Pie in the Sky will finally be available as a Complete Collection this Tuesday, November 1st from Acorn Media. Previously released as five separate sets, the series follows Detective Henry Crabbe (Richard Griffiths, The History Boys, Harry Potter), who is nearly at retirement. Looking forward to opening his own restaurant, Crabbe is deeply disappointed when he is investigated for taking a bribe. Though Crabbe is completely innocent, his superior, Assistant Chief Constable Freddie Fisher (Malcolm Sinclair, Casino Royale, V for Vendetta), uses the incident to force Crabbe to take occasional cases. Thus, Pie in the Sky follows Crabbe as he simultaneously serves as a police detective and a chef in a restaurant that shares the series title.
Crabbe just wants some peace, but it seems he will never have it. Fisher puts him on a number of cases over forty episodes, constantly pulling him out of the kitchen. Thankfully, he has some help on the force. Sophia Cambridge (Bella Enahoro, Mister Johnson) is his partner for much of the run, while Ed Guthrie (Derren Litten, The Catherine Tate Show) and Jane Morton (Mary Woodvine, Doctors) help out in Series 5. Crabbe is obviously the brains of any partnership, seeing that the police force will not allow him to retire. But the trio aren’t completely incompetent, and are enough help that Crabbe can get back to his restaurant periodically.
Not that things are much calmer there. For one thing, his cheap wife, Margaret (Maggie Steed, Clatterford, Born and Bred), who has no palette to speak of, actually owns Pie in the Sky, so Henry is often beholden to her. Not to mention, there are plenty of other employees on staff, including chefs Steve Turner (Joe Duttine, Coronation Street) and Gary Palmer (Nicholas Lamont, Going Off Big Time), both around for about half the show each. Leon Henderson (Nick Raggett, The Sins, Arcadia) supplies the produce and helps clean up. Plus, there’s John the waiter (Ashley Russell, Jupiter Moon), and a rotating number of waitresses, including Sally (Marsha Thomason, White Collar, Lost). Not that Henry hates any of these people, as he is a gentle, kind soul — but there is certainly no rest for the weary.
Pie in the Sky is a light-hearted romp, never taking itself too darkly. Yes, there are crimes that need solving, and dishes that need cooking, but Henry takes both just about as equally serious. That, in of itself, lends a sense of fun that won’t be found in the hard boiled dramas that dominate networks today. This distinction is a nostalgic hook, sure to entice many new viewers looking for something different.
Henry is a great character, whose pain viewers will feel, as he just wants to be left alone to explore his culinary passion. Who cannot sympathize with such longing? Griffiths is a brilliant actor, that handles nuance well, but that’s well-known by 2011. It is immediately apparent that Crabbe, this multi-talented man — like the actor who plays him — will be in demand no matter what he is doing. It’s a curse as well as a blessing.
Over the course of five series, Pie in the Sky wracks up its share of notable guest stars. Among them are Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings), Keeley Hawes (Upstairs Downstairs), Kelly Reilly (Sherlock Holmes), and Jane Wymark (Midsomer Muders). Do they take these parts just to keep working, or because who wouldn’t want to be involved with Griffiths and his charming series? The biggest take away from Pie in the Sky is that it must be delightfully fun to perform on the show, or so it seems by the way the actors devour their roles with relish, excuse the puns.
At thirteen discs, Pie in the Sky: Complete Collection is a hefty set, value priced, and providing hours of enjoyment. About thirty-two and a half hours, to be more precise. The series is presented in 4:3 full screen format, as it aired, but there are 16:9 widescreen bonus features, in case anyone is worried that corners are being cut. Not all of the original broadcast music survives, but that’s common among DVD sets, especially when the series predates such releases, as this one from the mid-1990s does. Still, well worth the price.
The bonus features are predictably few, with little intention of making such extras as the series is in production. There is a biography of star Richard Griffiths, and filmographies for the rest of the cast. Production notes are interesting. The best part is a nearly twenty minute interview with Griffiths’s on-screen wife, Maggie Steed. She is amusing and charming, much like the series, and it’s the only feature that actually delves into what making the series was like. It’s great that it is included.
Pie in the Sky: Complete Collection will go on sale this Tuesday, November 1st. Be sure to get yourself a copy. And it would make an excellent Christmas present if you have relations that enjoy older, whimsical, British mystery.