I was jazzed to write the following snappy introduction for this review – "Before Hugh Laurie was 'House,' before Stephen Fry was 'Wilde'," but regrettably, the folks putting together this first season on DVD beat me to it. No matter – long a cult favorite of those who indulge in humor from the other side of the Atlantic, A Bit of Fry & Laurie lasted only 26 episodes from 1987-1995. Both men, skilled verbalists whose vermouth dry wit lent a sophisticated air to the silliest of sketches, made their name in the United Kingdom via this short-lived but fondly remembered series.
Most startling is seeing these two well-respected actors in the early days of their career, long before Laurie was appearing in Hollywood fare like Stuart Little and Mouse Trap and Fry was Tinseltown's go-to erudite Brit (whether in grim fare such as V For Vendetta or films on the lighter side, i.e. Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story). The pair generate a palpable chemistry that fairly propels every brief sketch tackled; rarely is a false note hit or joke muffed – penned with an eye towards that old chestnut "Brevity is the soul of wit," Fry and Laurie revel in the flexibility of language, bending it to their whims, often resulting in tongue-tyingly memorable sequences that will have you hitting the rewind button.
A Bit of Fry & Laurie: Season One features seven episodes: the pilot and the six episodes comprising the first season, playable separately or all together for an aggregate of three and a half hours. Broadcast between December 1987 and February 1989, these roughly half-hour segments of knowing hilarity are quickly paced and always good for a chuckle – channeling that distinctly British off-kilter sensibility from the likes of Monty Python, Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers, A Bit of Fry & Laurie has aged well and will tickle the funnybone for those who prefer an Anglophilic giggle. The DVD
A Bit of Fry & Laurie is presented in its original ratio of 1.33:1, as first broadcast on the BBC. No real effort has been made to clean up the image at all, resulting in a somewhat faded look, with plenty of glare, ghosting and other fleeting instances of print damage. It ain't pretty, but then, those who've clamored for this on DVD will likely just be glad to have the show in hand. The Audio:
As goes the visuals, so goes the audio – bare-bones Dolby 2.0 stereo is here, with the repartee heard clearly and free of distortion, with no drop-out or audible damage. The laugh track never overwhelms the rapid-fire jokery and optional English subtitles are included. The Extras:
There's not a shred of supplemental material to be found. Final Thoughts:
While there's nothing to be found here beyond the sketches, they are of such unimpeachable quality that I can easily recommend this disc to the unfamiliar and fans alike – it's nice to have A Bit of Fry & Laurie available to pop it every now and again. Recommended.