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DVD Review: ‘Hetty Wainthropp Investigates – The Complete Collection’

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Patricia Routledge may be best known to American viewers for the ultimate social climber and all-around annoying neighbor, Hyacinth Bucket (that’s pronounced “Bouquet”) in the long-running (1990-95) British television comedy Keeping Up Appearances. But Routledge also created another memorable television character, Hetty Wainthropp, a housewife turned private detective, who solves crimes both big and small in northern England. The series used to air on PBS Mystery!, but now fans of the actress and the show can enjoy the entire series, in Acorn Media’s release, Hetty Wainthropp Investigates: The Complete Collection

Hetty,  Geoffrey, and Robert contemplate a local crime

Hetty, Geoffrey, and Robert contemplate a local crime

The DVD collection includes all 27 episodes of the cozy mystery series. Viewers are introduced to Hetty and her husband Robert (Derek Benfield), a retired couple who seem at a bit of a loss on how to spend their golden years. In the first episode, “The Bearded Lady,” Hetty takes a job at the post office, but soon finds herself on the trail of a mystery. Along the way she meets young Geoffrey (Dominic Monaghan), who proves helpful and teams up with Hetty to solve the case.

The series follows Hetty’s at-first tentative attempts to investigate, and how Geoffrey becomes more and more a part of her and Robert’s lives. We watch Geoffrey grow up and fall in love with auto mechanic Janet (Suzanne Maddock), all while getting stronger and more confident and more adept at becoming a first-class sleuth. Robert is at first skeptical of his wife’s new passion, but soon becomes an essential part of the team, holding down the fort at home while Hetty and Geoffrey pursue different clues and avenues of investigation. Even the local constabulary develops a grudging admiration of Hetty.

Hetty is a no-nonsense sort of woman. She and Robert are struggling financially, to get by on his small pension, and she makes no bones about the fact that her detecting not only feeds her soul but puts food on the table. Life in their part of England is far from fancy, and their domestic struggles still resonate. Although Hetty always solves the crime at hand, she is also very often quite sympathetic to the criminal – not all of the culprits will see jail time in her world. Her strong sense of what is right and wrong always prevails, however, as she is quick to remind Geoffrey and the audience. There may be as many crimes in Hetty’s small villages as there are in Midsomer Murders or Jessica Fletcher’s Cabot Cove, but they are rarely bloody or brutal. Just people trying to get by or get away with something, and Hetty and Co. there to set things right.

The collection includes 12 discs from each of the four series, for a total running time of a whopping 22 1/2 hours. The image quality is good, but a bit grainy, like similar films from the time. Extras include production notes, photo galleries, and an interview with Patricia Routledge.

The episodes are:

Series 1/Discs 1-3: “The Bearded Lady,” “Eye Witness,” “Fingers,” “Widdershins,” “A High Profile,” “Safe as Houses”

Series 2/Discs 1-3: “Poison Pen,” “Lost Chords,” “Runaways,” “The Astral Plane,” “A Rose by Any Other Name,” “Woman of the Year”

Series 3/Discs 1-3: “All Stitched Up,” “Daughter of the Regiment,” “Serving the Community,” “Fisticuffs,” “Childsplay,” “Pursuit by Proxy,” “A Minor Operation,” “Helping Hansi,” “How Time Flies”

Series 4/Discs 1-3: “Something to Treasure,” “Family Values,” “Digging for Dirt,” “Mind over Muscle,” “Blood Relations,” “For Love nor Money”

Hetty and Geoffrey (and even on occasion, Robert, sometimes dress up or disguise themselves while on a case, but for the most part they use common sense to solve their crimes. The series is unusual, in its mix of old and young working together, and the northern England setting gives a nice touch of local flavor to all of the episodes. In fact many of the episodes center around a young or old victim or criminal, so that Hetty and Geoffrey can combine their own styles and patterns of deduction. One can marathon Hetty Wainthropp Investigates, or sit back from time to time with a nice cup of tea and relax and watch her right a few wrongs.

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