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DVD Review: BBC Crime Caper Series The Invisibles

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Growing up, I spent many evenings watching television with my grandmother, who loved detective programs like Columbo, McLoud, and McMillan and Wife – shows with lovable, eccentric characters. Sort of misfits in their roles as detectives, they were all just a little more on the ball than anyone gave them credit for. This made them more human and lovable as well. I’ve often thought that Monk is a contemporary version of those programs.

In contrast, popular TV shows of today like CSI, 24 and Fringe present violent images, intense characters and drama. I prefer the tame affable characters and stories my grandmother found so entertaining. (She would have loved Adrian Monk.)

In 2008, BBC One briefly aired a program that she also would have appreciated. The Invisibles, starring popular British actors Anthony Head and Warren Clarke, follows a pair of aging, retired thieves as they struggle and often fail to stay in retirement. The six episodes will soon be available on DVD, released by Acorn Media and available on May 26.

Former crooks and best friends Maurice Riley (Anthony Head, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Little Britain) and Syd Woolsey (Warren Clarke, Dalziel and Pascoe, Bleak House) are back in Britain after 15 years of living off their ill-gotten gains in Spain. They’re determined to stay honest in a quaint (read boring) seaside town. Maurice’s wife Barbara (Jenny Agutter, Logan’s Run), is keeping an eye on them to make sure that’s what happens. Despite their best intentions, the local pub manager (Dean Lennox Kelly) proves more persuasive than Barbara, and they are soon back in business.

In the first episode, the two friends are finding it hard to entertain themselves in the sleepy village where they now live. Syd’s son turns up needing cash and they’re back to their old tricks. There’s just one problem – they’ve gotten a little rusty and can’t crack safes or drive getaway cars like they used to, which makes for some tight situations and comical chase scenes.

Each one-hour episode presents the pair with another good reason for breaking and entering. The likable duo is like a pair of schoolboys trying to avoid getting caught by Maurice’s wife. Other episodes feature the resurfacing of a British police officer who knows of their past, a former love interest of Syd’s, a cursed safe and more.

The fishing village scenery is charming, the characters are affable and the storylines are pleasant. Most of the series was filmed in Portaferry, County Down, Northern Ireland, which has been made to look like Devon, England. This is a series geared toward people who like their detective dramas served with a little humor and characters with a healthy dose of peculiar on the side, but not too hot and spicy. My grandmother would have eaten it up.

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