Monarch of the Glen-The Complete Series 1 (2000)

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Released 11-Nov-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Animation
Interviews-Cast-A Conversation With Susan Hampshire (9:04)
Production Notes
Filmographies-Cast
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 392:07 (Case: 400)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Edward Bennett
A.J. Quinn
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Richard Briers
Susan Hampshire
Alastair MacKenzie
Lorraine Pilkington
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $49.95 Music Simon Brint


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    For all the jokes made about the British Broadcasting Commission, the fact is that they produce some of the finest free-to-air television in the world. At the forefront of their pre-eminence is their superb Natural History Unit, which has ultimately been responsible for some of the finest natural history programming the world has ever seen. However, there has been a more important market that they have served with quality programming over the years and that is their episodic drama series. When that drama also takes little deviations into the comedic realm, the results have been often spectacularly successful. In recent times there has probably been no more successful such series as Monarch Of The Glen.

    It is well understandable that we DVD reviewers don't get too much time to sit back and watch too much television or film just for the sheer pleasure of it. Too many review discs to do, too many rubbish extras to watch and too many long hours spent pondering how to say quite politely that the latest release is a load of fetid dingoes kidneys. Whilst I cannot vouch for all reviewers of course, in general the lack of time to watch television is no serious problem as most of what is on is just about that load of fetid dingoes kidneys. However, there are those programmes that I do make time for. The English Premier League highlights show on Monday nights. That's it, well at least apart from when Monarch Of The Glen is on, repeat or otherwise. I give you the tip too: when my beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers no longer grace the premiership, the television viewing will go back to just Monarch Of The Glen, at least as long as the ABC or someone else have the good sense to show it. Further, Monarch Of The Glen is the only programme that I have voluntarily watched on VHS since I switched to DVD in 1999 - and not just once either.

    Now, are you getting a rough idea of how much I enjoy the series? What makes this series so special? Well, if I had the definitive answer to that, I safely suggest I would not be writing DVD reviews for this esteemed web site but rather would be working for a major broadcast network. However, to my mind a lot of the reason why so many find this series such a delight gets back to the core basics of many fine television series: great characters brought to life by great actors. And Monarch Of The Glen is blessed with some really great characters indeed. But the characters start the series: where it finishes is some genuinely gentle humour and some superb scenery.

    There are eight episodes making up the first series of the programme:

    The general quality of the acting is undisputed and the stories are quite gently humorous, with the whole thing being a very natural effort. This truly is one of the better series to grace television in the past decade. Wonderful stuff in every respect and well worth investigating if you have never indulged the incarnations on television.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The disappointment upon pushing the play button is hard to describe. The packaging clearly shows the aspect as being 16:9. Now that means to me a widescreen presentation, but obviously not to the people at Roadshow Home Entertainment. No, despite the series being shot in widescreen and despite the imagery being clearly framed for widescreen presentation, what we have is a Pan and Scan abomination of a transfer. You only have to look at the first few minutes of the first episode to notice how constrained some of the shots are in this format. This is one of those rare instances where even Blind Freddy can see that the series was shot in such a way as to take advantage of the widescreen format. I appreciate that we saw the series on free-to-air television in Australia in the increasingly-less-standard 1.33:1 aspect ratio, but when a series is so obviously shot to take advantage of a widescreen presentation...

    The transfer is of course not 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is highlighted by some very good definition, nice and sharp most of the time with so much detail that it is hard to envisage how it could have been any better. Sure there are a few lapses here and there, notably during low light conditions when grain becomes a bit of an issue, but overall the consistency of the presentation is very high. Shadow detail could perhaps have been a little better at times, but in most instances is also nothing much to complain about. Low level noise was not an issue in the transfer, so the overall clarity level was very good. I have rarely seen material intended for television of this quality - it certainly rivals film standards.

    The transfer is really a nicely vibrant effort, with a superbly rich tone and saturation most of the time. Given that much of the interior of Glenbogle House features gorgeous woodwork, this was incredibly important to the overall presentation. The only time that there is a drop off in tones and quality is perhaps during the fourth episode, which has a slightly unnatural look to it, with slightly underdone tones in comparison to the rest of the series. Oversaturation is nothing to be concerned about, nor is colour bleed.

