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Richard Griffiths dishes up some amusing cases and leaves viewers hungry for more.

DVD Review: Pie in the Sky – Complete Collection

Like a 12-course dinner, Pie in the Sky: Complete Collection is quite an undertaking, as it includes all five series, a total of 40 episodes. But like a gourmet meal, it offers multiple delights.

Richard Griffiths (familiar to viewers as Uncle Vernon in the Harry Potter movies) stars as Henry Crabbe, a detective inspector who, after he is shot in the line of duty, is only too happy to retire and pursue his dream of opening a restaurant. But his boss, Assistant Chief Constable Fisher (Malcolm Sinclair), won’t let him off that easy.

[Henry Crabbe (Richard Griffiths) with one of his creations.]

Henry does open the titular “Pie in the Sky,” a restaurant where he hopes to be able to highlight and share great English cuisine (yes, apparently, there is such a thing). But he still has to assist Fisher, who is holding back his full pension, on a part-time basis with difficult cases, as Fisher can’t bear to lose such a fine mind in his police force.

So Henry is now called in to work as a part-time detective on a variety of cases, at times assisted by Detective Sergeant Sophia Cambridge (Bella Enahoro). Henry’s wife Margaret (Maggie Steed), unfortunately for Henry, has no appreciation of fine food and drink. But she has a good mind for business and helps manage the restaurant for him – Pie in the Sky is a local success.

Pie in the Sky: Complete Collection is in full screen and contains five DVD sets, with 13 discs, for a total running time of over 32 hours. Extras include SDS subtitles, production notes, profiles of cast members, a more detailed profile of star Richard Griffiths, and an 18-minute interview with actress Maggie Steed.

In Season 1, which first aired in 1994, Henry gets used to his new double-life. He hires an assistant chef, Steve Turner (Joe Duttine), who also happens to be an ex-con. Pie in the Sky’s opening night is a huge success, and the restaurant starts to build a steady, faithful clientele. Food keeps working its way into Henry’s cases, however, which include a stake-out of a faithful and favorite customer, edible snails found at a murder scene, and a crime involving one of his rival restaurateurs.

Season 2, which first aired in 1995, includes cases featuring a Peeping Tom who targets women who are in one way or another involved with restaurants — including Henry’s wife Margaret, a missing persons case involving a trout farmer, a psychic who helps Henry solve an old case, and an attempt by Henry to get a special bread pudding recipe from two elderly sisters who are also suspected of being check fraud queens.

[Henry and Steve Turner (Joe Duttine)]

Season 3 first aired in 1995 and 1996. Henry’s cases include a criminal pizzeria, a smuggling ring, and that age-old British mystery stand-by – the pheasant shoot. In Season 4, which first aired in 1996, among the cases that Henry investigates are a fire that was set at a Chinese take-out restaurant, and the catering firm that is currently working with the police department.

The final season, Season 5, which originally aired in 1997, has Henry trying to sort out his employees, as well as meat sausages that aren’t actually made with meat. By the end of the season Henry finally gets the chance to leave police-work behind and devote all of his time to Pie in the Sky.

It’s hard to watch episodes like “Pie in the Sky and not get a little hungry, as Henry experiments with making special dishes like passion-fruit sorbet, and is constantly discussing menus, specialty cheeses, and fine wines. But that is one of its great pleasures, too. Henry deals with more mayhem than murder and Pie in the Sky: Complete Collection. Griffiths is as likable and crotchety as every great chef should be. It’s a nice and relaxing way to enjoy (some others enjoying) fine food with a dash of mystery.

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