Friday, January 26, 2007

“When it comes to parenting I prefer to put it down to the bird watching technique where you've got to keep your distance, keep very still and try not to frighten them.” – Ben Harper (Robert Lindsay), My Family (BBC-1)

My Family, a popular BBC-1 sitcom that some of you may have seen on the cable channel BBC America, had its first two series released on Region 1 DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video last October.  I reluctantly admit I didn’t pay much attention to this announcement—I’ve been purchasing the Region 2 discs—but I thought about this the other day because I was scrounging around the living room the other day looking for something to watch and I found Series 2 lying on the coffee table (Mom and I have been going through the show a few episodes at a time).

My Family is a very popular comedy series across the pond (not so much critically acclaimed but well-received by the viewing public) and as a fan, I give it a pretty substantial endorsement as well.  It’s a nice blend of American-style humor (the show’s creator is Fred Barron, who also hatched Dave’s World and Caroline in the City) and traditional British farce, and stars longtime Britcom fave Robert Lindsay (Citizen Smith, Nightingales) as a harried husband/dentist driven to distraction (or should that be extraction?) by his family: wife Susan (cute-as-a-button Zoë Wanamaker—Madame Hooch in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), daughter Janey (Daniela Denby-Ashe) and sons Nick (Kris Marshall) and Michael (Gabriel Thomson).  I like the Harpers because even though they’re a loving and supportive bunch there’s still an edginess to the entire clan.

I watched a pair of episodes yesterday that literally had me laughing out loud; the first, “Trust Never Sleeps,” finds Ben and Susan giving permission to Janey to throw a party at the Harpers’ while they’re out of town visiting friends.  A conversation overheard in a liquor store about a wild party being thrown “by a girl whose parents are gone for the weekend” gives Ben second thoughts (when Susan asks him how he can be so sure the conversation was about Janey’s shindig Ben responds: “They said the parents were idiots!”) and he races back home, with Susan fretting about how this lack of trust will affect her and her daughter’s relationship.  The two of them arrive to find nothing going on—but then the kids start piling in and Ben and Susan are forced to hightail it upstairs and hide in their bedroom.  The complications multiply after that, particularly when Ben cannot ignore the call of nature after drinking several bottles of wine…and their own bathroom toilet is out of commission.

In “Death and Ben Take a Holiday,” Ben has to go to Leeds for an aunt’s funeral and because a flu-ridden Susan is too sick to go, he ends up dragging his layabout son Nick along.  Through a series of mishaps (inspired, no doubt, by shenanigans witnessed by your humble narrator at La Quinta), the two men are forced to room and share a bed together (a priceless sequence) and then more wackiness occurs at the funeral with Susan having arrived…and looped on medication.

Though the news about My Family on Region 1 is a bit late, I will give you a heads-up on another Britcom previously available only on Region 2 DVD.  Warner Home Video will release the first two series of One Foot in the Grave on March 27, so if you’re a fan be sure to keep an eye peeled for them.

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