Jennifer Saunders, the comic mastermind behind the hilarious BBC program
Absolutely Fabulous, has returned to the air once again. She's
teamed up with her old partner Dawn French (The Vicar of Dibney)
and an ensemble cast for Jam & Jerusalem a comic drama about
a women's guild in a small English village. When the show was broadcast
in the US on the cable channel BBC America, the name was unfortunately
changed to the rather dull Clatterford. It is under that unfortunate
moniker that the DVD of the complete first season (all of the episodes
produced so far) has been released here is region one. While not
as laugh-out-loud funny as Saunders previous shows, Clatterford is a pleasant
show that has a good deal of appeal.
As the nurse in the only doctor's office in the small English town of
Clatterford, Sal Vine (Sue Johnston) plays an important part in the lives
of the town's citizens. When her husband, the town's doctor, suddenly
dies of a heart attack she finds herself without a spouse or a job.
Her son James (David Mitchell) takes over his father's practice, but he
hires his wife Yasmeen (Salima Saxton) to take his mother's place.
Sal no longer plays an important part in the community and she finds herself
alone and unneeded. She finds herself fighting a lot with her 36
year old daughter, Tash (Sally Phillips) who still doesn't have a job and
no prospects for getting one. When not doing that she mopes around
the house or talks with her best friend Tip (Pauline McLynn, Mrs. Doyle
on Father Ted.) To get out of her funk, Sal joins the
local Lady's Guild and in the process shakes things up a bit.
The first thing that hits viewers about this show is that it in not
cut out of the same cloth as the wild and wacky Ab Fab or even Vicar
of Dibney where the jokes fly at a regular pace, Catterford takes a
more laid back approach to humor. It is almost equal parts drama
and comedy, with many of the plot elements having heavy overtones.
The scene where Sal's husband dies is sad and tragic, though his funeral
in which words are said over the coffin Tash made for him out of cardboard
and rolled oats (so it would be biodegradable) is rather amusing.
The show is more charming than out and out funny, though each episode does
provide a good laugh or two.
The charm of the show comes from the colorful people who populate the
village. Writer/creator Jennifer Saunders (Eddie from Absolutely
Fabulous) plays Caroline Martin, a wealthy jet-setter who belongs to
the guild. "Oh yes. We had a lovely evening [at Madonna and
Guy Ritchie's estate] until Sting played the lute." Then there's
the leader of the Guild, Eileen Pike (Maggie Steed), who wears the regalia
of her office, that she made herself, wherever she goes so everyone will
know how important she is. Pauline McLynn is hilarious as the not-so-discreet
receptionist for the doctor's office Tip and provides many of the laughs.
Whether it is complaining about James' new filing system (they want the
patients sorted alphabetically by their names rather than her old system
of what disease they last had), or getting into a dispute with Yasmeen
about washing her hands after handling some rabbits her husband shot ("Relax...
they're dead.") the show is always amusing when she's on screen.
Dawn French does a fantastic job in the show and steals every scene
she's in. She plays Rosie, a cheerful though not that bright worker
in the local cheese factory. The problem is that Rosie has a second
personality, Margaret, who is always causing trouble. Joanna Lumley
(Patsy Stone on Absolutely Fabulous) is a nearly unrecognizable,
but hilarious, in her role as Delilah Stagg, the senile church organist.
This two DVD set comes in a single width double Amray case and contains
the six episodes from the first season (from 2006) as well as the Christmas
The English stereo soundtrack sounds very good. While the program
doesn't have dynamic and exciting audio, the sound fits the show well.
The dialog is easy to discern and there is no distortion or background
noise. There are subtitles in English, which was a bit of a surprise
since many BBC imports lack that feature.
The anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 image looks great. Many BBC
shows are soft and a bit dull by the time they make it across to pond to
region one, but this show doesn't suffer from that. The image is
clear and crisp and the colors are strong. On the digital side, things
also look good. Aliasing is absent as well as blocking and other
common compression defects.
Unfortunately there are no bonus items. Not even text biographies
of the cast.
It does take an episode or two to get the feel of the show but once
viewers do they'll find a nice, amusing show that is appealing and fun.
Just keep in mind that this isn't a straight comedy, it has some drama
and the jokes aren't as thick as in many other British shows. Even
so, it's a show worth checking out. Recommended.