    There did not appear to be any MPEG artefacts in the transfer. However, the transfer is unfortunately plagued with a degree of aliasing that, whilst nothing really gross, is certainly so consistent that it is difficult to ignore. I found it quite annoying by the end of the eighth episode, and unfortunately it seems that the problem got progressively worse the further through the episodes we get (or is that just an impression caused by the sheer consistency of the problem?). This was the second biggest disappointment with the transfer, as in all other respects there is little at all to complain about. I could give you several dozen examples of the problem, but will stick to just a few from the first episode: 0:20 on the bed head, 0:36 on the balustrade and 3:40 on the cupboard. The only other issue with film-to-video artefacting is a very minor instance of moiré artefacting at 3:48 on the shirt in Episode 5. There did not appear to be any film artefacts in the transfer.

    Both the DVDs in the package are Dual Layer formatted. As there is no obvious layer change on either disc, it would seem logical that the discs are mastered with two episodes on each layer.

    Rather regrettably there are no subtitles on the DVD.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is just the single soundtrack on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Given the amount of bass in the soundtrack, I am presuming that it is a surround-encoded soundtrack.

    Everything in the way of dialogue comes up well in the soundtrack and there is no problem understanding anything. There are no audio sync issues with the transfer.

    Simon Brint is credited with being the composer of the original music for the series, and it has to be said that the theme for the series is rather engaging and quite instantly recognisable, and a d*** good effort it is too. Overall, the music is a little bit more than the average television series usually offers, although perhaps the theme does get a little too used at times.

    I was actually quite surprised by the extent of the bass information in the overall soundtrack, both pleasantly and not-so-pleasantly. The not-so-pleasant aspect was that the bass has been a tad over-mixed into the sound at times, with far more reverb than it really needs. This problem affects just about every episode in some way, but Episode 1 is perhaps the most afflicted. Otherwise, the bass information gives the sound a lot more presence and body than I was expecting and this adds immeasurably to the enjoyment of the presentation. The only other issue was some whistling in the soundtrack in a couple of episodes - most notably at 19:40 in Episode 6. Otherwise the sound is clean, clear and quite open.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There is not a whole lot on offer in the package, but given the extent of the episodes themselves, perhaps there was little space left over? Well, possibly, although there is certainly space available on disc two.

Menu

   Nothing terribly great and with just some minor animation enhancement, although they are in keeping with the opening credits of the series itself (even if the cover is not).

Interview - A Conversation With Susan Hampshire (9:04)

    Perversely presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, this is 16x9 enhanced and comes with decent Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Whilst not of sufficient length, this is a reasonably interesting look into the series from the eyes of one of the leading players.

Production Notes

   Blimey, when was the last time I saw these on a new release DVD for review? Whilst being only five pages in total, which instantly means a glossing over of the situation, they are interesting enough. Surely more could have been provided?

Filmographies

   For each of the main cast, a single page detailing some of their work. Something but not really enough.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The first series of Monarch Of The Glen has been released in both Region 1 and Region 2. I have not managed to locate a review of the Region 2 release. From the DVD specifications found on a couple of sites, it would seem that the Region 4 release is fairly similar in content to the Region 2. With respect of the Region 1 release, a single review has been found. Based upon what it says, the Region 1 release features a 16x9 enhanced widescreen presentation, a short featurette from the BBC show Holiday from a visit to the shooting location, full biographies for the main cast and a couple of trailers for other shows. You might note that most online retailers indicate a Pan and Scan presentation, but the review clearly indicates a widescreen presentation. The BBC America web site also advises a widescreen presentation. The review would indicate a similar transfer quality overall, but that widescreen presentation certainly makes the decision very much in favour of the Region 1 release despite the variances in the extras package.

Summary

    Monarch Of The Glen is one of the very best television series of the past decade and a delightful piece of entertainment that I do not weary off - despite the number of times I have watched it (mainly in marathons watching the entire first three series). Aside from the problem with aliasing in the transfers, this would have ranked amongst the very best I have seen for a television series. As it is, it is still better than most and the quality of the show overrides the problems with the transfer. But at the end of the day, I cannot ignore the lack of a widescreen presentation...

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Friday, November 21, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Aconda 9381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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