Not satisfied with their sterling reputation as the home of the world's best murder-mystery novelists, the British have done a nice job of dominating the scene of television mystery series. The long-running series A Touch of Frost (which finished up its seven-year run in 2003) was a huge success with viewers in the UK and should please U.S. fans of British mysteries as well.
A Touch of Frost: Season 3 contains four "feature-length" episodes, each running an hour and 40 minutes. Essentially, they're short TV-movies in a series, rather than what we might consider episodes; there's enough time in each to develop a fairly complex main plot, along with side plots and character development.
The episodes here are competently written and offer a reasonable variety of plots, not just the standard fare of "murder most foul." In "Appropriate Adults," Frost is on the trail of a missing 8-year-old girl, while in "No Refuge" a string of suspicious burglaries get the story in motion. The main plot of "Dead Man One" centers around the strange collapse of a star soccer player, who may have been the victim of a brutal kick to the head... or maybe something else. Not that murder is skipped over here, as it's the central crime in "Quarry," when an animal-rights activist is murdered, and "Dead Man One" opens with a mysterious corpse fished (literally) out of the river.
Fans of earlier seasons of A Touch of Frost will enjoy the elements of continuity that are worked into the story, in the form of Frost's ongoing relationship with Shirley Fisher, which changes and advances over the course of the third-season episodes.
While the quality of the stories is of course very important, I've always found that the appeal of a mystery series centers largely around the figure of the detective: if he's an interesting character, it gives the series that extra "hook" that makes you want to watch subsequent episodes. To the show's credit, the blunt and often obnoxious Detective Inspector Jack Frost (played by David Jason), who's also highly disorganized and a workaholic to boot, is a distinctive character. Even so, for me the character of Frost falls somewhere in the middle of the "interesting detective" spectrum. He has a lot more personality than the bland detectives of Midsomer Murders, but somehow I didn't find him as compelling as, for instance, Foyle of Foyle's War or David Suchet's portrayal of Hercule Poirot.
A Touch of Frost: Season 3 is packaged in a double-wide plastic keepcase that holds the set's three DVDs.
The image quality for A Touch of Frost: Season 3 is a bit disappointing; I'd have expected a show filmed in 1995 to look a bit better. As it is, the picture is adequate. There's a slightly faded, brownish tint to the image, and the contrast is excessively heavy, so detail is lost in a number of scenes. Edge enhancement isn't too apparent, but I did notice that many of the straight lines in the picture tend to have a jagged appearance.
The episodes of A Touch of Frost: Season 3 appear in their original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1.
The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is reasonable, carrying the dialogue competently. It's not always as sharp and clear as I'd like, but overall it sounds natural, with no problems of distortion or noise in the background.
There are no special features on this set.
A Touch of Frost: Season 3 offers up four reasonably entertaining stories for fans of British mysteries. I found the episodes entertaining, though not as much as other mystery series I've seen. If you're actively looking for a new British mystery series, set in the modern day, you won't go far wrong with A Touch of Frost, and certainly if you've enjoyed the earlier seasons you'll most likely like Season 3 as well. I'll give it a mild "recommended" rating.