somewhat faded, but they're
reasonably natural-looking, while contrast is acceptable in well-lit
scenes and too heavy in darker scenes. Edge enhancement is kept to an
acceptable minimum, and I didn't notice any compression issues.
the print for Series 2 appears to be in worse condition. The
generally grainy look isn't too bad, but on top of that, colors are
muddy, contrast is too heavy, there's considerable edge enhancement
in some scenes, and small print flaws are commonplace. It's
watchable, but it certainly requires viewers to cut the show a lot of
slack in the image department.
image quality is disappointing, like Series 2 or slightly worse. The
image overall is very soft and worn-looking, in close-ups as well as
longer-distance shots, with a grainy feel and many scattered flaws.
In the outdoor scenes, the image has a washed-out, grayish tint,
while the indoor scenes have a brownish cast to them.
the episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
For all three seasons of the show,
the sound quality is passable. The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack squeaks by
with an average mark, considering the early-1980s vintage of the
show. The sound is slightly flat and occasionally a bit muffled, but
has no other faults, except an occasional touch of harshness. The
delightful theme music sounds quite nice here.
first disc in the set contains the special features. Of most interest
is a 25-minute featurette called "The Making of The Irish
R.M." This informative piece was evidently done at the time
that the show was in production, and while it's more or less
promotional in nature, it does include some interesting background on
the show, as well as interviews with the main cast and crew.
features are four recipes from "Mrs. Cadogan's Kitchen," a
text profile of original authors Somerville and Ross, and cast
filmographies. More recipes are included in the Series 2 and Series 3
discs, but no other special features of note.
If you enjoyed watching The Irish
RM when it appeared on PBS, the DVD releases of the show will be
sure to charm and entertain as they did then. The three series are
available separately as well, but if you enjoyed the first season
enough to want to own it, you'll probably want all three, especially
since the third series was never shown in the US (and offers a nice
wrap-up for the show). The transfer quality is unfortunately not very
good at all, but it's watchable. For fans, I'll give this set a mild