There’s something to be said about a detective who knocks a criminal out not to save a potential victim, but to save his omelet. And so it goes with Pie in the Sky, a sort of Two Fat Ladies meets Hetty Wainthrop. Series 1 has just been released by Acorn Media. This three-DVD set blends mystery, straight police investigation, a little comedy, and a pinch of dill. The series ran from 1994 to 1997 through five seasons, yet unlike many other British imports, was rarely shown on American TV. This has given Pie in the Sky somewhat of a cultish appeal.
Noted British stage actor Richard Griffiths (best known as Harry Potter’s uncle in the movie series) plays Henry Crabbe, an often-whiny, snooby foodie who is also a keen detective and a softie at heart. In the first episode Crabbe has wine with a wanted embezzler. Instead of arresting the crook, Crabbe is shot in the leg. His mishap results in his suspension, and it also convinces him to start his dream restaurant to satisfy his culinary interests. HIs restaurant, located in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, is named PIe in the Sky and becomes a local sensation. But Crabbe's former superior at the police department, Assistant Chief Constable Freddy Fisher, needs him around and uses the leverage of a bribery charge (for letting the embezzler slip away in episode 1) to keep Crabbe working. ACC Fisher uses Crabbe as a consultant to the local PD, bringing him in on unusual and delicate cases. It’s, of course, one of those arrangements that only happen in a BBC show.
There’s a light-hearted English-ness about Pie in the Sky, which is a nice counterpoint to Crabbe’s sometimes gruff demeanor and temper tantrums. The cases themselves range from crooked cops to gangs of thieves, along with a good helping of kitchen scenes and hand ringing over the freshness of the eggs and availability of seafood. On the down side the show could be funnier and the cases could be more complex. The series also doesn’t go far enough in developing some of the supporting characters, including Crabbe’s wife, and an up-and-coming female officer who’s his frequent crime-solving partner.
All in all, Pie in the Sky is a slight entry in the British mystery/comedy genre. The storylines are a little lightweight and the actors occasionally walk through the roles. There are some choice episodes here and there, but some real filler material sprinkled throughout.
While the show quality is not the best, the packaging is done well. It’s almost becoming rote, but Acorn Media once again does a first-rate job of bringing British television to American audiences.