In 10 Words of Less:
Dysfunctional British family led by secret-millionaire mum.
It's "Arrested Development", with the comedy replaced with an equal measure of drama. Alison Braithwaite (Amanda Redman, Sexy Beast) is the matriarch of the family from hell. Her husband David (Peter Davison, "Doctor Who"), is sleeping with his secretary, while her oldest daughter Virginia (Sarah Smart) is a college drop-out with no direction, who's secretly lusting for their actress next-door-neighbor, Megan (Julie Graham). Her other two spawn aren't much better, with middle child Sarah (Sarah Churn) being a more outgoing version of "Roseanne's" Darlene, and the mean-spirited youngest girl Charlotte (Keeley Fawcett).
Despite being saddled with these weights, Alison is a pretty happy woman, who only gets happier when she finds that the lottery ticket Charlotte grudingly gave her for her birthday won her 60-million dollars. She doesn't want her family to know though, as they are all greedy bastards. Instead, she starts a charitable organization to give away the money, which is where she "works" as a secretary. The only thing she has to worry about is the tabloids looking to find out who won the money. That, and keeping her family from finding out about her winnings.
As her life takes off though, her family spirals out of control and everything becomes increasingly insane. David's affair, Sarah's attitude, Virginia's spoiled nature... the show reaches levels of madness "Melrose Place" only dreamed of achieving. Sally Wainwright, the show's creator, put time in on the popular British soap "Coronation Street," so she knows melodrama, and she puts this family though its paces. You really have to feel for Alison, who never does anything to deserve her fate. In fact, she's nothing but good. It certainly makes me never want to have daughters.
While this all probably sounds very depressing, the show is actually quite entertaining, mainly thanks to the impressive way it is shot, with visual acrobatics and subtle dream sequences that help carry the story and give better insight into the declining mental state of some of the characters. The look and feel make what could have been a mediocre soap opera into a quality drama that ran for four seasons in Britain as a successful hit. Now, it hits America, on BBC America and on DVD.
The six episodes in the first season of "At Home with the Braithwaites" are split over two discs and are presented in full-screen. The discs are packaged in two standard keep cases, which are housed in a cardboard slipcase. Inside the first case is an insert with scene selection breakdowns. Menus for both discs are static, with scene selections for each episode, and special features on Disc One.
The video quality is standard British television, with soft, grainy visuals taken from the shot-on-film originals. Why the Brits can't get good quality from their filmed television is beyond me. The colors are somewhat dull due to the grainy transfer and the skin tones are a bit heavy on the red side.
Audio on these discs is good, though not particularly impressive, with plain stereo mixes. The sound effects come through nicely, and the dialogue is clear. It does the job, but won't turn any heads.
All you get from "...the Braithwaites" are a short photo gallery and some staid text filmographies for the major players on the show. For once, I'd like to get some background info on how these British shows are done. It would seem that the process is at least slightly different than the American way, so lets see it.
The Bottom Line
It's edgy, creative and, at times, filthy. And if you can look past the very British aspects of the show, the themes are universal, making for some quality entertainment. In fact, if you replaced the Brits with suburban Long Islanders, this show would fit nicely into the Fox line-up. As it is, it could fit nicely on many DVD shelves. If you aren't a fan of British television, this is a rental. If you are, it's a definite recommendation.