Man About the House-Complete Series 1 (1973)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Trailer-George & Mildred-Series 1; Bless This House-Series 1
Trailer-Love Thy Neighbour-Series 1; Kenny Everett-The Naughty Bits
Easter Egg-A VTR clock countdown
|Year Of Production||1973|
|Running Time||166:58 (Case: 175)|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Peter Frazer-Jones|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Written by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke, Man About The House ran from August 1973 to April 1976 and is a perfect example of one of the major purposes of DVD. Sure, it can be used to present high-fidelity audio and state-of-the art video to impress your friends with the miracles of modern home-entertainment technology. Alternatively, DVD can be used to preserve, without improvement, some classic old television series which would otherwise degrade over time and ultimately become lost forever. In the case of Man About The House this would be a damned shame.
I can remember watching this program avidly when I was but a lad growing up in England. From the opening seconds memories came flooding back and I was transported back in time almost thirty years. Anyone who lived in England during the 1970s will remember the "Salute to Thames" animated channel logo, and the distinctive audio which accompanies it. The series first aired on British television in 1973. Even the titles for the commercial breaks (Ad Caps) are included in this transfer, so you have the opportunity (albeit brief) to nip out and "put the kettle on" between the two halves of each episode, just like the real thing! The scripts, costumes, sets and even taxi-cab prices perfectly encapsulate the groovy lives of three fledgling flat-dwellers of the time.
The series tracks the slightly saucy exploits of larrikin Robin (the great Richard O'Sullivan), the shrewd and liberated Chrissy (Paula Wilcox), and the ever-so blonde Jo (Sally Thomsett) as they experience all that 1970s London has to offer. Their landlords are George Roper (a frigid, work-shy, henpecked Brian Murphy) and his wife Mildred (a lecherous, sex-starved Yootha Joyce), later to have their own highly successful eponymous spin-off series, which aired between 1976 and 1979. Robin too later had his own spin-off series - Robin's Nest (1977-1981) - where he continued his cooking career by running his own restaurant. The fact that Man About The House ran for six seasons and spawned two highly successful spin-offs (plus an American copy in Three's Company) is a testament to the quality of the writing and the novelty of the set-up and the characters...at that time.
The disc presents us with all seven episodes from the first series, and a brief reminder of each is given below:
Man About The House is a child of its time. The scripts are a typical British mix (for the time) of slapstick, double-entendres and misunderstandings. The sets are cardboard, the ties are wide and the suits are denim. Nonetheless, the characters are all well written and generally well acted by the ensemble cast. Innovative for its time, it is tempting to now see this as "all having been done before" but at that time, it hadn't. One mainly for British nostalgia buffs, the episodes still manage to raise the odd smile and a rare titter.
The overall video transfer of this disc is pretty poor, and whilst the video defects may induce the occasional headache it is still watchable.
The series is presented slightly cropped at around 1.29:1 which is almost the same as the original 1.33:1 televised aspect ratio. It is not 16x9 enhanced.
The transfer has no film grain, presumably having been shot on video. It appears much less sharp than the standard broadcast television shows of today, and is generally no better than VHS quality.
Shadow detail is limited and the darker scenes never really attain a true black. There is no low-level noise evident. Colours are somewhat variable; frequently muddy and washed out but with splashes of fairly clean primaries cropping up occasionally to liven up the picture (most of Mildred's clothing for example). Skin tones are fairly natural throughout.
The transfer hosts a litany of video artefacts. Whenever there is significant movement on screen, pixelization becomes apparent. Aliasing is common throughout the series, and whilst usually a mild shimmer, it is distracting due to its omnipresence - for example see the sofa in Episode 5 (19:13). There are numerous instances of moire and cross colouration throughout the series, with painful examples to be seen on the tablecloth (17:33) in Episode 1 or George's shirt (4:59) in Episode 5.
The transfer suffers from noticeable edge enhancement throughout, and on a large screen this is distracting with bright halos around almost everything. Dot crawl is evident on the Ad Cap tiles. The "advert break" markers used to indicate the end of each half of an episode are clearly visible in the upper right corner of the screen - it has been many a year since I have noticed these. Bright lights and reflections frequently cause a significant flare on the screen and leave a trail of residual light behind them (for example the dresser plates in Episode 1, the candle flames at (21:13) in Episode 3, or the policeman's peak cap at (06:58) in Episode 5).
The transfer of the actual episodes is reasonably free from scratches and flecks, but the "Salute to Thames" television logo and opening title sequences feature a cavalcade of film artefacts plus some horrendous telecine wobble.
There are no subtitle tracks present, which is a shame for any hearing impaired fans.
This is a dual layered disc but I did not notice any layer change so I assume it was wisely placed between episodes.
The overall audio quality of this disc is adequate, albeit bland, given the limitations of the source material. There are no significant defects.
There is only one (mono) audio track available, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 recorded at 224 kbps.
Dialogue was always clear and audio synch was fine.
The jaunty original music is uncredited and the music used occasionally during the show is without note.
The soundstage is (as would be expected) one-dimensional with only the centre channel used if ProLogic decoding is enabled, or otherwise identical signals being fed to the left and right speakers.
The subwoofer, unsurprisingly, was not used.
|Surround Channel Use|
There is a small selection of lightweight extras on the disc.
The menu is a sequence of character head shots accompanied by the catchy theme tune. It allows the selection of individual episodes (each with a small number of chapter stops), the option to play all episodes in sequence or the selection of extras.
Some interesting text-based pages for the careers of the main characters. Four pages each for O'Sullivan (who suffered alcoholism and depression), Murphy and Joyce, with two each for Thomsett and Wilcox (most recently seen in the entertaining Footballers' Wives).
Video clips for other recent Umbrella releases, all presented at 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack recorded at 224 kbps:
There is an undocumented extra, which is quite mysterious. Towards the top of the "Extras" menu, you can activate an area which contains an invisible red star. If this is selected, a Thames VTR countdown clock is seen with some mumbled dialogue behind it about "auditioning for the audience of the year". Strange - and pointless!
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This DVD does not appear to be available in Region 1. I would guess that the Region 2 disc is identical to the Region 4 release, which is coded for all Regions.
Sadly, Man About The House is way past its prime. The charm and talent of Yootha Joyce and Richard O'Sullivan, whilst still evident, are not enough to carry the dated scripts and passé social situations. It will probably only appeal to original fans, wishing to revisit a television classic from their youth - there is very little here to attract a new audience.
The video quality is fairly poor with numerous defects cropping up throughout.
The audio quality is acceptable for a thirty year old television series.
The extras are few and of minimal value.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-344 Multi-Region, using Component output|
|Display||Panasonic TX-47P500H 47" Widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||JensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer|