DVD review: Mapp & Lucia

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It’s 1930 and the peace of the village of Tilling is about to be unsettled by the arrival of two outsiders. The duo: Mrs. Emmeline Lucas (Anna Chancellor) and her male companion Georgie Pillson (Steve Pemberton) are an odd pair but, it soon becomes clear, nowhere near as unusual as the people of Tilling itself. For this is truly a world of eccentrics, peopled by drunken majors, vicars with fake accents, intriguing lifestyle choices and of posh women who though ostensibly polite, rarely say what they actually mean. Queen of them all is Miss Elizabeth Mapp (a toothsome Miranda Richardson): a social tyrant in the guise of a benign village spinster. It is only a matter of time before she and her new tenant Lucas (known as Lucia) become locked in a battle of wills.

Do not be fooled. This may have been filmed in genteel village surroundings and screened in three parts over the Christmas period, but this is not gentle stuff. A clue should be evident in the fact that it was written by the League of Gentlemen’s Steve Pemberton adapting it from E.F Benson’s classic series of inter-war novels. He and fellow Royston Vasey resident Mark Gatiss (he plays the Major), also make up a stellar cast. There is undeniably a dark underbelly to this village too.

Although Blackadder II fans will already know she can play a tyrant called Elizabeth (she played Queen Elizabeth I as a dangerously volatile spoilt brat in the 1985 classic TV comedy), here Miranda Richardson (plus added teeth) excels as the megalomaniac Elizabeth Mapp. Thirty years after the well-received Channel  4 version of the stories (featuring Geraldine McEwan, Prunella Scales and Nigel Hawthorne), this new version is a triumph too.

Mapp & Lucia

BBC DVD

Programme Name: Mapp And Lucia – TX: n/a – Episode: Mapp And Lucia (No. 2) – Picture Shows: **STRICTLY NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00;01HRS, SATURDAY 6TH DECEMBER, 2014** Irene Coles (GEMMA WHELAN), Major Benjy (MARK GATISS) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Nick Briggs

DVD review: Friday Night Dinner Series 2

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Friday Night Dinner: Season 2

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If you’ve never seen Friday Night Dinner before, lucky you: you are in for a treat.

Robert Popper’s sitcom has a laughably simple premise. A middle-aged  Jewish couple Martin and Jackie Goodman (Paul Ritter and sitcom veteran Tamsin Greig) are joined every Friday evening for dinner by their two twenty-something sons Adam and Jonny (Simon Bird and Tom Rosenthal).

That’s really all there is to it. And it’s hilarious.

Much of the humour comes from the relentless silliness of Adam and Jonny, who in the first episode find themselves engaged in a virtual house civil war over Adam’s childhood toy bunny “Buggy”. The duo later engage in a further feud when it emerges Jonny is having an affair with an older woman at work.

Yet juvenile though they are, the Goodman sons are at least still on Planet Earth. The funniest characters are the eccentrics, notably Paul Ritter’s Dad. Occasionally deaf, incapable of keeping his shirt on for an entire episode, prone to hiding in his shed or telling poor jokes (“a lovely bit of squirrel, love!”) and often seemingly oblivious to hygiene or indeed any external events, he is a brilliant comic creation.

The same could also be said of the Goodmans’ truly bonkers next door neighbour, Jim, played splendidly in ludicrously large glasses by another comedy veteran, Mark Heap. Perpetually turning up at the door during dinner, partly to angle for some food himself, partly because he is clearly besotted with family matriarch Jackie (Greig), Jim is always accompanied by his dog Wilson, who he actually appears to be terrified of. Heap is every bit as great in this role as he was as the reclusive artist Brian in 1990s sitcom, Spaced or indeed the sexually frustrated Doctor Adam Statham in Noughties comedy, Green Wing.

And that’s just the main cast. Support comes from “Horrible Grandma” (who insists on bringing her own turkey in a bag for Christmas Dinner), “Auntie” Val, Nan and her truly terrifying octogenarian boyfriend Mr. Morris: a man obsessed with “slanderers” (“I will not be slandered!”) and prone to pulling light fittings out of the wall during his frequent fits of rage.

A truly classic comedy, this has taken its time getting to DVD (it was first shown nearly two years’ ago). The third series was broadcast on Channel 4 just this summer. It cannot come to DVD soon enough.

Special Features:

Six episodes plus the 2012 Christmas Special

Series 1 Recap (This is not actually really necessary and won’t really fill you in if you’ve forgotten or not seen the first series anyway)

Behind the Scenes with Cast and Crew Featurette