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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Clatterford - Season 1
Clatterford - Season 1
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // May 8, 2007
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted April 25, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The Series:

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.

The DVD:


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 special.

Audio:

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.

Video:

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.

Extras:

Unfortunately there are no bonus items.  Not even text biographies of the cast.

Final Thoughts:

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.

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