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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » As Time Goes By - Complete Series 6
As Time Goes By - Complete Series 6
Warner Bros. // Unrated // February 3, 2004
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted January 7, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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The Movie:

I watch a lot of DVDs, and sometimes it can get a little difficult rate a movie or show.  Often one aspect is of a high quality, while another fails miserably.  How do you rate an excellent actor who has a horrible script?  Reviewing comedies are somewhat easier because I have a simple rule:  If I laugh, the movie works.  The sixth season of As Time Goes By works for me.  This quiet comedy offers a few touching moments separated by many deep laughs.

Jean (academy award winner Judi Dench) and Lionel (British TV mainstay Geoffrey Palmer) were lovers when they were younger, many years ago.  She was a nurse, and he was an officer in the Army.  After a whirlwind romance, he gets transferred to Korea.  He writes a letter to his love, but she never receives it.  Each thinking that the other has spurned them, they go on with their lives.  Then they accidentally meet one day, forty years later.

That was the premise that started the show, and after five seasons, the show is still about Jean and Lionel's relationship.  Some things have progressed in that time, of course, but the show still has the same feel, remarkably, as when it first started.

It's a character driven show, revolving around Lionel, Jean, and her daughter Judy.  The other two main characters are Jean's secretary and lodger, Sandy, and Lionel's publisher and Judy's sometimes boyfriend, Alistair.  There plots are simple, but tightly woven and not outlandish.  The action may focus on the dread one feels when a nosey relative comes to visit or how hard it is to spring a surprise on someone.  Each show starts off low keyed but gets funnier and funnier as it goes on.

The shows in this season are:

Episode One – Someone may be stalking Sandy, and Lionel wants to find out who and confront him.  But while Lionel is tailing Sandy, Jean contacts Alistair who wants to solve the problem with his friend 'Nails.'  Judy decided to break up with Alistair.  A little darker than usual, but still an amusing show.

Episode Two – Jean's office is running very smoothly.  So well that she's thinking of retiring.  But will that mean that she's useless?

Episode Three – Jean's chatty sister-in-law, Penny, and her husband, Stephen, come for a visit.  But Lionel and Jean have a plan so that the conversation won't be dominated by Penny.  One of the funniest discussions in any television show.  A great episode.

Episode Four – Jean and Lionel take a visit to their country house and the housekeeper, Mrs. Gale, is acting very out of sorts.  Jean tries to figure out what's wrong, and Lionel gets sick.  A cute episode, but not the strongest in the series.

Episode Five – Judith is shocked and dismayed when Alistair announces that he's engaged to be married.  The whole family goes out to dinner to meet his new fiancé, Mercury.  Easily the best episode of the season, and one of the best in the show's run.  Both touching and laugh out load funny.

Episode Six -  Penny and Stephen drop in again, to announce that they are planning to move next door!  Priceless episode.

Episode Seven – Jean laments that there is no excitement in her life, so Lionel plans to surprise her with an overseas vacation.   Only it's harder than he thinks.  He also visits the War Museum and finds something surprising.  A great episode to end the season, it would have made a great end to the entire series as well.  A funny episode with a warm and touching ending.
This sereis has some top notch actors in it.  Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer both have impeccable comedic timing and wonderful expressions.  Just the looks they give each other in the sixth episode are hilarious.  They have a wonderful screen chemistry, which makes the series seem very relaxed and natural.  The show wouldn't be nearly as memorable without them.

The writing is very good too.  The banter seems less like written lines and more like people talking.  I like the fact that the series has continuity also.  They refer to things that happened in previous shows, even years before. The bugle that Lionel accidentally buys in the first show is seen as a knick-knack in the rest of the episodes.  I love touches like that.

The only real complaint I have is with the character of Alistair.  He is wonderfully played by Philip Bretherton, but it's not the acting that I dislike it is the character himself.  He's just too wild and wacky, and doesn't fit in with the rest of the cast.  When the series started and Alistair fit in because he was so unlike Jean and Lionel.  It was amusing to laugh at the  madcap guy who happened to be a rich and powerful publisher.  Now that Lionel's book is out there is no real reason for him to hang around, and his romance with Judy seems very unrealistic.

This is a very funny and charming series.  They haven't slowed down in the sixth season at all.  If you've never seen the show before, this would not be a bad place to start.  If you've seen the other seasons, this is one of the best.

The DVD:


The English 2.0 track is quiet acceptable and the disc has an interesting mix.  The dialog doesn't have much in the way of stereo effects, but the laugh track is mixed so that different laughs come out of each speaker.  It gives the show a bigger feel.  Like you are sitting in a large audience.  The audio level to the menu (and skipable commercials that automatically run when the disc is inserted) is much louder than the show itself.  It's very irritating to adjust the volume on the menu only to find that the program is much too quiet.  So you turn it up a couple of notches,  but when the show is over and the menu pops back up, it is blaring.  Can't the people who authored this DVD read VU meters?


Presented in full frame format the video quality is good.  About what you'd expect from a recent show that was filmed on video tape.  There colors are slightly wan, but only to a small degree.  There is a bit of aliasing when the camera moves past diagonal straight lines, but nothing too distracting.  Details are lost in dark areas and on black clothing.  Unfortunately, the people who authored the disc were liberal with the edge enhancement.  Most of the people look like they are surrounded by very thin black or white halos (depending on the color of the background.)  It probably will not be apparent on a smaller screen, but the addition of so much EE actually hurts the image quality.  The video rating loses half a star for that alone.

The Extras:

The only extras on this disc are short cast biographies and a few trailers to BBC shows on DVD.

Final Thoughts:

This is a charming, touching, but above all very funny show.   While most comedies start to slow down after five seasons, this one keeps going strong.  A superb cast and tight scripts make this a show to see.  Highly Recommended.

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