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Dramarama! No, Not the Rock Group: This is Prime British TV

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First off, my apologies to the fans of the US rock group Dramarama, who inadvertently opened this article hoping to read something recent on the band who gave us that unforgettable ‘80s classic, “Anything, Anything.” This piece has absolutely nothing to do with them. Instead, the purpose of this “Catching Up at the Video Store” entry is to inform those of you who love a little British television drama that you boat has just sailed in from the other side of The Pond — and all of the passengers that are now disembarking have made their way to us courtesy the folks at Acorn Media.

Enjoy.

· Garrow’s Law: Series 2 (2010)

Garrow’s Law proved to be a big enough hit with UK audiences (and us fussy Americans, too) that it would have been a crime not to continue manufacturing this award-winning 18th Century legal drama. Andrew Buchan returns in Garrow’s Law: Series 2 as real life barrister William Garrow, who continues to revamp the English judicial system by taking on divisive cases involving the less-fortunate, and bucking those in authority who would rather condemn the poor to death. In this Series, Garrow continues to make an enemy out of Sir Arthur Hill (the incredibly handsome Rupert Graves) by wooing his wife, Lady Sarah (Lyndsey Marshal), which leads to Garrow himself being on trial for adultery — leaving his longtime colleague and mentor, John Southouse (Alun Armstrong, New Tricks) to save him!

· Brideshead Revisited: The 30th Anniversary Collection (1981)

In 1981, ITV aired what has since been hailed as on of the greatest British television series ever: Brideshead Revisited — the timeless tale of a young penniless lad’s friendship with an aristocrat’s son, and his subsequent introduction to religion, love, war, and other horrors. Based on the acclaimed Evelyn Waugh novel of the same name, this multiple award-winning 11-part series not only took audiences around the English-speaking world by storm, but also successfully launched the careers of stars Jeremy Irons (The Borgias) and Anthony Andrews (who hasn’t too terribly much of interest since). Though Acorn Media had already released it on DVD, this “30th Anniversary Collection” is a welcome improvement (and is also available on Blu-ray), and boasts several special features, including a documentary, episode commentaries, outtakes, a 20-page viewer’s guide, and more.

· Wish Me Luck: Series 3 (1989)

The time is World War II. The place: France (where the toast, fries, and bread come from). With the Nazi threat looming over them at every turn, a group of courageous British women give it their all by working as undercover agents. Series 3 of Wish Me Luck proved to be the final one, and was inspired by the actual events in Vassieux-en-Vercors by the Maquis du Vercors. For their final hoorah in the name of Liberty and making Hitler look like the loser he was, our heroines are given the unenviable task of distracting German resources headed to Normandy. Catherine Schell and Jeremy Nicholas join the cast, with Trevor Peacock, Jane Snowden, Michael J Jackson, Jane Asher, Stuart McGugan and Mark Anstee returning to reprise their roles from Series 1 and 2. Eight episodes of WWII espionage and intrigue as only the Brits can pull off on 2-Discs.

· The Far Pavilions (1984)

From the French Alps, we now venture to that mystical land of telemarketers, technical support, and outsource HR departments: India. But this story takes place long before the world started that ridiculous subcontracting thing, and is set in the time of the British Raj in the 1800s. Ashton Pehlam-Martyn (Ben Cross) is as British as they come, nationality-wise, that is. Having been raised as an Indian, however, Ash has come to respect the people, culture, and history of India — and finds it hard to settle in when he returns there as a member of the military. Amy Irving portrays Ash’s longtime love interest, Princess Anjuli, who has been promised to another fellow, and the great talents and voices of Christopher Lee, Omar Sharif, Rupert Everett, John Gielgud, Rossano Brazzi, Robert Hardy, Art Malik, Peter Arne, and John Forbes-Robertson (what, both of Hammer’s Draculas in one series?). Acorn’s 2-Disc set brings us all six episodes, along with production notes by stars Cross and Irving.

· Lost Empires (1986)

Adapted from the pages of J.B. Priestley’s novel, this multiple-BAFTA nominated 1986 series showcases the adventures of young Richard Herncastle (portrayed here by a young Colin Firth), whose Uncle Nick (John Castle II) promises to show him the world — and promptly recruits the inexperienced lad as part of his traveling magic act, wherein Richard is able to see freaks and geeks on both sides of the curtain. One such freak is an aging, washed-up comedian (Laurence Olivier). Throughout the magical (no pun intended) seven-episode series (which are presented in their entirety here on three discs), Mr. Herncastle learns many valuable lessons on life and love. Carmen du Sautoy and Beattie Edney (as Firth’s love interest) co-star in this riveting Masterpiece Theatre favorite is a wonderful fable about growing up and discovering the world around you.

· Queer as Folk: The Original UK Series — The Complete Collection (1999/2000)

BAFTA-nominated, GLAAD approved. Out of all the featured items in this article, this is the only one that — naturally — isn’t a family-friendly affair, owing to copious amounts of nudity, sex, and coarse language. That doesn’t mean Queer as Folk is a bad series, though. Much like the delightful American cable TV remake, the original UK series of Queer as Folk is a captivating and revolutionary program from Russell T. Davies (who later revamped Doctor Who for modern audiences) that takes us into the very open (and very unapologetic) world of Manchester, England’s gay community. Aidan Gillen and Vince Tyler star, along with young Charlie Hunnam. Acorn Media brings us all six episodes from Series One (1999) and Two (2000), along with a number of deleted/extended scenes, a 20-page booklet (by Davies himself), interviews and more. Highly recommended — but then, so is everything else in this lot.

Happy viewing, kids.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.