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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The House of Eliott - Series Three
The House of Eliott - Series Three
Acorn Media // Unrated // July 11, 2006
List Price: $59.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted July 20, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

I loved the first two seasons of The House of Eliott, about two sisters in 1920s London who take on the challenge of starting a fashion house from scratch. The second season, in 1992, ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, all the more so because at the time that I saw it, I didn't realize that there was a third season. After a year's gap, 1994 saw the third and final season of The House of Eliott. This season had a hard act to follow, after the high quality of the first two seasons, and unfortunately we do see here what I'd expected to see (but had been pleasantly surprised about) in Season 2: a loss of the energy and narrative punch that had been characteristic of the series.

The ten episodes that make up Series 3 aren't bad; remember that we're comparing them to an exceptionally strong pair of previous seasons. What happens here is that the "soap opera" aspect of the series expands considerably, to the detriment of a really engaging narrative thread. In the earlier seasons, there was always that soap opera flavor, but it was only part of the overall tapestry of the show; the focus of the story was on the sisters' trials and tribulations in establishing, and then maintaining, the House of Eliott. Their personal lives, and the lives of the secondary characters, were of interest, but the main appeal of the show was its strong sense of narrative: the drama and tension of what was going to happen not just to Bea and Evie, but to the House of Eliott.

In Series 3, the one story element that's potentially of the same caliber as the earlier seasons' narrative threads is the House of Eliott's venture into "ready to wear" clothing. There are a number of complications that arise, and some interesting and tense goings-on in relation to the ready-to-wear venture and to the House of Eliott's survival as a fashion house when haute couture starts to decline in popularity. However, this section of the story doesn't start until fairly late in the season, and it's not developed nearly as much as it could have been.

Stella Gonet and Louise Lombard continue to do good work in their roles as sisters Bea and Evie Eliott, despite not having material as substantial as in the first two seasons. Jack Maddox (Aden Gillett) remains an important character, and a sizable amount of story time is devoted to his attempts to settle on the right career, going from film to journalism to a brush with politics. Some of this material is interesting, as we get to see a glimpse of the workers' London, beyond the high style and elegance of the Eliott sisters' London. It still doesn't feel as lively as the story threads involving Jack in Series 1 or 2, though.

Another slight step down for Series 3 is that the secondary characters are not as well-rounded here as in the earlier seasons. Larry Cotter and Grace Keeble provide a counter to the Eliott sisters, bringing some tension into the House of Eliott as Bea and Evie attempt to deal with changing market conditions for clothing. However, they're fairly two-dimensional, without the complexity or depth that we saw in characters like Series 1's Aunt Lydia and Cousin Arthur.

One point in Series 3's favor is that the final episode steers clear of a maudlin "happily ever after" ending; we get some surprises and genuine dramatic tension. Part of this might have been in the hopes of getting a fourth season (which didn't happen) but in any case, it does make the conclusion of the series more memorable than it otherwise would have been. I wish that some of the events implied in the final episode had been introduced and developed throughout the whole season, though.

The DVD

The House of Eliott: Series Three is a four-DVD boxed set. Each disc is in an ultra-slim plastic keepcase, with the four cases inside a glossy paperboard slipcover.

Video

The episodes are presented in their original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The picture quality is good, with the image looking clean, clear, and bright. Colors look natural, and contrast is handled well.

Audio

The Dolby 2.0 track is a bit on the muted side (I had to turn up the volume a bit more than usual) but the overall sound quality is satisfactory. The dialogue is clean and clear, with no audio problems.

Extras

Cast filmographies are the only special feature included.

Final thoughts

While I thoroughly enjoyed Series 1 and Series 2 of The House of Eliott, I found that Series 3 didn't live up to expectations. The ten-episode third season still ended up being modestly entertaining, it lacks the narrative snap and drama of the previous seasons. Still, if you enjoyed The House of Eliott so far, it's hard to pass up the third season and a chance to see the characters go through new adventures. As long as you don't mind that the third season leans more toward soap opera than serious drama, I can give Series 3 a mild "recommended" rating.

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