Apparently, the need to solve mysteries runs in the blood of Harry Potter’s entire family. Just as his onscreen nephew currently does in the popular J.K. Rowling film franchise, actor Richard Griffiths once had a flair for a good whodunit himself. While most American audiences will only (if barely) recognize him as Potter’s movie-bound uncle, the talented Mr. Griffiths has made quite a career out of being a character actor in British film and television (as well as appearing in a few minor International flicks, such as 1992’s The Naked Gun 2 ½: The Smell Of Fear with Leslie Nielsen).
In 1994, Griffiths was cast in the lead of the lighthearted BBC mystery series Pie In The Sky — a show which broadcast five complete series (a British Series only lasts about six to eight episodes in general) over the next four years. Pie In The Sky brings us the oft-humorous and rarely-deadly-serious adventures of Detective Inspector Henry Crabbe of the Westershire County police.
Like just about every British television sleuth, Henry has a particular passion in life: food. In addition to being a much-admired officer with his superior ACC Fisher (played to the hilt by Britain’s own Keith Carradine, Malcolm Sinclair), Henry is also the chief chef at the Pie In The Sky restaurant in town, which is owned by his ever-loving wife, Margaret (Maggie Steed).
Frankly, Henry would love to do nothing more than retire from the force and focus on the restaurant business. Alas, the force won’t let him leave; partially due to the fact that ACC Fisher tends to be a bit on the slow side when it comes to high-profile or just plain baffling cases. And so, Henry wobbles right along, balancing the two delicate acts as only an intelligent and sane person could do.
Pie In The Sky: Series Four opens with a two-parter (“Devils On Horseback”), wherein Henry and his assistant (the beautiful Bella Enahoro) investigate a mysterious death in the stables of a local cider magnate. In “Chinese Whispers,” Henry gets a double-dose of woes as a fellow restaurateur claims to be the victim of a series of racist attacks — but refuses to do anything about it — while Margaret signs the Pie In The Sky up for the Great British Grub Contest.
“New Leaf” has Henry relocating to a safe house to watch over the antagonistic wife of a gangster. “Breaking Bread,” one of Series Four’s better episodes, finds Henry unwillingly investigating the work of vandals at The Happy Ploughman: a corporate snack company that Henry not only despises, but which has become the police station’s new canteen contractor (thanks to the ever-dutiful “efficientness” of ACC Fisher).
The final episode of Pie In The Sky: Series Four is “Gary’s Cake,” wherein Henry and Margaret’s longtime cook Gary (Nicholas Lamont — who, surprisingly, never had a big career) is accused of organizing a robbery that occurs in the restaurant.
Acorn Media brings us another set of the highly enjoyable full series of Pie In The Sky in a two-disc DVD set. Since these episodes were produced and filmed in the mid-‘90s for British television, you shouldn’t expect the quality to be on-par with modern High Def programming. That said, though, Acorn Media’s presentation is more than adequate. The episodes are presented in their original 1.37:1 aspect ratios with English Stereo sound and optional English (SDH) subtitles. The only Special Features included here are a couple of text-only bios and filmographies for the show’s stars.
In short, Pie In The Sky: Series Four is a fun, slightly-quirky program. Its tendency to move around at the exact same pace as its larger-than-life lead may not spark much of an interest with younger (or ADD) viewers that have been spoiled by the flashiness of modern American TV. But then, there’s not a single mention of Lord Voldemort to be heard here, either!