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Rosemary & Thyme - Series Three
Rosemary & Thyme calls for a dash more than the usual suspension of disbelief. We have the usual issue of amateur sleuths, which is that bodies turn up underfoot wherever they go (yet they still get invited to parties...). In addition, in this case, our protagonists are a pair of gardeners called Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme. Silly? A tad. But it's consistent with the tone of the series, which offers viewers a generally light-hearted approach to the murder mystery.
A point in favor of the slightly absurd premise of flowery-named-gardeners-turned-sleuths is that our two amateur detectives are gardeners as their second career, bringing savvy from previous careers as a university professor and a police officer to their detecting work. Another nice thing about our protagonists is that they give us middle-aged women in a thoroughly positive light: they're active and interesting figures who stand up well in a genre that is mainly populated by male detectives (except, of course, for the archetypal spinster detective).
It's actually rather curious how the murder mystery has become such a staple of popular fiction and film that it can cross over from drama to comedy. In the case of Rosemary & Thyme, the murder plots themselves are handled seriously for the most part, with a touch of the melodramatic. The main stories follow the standard operating procedure of mystery episodes: a dead body turns up, and as the police and our fearless gardeners dig deeper into the goings-on, more dark doings come to light, with various people as potential suspects. (Needless to say, the obvious suspect is the obviously not-guilty one.) The plots are a bit of a stretch, but well within the norms of mystery television.
The stories are lightened up by the characters of Rosemary and Laura, who take a wry and humorous look at everything they run across. Their banter livens up the episodes, and their foibles are used for the occasional comic interlude, as when they debate whether to buy new clothes for a special visit from the Queen. The overall effect is to give Rosemary & Thyme a gentle and agreeable flavor: perhaps not so strong as to be memorable, but going down easy.
In Series Three, viewers get a touch of glamor. In addition to the episodes set in England, we also get episodes that have our intrepid gardeners traveling to Spain for a pair of adventures. "Agua Cadaver" mixes murder with Moorish gardening and a rekindled romance for Rosemary; we get a return to sun-drenched Spain in "Raquet Espanol," which gives us death among professional tennis players. The episodes back in the home country are set in a variety of locations as well, including a not-so-peaceful monastery in "In a Monastery Garden," English vineyards in "The Cup of Silence," and Regents Garden in "Three Legs Good." We get a total of eight 45-minute episodes in the set.
Rosemary & Thyme: Series Three is a three-DVD set, with the discs in ultra-slim plastic keepcases inside a glossy paperboard slipcase.
The episodes in Series Three are presented in anamorphic widescreen, making for a boost in image quality for an otherwise fairly ordinary transfer. Colors are bright and attractive, and contrast is handled reasonably well. Closeups look clean, but middle- and longer-distance shots look a bit blurry. There's a substantial amount of noise and shimmer in many scenes, as well.
The stereo soundtrack is adequate, providing clear dialogue and a generally satisfactory audio quality.
The modest special features section includes a photo gallery, notes on the locations, and cast filmographies.
If you liked the earlier seasons of Rosemary & Thyme, it's a safe bet that you'll enjoy Series Three. The characters continue to be appealing, and though the episodes seem a bit formulaic, they offer up enough charm to make them a pleasant viewing experience. I"ll suggest the set as a rental if you haven't seen the series before, and as a recommendation for continuing fans.