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DVD Review: Fresh Fields – Set 1

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A middle-aged suburban housewife ventures into a modern (‘80s) clothing boutique to apply for a sales position. This results in nothing more than a damaged ego, as a young dumb blonde running this shoppe tells her she’s too old to work there. Worried the administrative twit might actually be correct in calling her “old,” the housewife attempts to get into shape, but throws her neck out during an aerobics class and if forced to ride home in her neighbor’s convertible car standing up. Her persistence pays off, however, when the housewife attires herself in a youthful-looking outfit and re-applying. This time, the ditzy store manager does in fact hire her, believing her to be a young gal.

And, after all that, our heroine doesn’t take the job: she’s succeeded in proving to herself that she’s not too old after all — and that’s all that matters to her.

That’s just one tale from Fresh Fields, a mid-’80s British equivalent to I Love Lucy. Long before she was ever old enough to accurately dazzle television-viewers as Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple (although you don’t necessarily need to be “old” to depict such a character anymore, thanks to Disney), Julia McKenzie did a little dazzling in the guise of Hester Fields: the middle-aged protagonist housewife in this comical series. Originally airing on Thames Television, Fresh Fields co-starred the great Anton Rogers as Hester’s down-to-earth businessman husband, William.

Throughout the whole of the series, Hester attempts to keep herself thoroughly occupied. Though her daughter is all grown up and now living with her fiancé, Hester’s uptight and divorced mother Nancy (Fanny Rowe) lives in the upstairs flat behind her home; always complaining about some issue at hand — most of which revolve around her ex-husband, Guy (Ballard Berkeley). Speaking of issues, Hester and William’s next-door neighbor Sonia (Ann Beach) has a million of ‘em: and always manages to somehow play the Ethel to Hester’s Lucy during her many misadventures. But, no matter how hard things get, there’s always a happy ending on the horizon: one that is fueled by the undying admiration and love that Mr. and Mrs. Fields have for each other.

Acorn Media presents Fresh Fields: Set 1 on DVD in a two-disc release that delivers all 12 episodes from both Series 1 and Series 2. The episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratios and with English 2.0 Stereo soundtracks. English (SDH) subtitles are provided here, and the only bonus materials included are a couple of text-only biographies on the careers of stars Julia McKenzie and Anton Rogers.

In short: Fresh Fields isn’t exactly as spanking new as it was back in the Eighties (read: it’s dated). But, despite the antiquated technology used in recording and presenting the series and a few stale jokes here and there, the show does succeed in still being an entertaining Britcom. McKenzie and Rogers’ chemistry is both adorable and spot-on at the same time, and the principles depicted the show have not changed very much over the years (although they have disappeared in some circles altogether; something else you can feel free to blame on Disney if you want to).

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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.