Based on the books by Reginald Hill, Series One of Dalziel and Pascoe is a hit and miss BBC mystery series starring Warren Clarke (as Dalziel) and Colin Buchanan (as Pascoe). It starts off a bit lackluster in the first episode, but the preceding two up the enjoyment factor considerably.
Series One is broken into three ninety minute episodes, A Clubbable Woman, An Advancement of Learning and An Autumn Shroud. The show follows the familiar pattern of the oddly matched detective pair, playing off their different styles to solve the crime. Dalziel (pronounced "dee ell") is the seasoned veteran, jaded and cynical, crude and averse to anything even resembling political correctness. Pascoe is the young up and comer, with a college degree and lots of enthusiasm.
A Clubbable Woman deals with the murder of a woman, Mary, whose husband is a leading member of the local rugby club, a club with Dalziel also belongs to. There are lots of rivalries, old grudges and new adulterous affairs streaming through the club, and it takes Dalziel and Pascoe a while to untangle everything. This first episode moves slowly, and is a bit dull despite all of the hanky panky and jealousy. The series does pick up from here, however.
An Advancement of Learning takes place at the college at which Pascoe's girlfriend teaches. A statue, which was erected five years previously to commemorate the death of the former dean who died in Austria while on vacation, is moved and a dead body is discovered underneath it. Things become complicated when it is determined that the body is that of the memorialized dean, whose body should be somewhere in the Austrian mountains. Dalziel, uneducated and brash, is quite annoyed by what he sees as the effete and pompous faculty and students. A sit in protest, wild parties, sex scandals and another murder follow quickly on. This episode is much more entertaining than the previous one, and ends up quite exciting and funny.
At the beginning of the third episode, An Autumn Shroud, Pascoe gets married and takes off on his honeymoon, placing the action primarily around Dalziel. He decides to go on a trip, rambling around the English countryside. Straightaway, he runs his car into a mud filled pot hole in the road, and he is taken in by a wealthy family nearby while it gets repaired. He is befriended by Mrs. Fielding, whose husband just passed away, and whose funeral Dalziel saw from the road. Mysterious goings on abound: one of the sons goes missing, a lot of equipment is stolen out of the restaurant that the family is planning on opening, and a couple of people are murdered. In between bedding the grieving widow and helping out an insurance investigator, Dalziel is able to figure out what's going on. This episode is also very superior to A Clubbable Woman, including a few laugh out loud moments.
Because of this disparity in entertainment value between the first episode and the succeeding two, Series One of Dalziel and Pascoe as a whole is good, but not great. It seems as if they just needed some time to get their rhythm right. Once they hit that rhythm, though, the show is quite enjoyable, with more than enough human deceit and plot twists to satisfy the mystery buffs. The gruff Dalziel plays off quite well against the somewhat naïve but much more personable Pascoe, and their relationship constitutes most of what makes the show work. The writing is better than average, the performances pretty good and the production values quite high. But without the two very different detectives making their unique way to the resolution of each mystery, there wouldn't be much to enjoy. Dalziel and Pascoe is light entertainment (aside from the first episode) but it succeeds more than it fails.
The image is presented in 1.33:1 standard, and looks pretty good. The occasional bit of lens dirt and image trailing is apparent, but this doesn't detract from the experience much. This review is based on a check disc, however, so no comment can be made about the quality of the final product.
The sound is Dolby digital 2 channel, and is unremarkable. The dialogue is always clearly audible, and no hiss is detectable. English subtitles are available, but no alternate language track. This review is based on a check disc, however, so no comment can be made on the quality of the final product.
The only extras included are previews for other BBC mysteries. However, this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quality or quantity of the extras on the final product.
The fact that the second and third episodes are significantly more entertaining than the first episode detracts a bit from the quality of Series One as a whole. However, since it is possible to simply skip the first episode and proceed on to the superior product, this isn't a death blow. The relationship between the two detectives is the centerpiece of the show, and it wouldn't work nearly as well apart from this. Colin Buchanan and Warren Clarke do their jobs superbly, and have a real chemistry, which is fun to watch. This is the phrase that encapsulates the appeal of the show. There's not much substance here, but it's fun to watch. Recommended.