At Home with the Braithwaites: Complete Second Series
Acorn Media // Unrated // $59.99 // February 22, 2005
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted January 24, 2005
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In 10 Words or Less
The story of some truly desperate housewives

The Story So Far...
In Season One, Allison (Amanda Redman, Sexy Beast) won the national lottery's $60 million prize, but kept it a secret, feeling her family didn't deserve the money, as her husband David was having an affair and her children were unappreciative boors. So she started a foundation to distribute the money to needy people, while "working" for the company as a secretary. Things got only more complicated as her college-drop-out daughter Virginia fell head-over-heels in lust over their neighbor, Megan, and another daughter, Sarah, got pregnant. At the end of the season, the press found out about Allison's windfall, as did her family.

The DVDTalk review of Season One can be read here.

The Show
The moment the second season of "At Home with the Braithwaites" starts, there's something immediately shocking, and that's Allison's bright blonde hair. After spending the first season as a somewhat dowdy brunette, she re-emerges as a stunning socialite in the second run, as the money she won in the lottery takes over her family's life. David (Peter Davison) is enjoying spending the dough on parties, Sarah's preparing for her coming child, Virginia continues to bring the gloom-and-doom as the resident unhappy lesbian and Charlotte is basically just there, which seems to be her lot in life.

The plot of the second season is centered around Allison and David's crumbling marriage, which has suffered from David's lies and Allison's secrets, not to mention the rest of the family's troubles. The children attempt to prevent a divorce, but considering Allison's interest in David's brother, Graham, who is also married, that's probably a case of too-little-too-late. The love triangle (which adds another side thanks to the return of David's mistress Elaine) is the engine for this season, but it's the kids that provide the fuel.

Sarah's baby enters the world, immediately changing everyone's life and forcing Sarah to make a decision she regrets soon after. Meanwhile, Virginia's girlfriend Tamsin wants to come out to her allegedly understanding parents, just in time for Megan to re-enter Virginia's life, confusing her more. Megan's desires are more than carnal or emotional, and they get Virginia, and her mother's foundation, in more trouble than they can handle. Charlotte's in for trouble too, as her mother's winnings are causing her to be bullied at school. If you can find someone on this show who's living a happy life, I'd like to see them. But as with all good soaps, the more miserable the characters are, the better it is for the viewer.

Now, most guys would shy away from that dirty "soap" word, but this is hardly the shoddily-produced melodrama that populates afternoon television. "Braithwaites" is a slick piece of drama that uses plenty of camera movement, innovative story telling and a lot of style to make an engrossing series. Break past the traditional biases against British TV and soap opera, and you'll find an interesting and entertaining drama with just enough hints of comedy to keep it from going over the edge.

The DVDs
The eight second-season episodes of "At Home with the Braithwaites" are split over three discs. Episodes one through three are on the first platter, the fourth, fifth and sixth parts are on the second disc and the last two episodes are on the final DVD. The DVDs are packed in three standard keep cases, with episode summaries on the back, which come housed in a cardboard slipcase. When will Acorn Media learn about the beauty of ThinPak cases? I could have several sets on my shelf, or one of these British bricks.

Inside the first case is an insert with scene selection breakdowns for all three discs. Menus for both discs are static, and for some reason full-frame, with scene selections for each episode, and special features on Disc One. There is a play-all option.

The Quality
Season Two is presented in anamorphic widescreen, unlike the full-screen first season episodes. The quality looks a bit better than the previous effort, but that may be partially due to the upgrade in picture in switching to a widescreen transfer. There are some beautiful images in this season, including the nighttime party in the first episode. Check out the sparkle on Megan's holographic cocktail dress during a fantasy sequence for a great example of the detail these DVDs have, when the film allows it. There's a dreamy quality to the video at times, but it seems intentional, as it's not always evident.

The audio on these discs is as good or better than the previous set, though still not a not a system test, with plain stereo mixes of dialogue driven drama. The occasional sound effects come through clean, and the dialogue and background music is clear. According to the box, some of the music has been edited for home video release, but where the changes were made is unclear. Most Americans may not notice, unless they watch the show constantly on BBC America.

The Extras
Just like the first collection, there are just two extras in this set, and they take the form of a photo gallery and filmographies for the main players. These extras can be found on Disc One. Neither bonus feature is very enthralling.

The Bottom Line
If "At Home with the Braithwaites" was Americanized, it would give the networks' offerings a run for their money, with its mix of sex, violence and insane characters. But unfortunately for the show, the actors speak with those funny accents and live in a foreign country. If you are one of those people who can enjoy a show not set in America, they definitely check this series out, starting with the first season. Though there's only eight episodes, each one is jam-packed with more than enough to enjoy, somewhat making up for the lack of supplemental material.

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