Clatterford: Season 3
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // $24.98 // September 7, 2010
Review by John Sinnott | posted November 9, 2010
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The Series:
The third season of the delightfully comic Clatterford (Jam & Jerusalem in the UK) hits the shores of region one just in time for the holidays.  A low key show from the creative mind of Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous, French & Saunders), it's both charming and amusing with a few hearty laughs in each episode.  The worst thing about it is the length:  each season (including this one) is only six halk-hour episodes long.
The show revolves around the lives of the members of a Lady's Guild in a small town in England, centering on Sal Vine (Sue Johnston) a recent widow who works as a nurse part time in her son's medical office.  Her best friend is Tip (Pauline McLynn, Mrs. Doyle on Father Ted), and the club is headed by Eileen Pike (Maggie Steed), who is never seen without the home made regalia of her office.  Other characters include Rosie (Dawn French), a very sweet but mentally unbalanced woman (she gets into trouble is when her other personality, Margaret, emerges which doesn't happen as long as she's sitting in a room lines with tin foil) and Tash (Sally Phillips), Sal's 30-something free spirited daughter who doesn't have a job and has no prospects for getting one.  There's also Caroline Martin (creator/cowriter Jennifer Saunders) a wealthy jet-setter who belongs to the guild and is always mis-remembering words and terms.  (When talking about her husband's enjoyment of social networking sites she proclaims that he "spend all last night on my face.")
This season Sal runs into some trouble when someone buys the farm next door.  The new owner hires a crew led by the rugged but handsome Jock (Clive Russell) to convert the barn on the property into a house.  This will ruin Sal's view, not to mention her privacy, and she's up in arms about it.  She rallies the guild to her cause, and they're ready to complain and protest until they hear the rumor (from Rosie no less) that the barn is being converted for the stage and screen actor Charles Dance.  Everyone gets very excited at the prospect of someone so prestigious living in the village, and the barn conversion is welcome whole-heartedly by everyone but Sal.
The workmen, especially Jock, inadvertently throw Sal's life into a shambles.  She's been running an unlicensed clinic out of her house for a while, since the villagers don't like the doctor's wife, who is also his nurse, Yasmin, and when Jock sees men sneaking in and out of the back door all day, he wonders aloud if Sal might be the village prostitute, a rumor that spreads quickly. 
Of course, no one has bothered to confirm that Charles Dance is going to be moving in, but the guild goes ahead and plans a welcoming ceremony anyway, with predictable results.
Catterford takes a more laid back approach to humor than many of the BBC shows that arrive on these shores.  It is almost equal parts drama and comedy, with many of the plot elements having heavy overtones.  One of the best scenes in this season is when Caroline, who has spent the episode telling everyone that she's not worried about her son who is in the army and been stationed in Afghanistan.  When she finally watches a message to the family that he's posted on You Tube she finally breaks down and loses her staunch British reserve.  The show is more charming than out and out funny, though each episode does provide a good laugh or two.
The charm of the show comes from the colorful people who populate the village, especially Rosie, played by Dawn French who does a fantastic job and steals every scene she's in. The show also omits frequent jokes in order to build up to one or two high points in each episode.  It works wonderfully and is a nice change of pace from the typical 'set up, punch line, repeat' sitcom.
The DVD:

All six episodes of season three are presented on a single DVD. 
The English stereo soundtrack sounds very good.  While the program doesn't have dynamic and exciting audio, the sound fits the show well.  The dialog is easy to discern and there is no distortion or background noise.  There are subtitles in English, which was a bit of a surprise since many BBC imports lack that feature.
The anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 image looks fine but not great.  The show is a bit drab in appearance, with the colors being just a bit muted.  The lines aren't tight and the whole show is fairly soft.  .   There's a bit of aliasing too, but nothing major.  These aren't grievous faults, and they don't ruin the presentation, but it's not going to be a reference disc 

Unfortunately there are no bonus items.  Not even text biographies of the cast.
Final Thoughts:
It does take an episode or two to get the feel of the show but once viewers do they'll find a nice, amusing show that is appealing and fun.  Just keep in mind that this isn't a straight comedy, it has some drama and the jokes aren't as thick as in many other British shows.  Even so, it's a show worth checking out.  Recommended.


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