Absolutely Fabulous-Series 4 (1 disc edition) (2001)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Jennifer Saunders and Jon Plowman
|Year Of Production||2001|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||
Roadshow Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Smoking||Yes, even two at once with a lighter to match!|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes, very obtrusive, especially Apple Computers|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, every episode has a epilogue segment at the end|
Absolutely Fabulous Series 4 started filming almost five years after the third series so it isn’t surprising to see that many of the actors are finally starting to grow up. What’s that I hear, ”Absolutely Fabulous, growing up?”. Well, sort-of; time still marches on even if you only act half your age. But it isn’t just the characters that are changing. The storylines and to some extent the basic essence of what was Asolutely Fabulous is also changing. Although this change is likely to alienate some fans, it is necessary as the show has been feeling a little dated and the effectiveness of the comedy was beginning to wear off. The big question is - will this change be enough?
In stead with the theme of change, this release also brings us the next six episodes in glorious widescreen, complete with a commentary that many will find very interesting. We are also treated to the inclusion of the new pilot episode, “Mirror Ball”, which I am sure will catch anybody who hasn’t seen it with as much surprise as it did I. "Mirror Ball" was the proposed new series replacement for Absolutely Fabulous however based on the lukewarm reception it received, Jennifer Saunders decided to continue the existing series for at least one or two more seasons. The inclusion of “Mirror Ball” is not without reason as it becomes quickly apparent that Jennifer Saunders, who both writes the series and plays the character Edina Monsoon (and incidentally recorded the commentary), is trying to rescue long-term interest in the series by migrating to a structure more like the proposed "Mirror Ball" format. This release includes:
The first few episodes introduced us to the new look and feel of Ab-Fab but by about episode three the script was in full form and really brought back the entertainment I seemed to remember from the series when I first saw it. Also impressive was the way in which Jennifer Saunders managed to reveal some of the negative repercussions of Edina and Patsy’s raising of Saffron without overdoing it and leaving the audience feeling heavy. In addition this release includes, and cross references many times in the commentary, the pilot episode ”Mirror Ball” which is of great interest in more ways than one.
Although not destined to please everyone, Absolutely Fabulous Series 4 is likely to please more people than it displeases and represents the series in fine form.
The main transfer is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. This is simply the best Absolutely Fabulous has ever looked and I hope this is a sign of what to expect from the BBC in the future. The video is near reference quality with only a few minor issues causing it to miss the mark.
The transfer was extremely sharp and detailed throughout with only a few scenes suffering from loss of detail due to what appeared to be poor focus. This would, when apparent, affect all shots of a particular scene from a particular angle, Episode 2 - 11:55 and 11:58 are good examples and likewise Episode 4 - 2:49 and Episode 6 – 8:46. Thankfully this did not happen often and was not too bad when it did. There was no low level noise, film grain or chroma noise evident. Black levels were absolutely spot-on and shadow detail was exemplary. White levels were similarly ideal with only a few shots suffering from some overexposure (Episode 3 – 8:52, Episode 4 – 5:14, Episode 6 – 1:02 and Episode 6 – 4:26 are examples) but nothing major.
Colours were likewise exceptional, with completely natural skin tones supported by natural lighting and wonderful saturated colours where appropriate. There was no other evidence of any problems with colour bleeding or cross-colouration.
MPEG artefacts were almost completely absent with the only obvious occurrence of problems being in the opening credits, however I’m inclined to blame this more on digital zooming that actual compression artefacts. There was no telecine wobble, no hairs, no scratches – in short the film transfer was pristine. Aliasing was apparent but only minor and almost impossible to avoid on items such as cars (Episode 1 – 10:16), dishes (Episode 2 – 0:52), chrome chairs (Episode 4 – 20:50), glasses (Episode 5 – 16:47) and of course blinds (Episode 4 – 11:12). Moiring was present and quite distracting in some cases where it plagued Edina’s pink hat in Episode 3 at 10:56, 14:21, 19:03, 25:40, 27:04 and a plasma screen at Episode 5 – 0:53 as the worst offenders. There was also a small period of minor camera shake at Episode 5 – 16:13.
There were two groups of subtitles on this disc, of which only the English subtitles are listed and selectable via the menu, however Dutch subtitles can also be selected during play. The subtitles are only for the main presentation and are not available for the commentary. The accuracy of the subtitles left much to be desired. For instance, almost every single passage was paraphrased similar to the following:
Spoken: “… it’s not beyond the realms of possibility”
Subtitles: “… it’s not impossible”
Personally, I find this unnacceptable.
This disc is dual layered, but no layer change is apparent during any of the programming. The episodes are wholly contained on one or the other layers.
This is a simple but effective audio transfer which suits the material well.
The main presentation includes two audio tracks. The default is an English Dolby Surround encoded 2.0 track for the main presentation with a second Dolby Surround encoded 2.0 track for the commentary.
The audio was well synchronised with the video, displaying no audio sync delays. The dialogue was distinct and clear at all times.
Apart from the re-recorded opening titles music “This Wheel’s on Fire” by Simon Brint and sung by Julie Tippett and Adrian Edmondson, the brief sing-over by Hermine Demoriane with ”Ziggy Played Guitar” in the closing titles and a few snippets of music during some scene changes; there is very little else to be said about the music for Ab-Fab.
There is only moderate surround activity, mostly being dedicated to live studio audience applause. Unfortunately this does ruin the illusion at at least one point when there is separate applause from both the primary audience (the live one) and the extras audience in Saffie’s play within a play segment where the pair of them sound truly at odds with each other (Episode 5 – 26:26).
The subwoofer is alive but rarely used and isn’t really called for much anyway.
|Surround Channel Use|
The main menu is simply animated with appropriate background music. It is far more intuitive to operate than previous Absolutely Fabulous attempts.
The audio commentary by Jennifer Saunders and John Plowman is very enlightening, especially Jennifer’s inputs. This is the sort of commentary that explains in great detail the history, design and various bits of trivia behind the scenes and script writing for the series. I enjoyed the commentary and found that it added significantly to my understanding of the main presentation. All in all this was a fine effort and worth listening to, if not just to understand some of the more European/British jokes and humour references.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 1 version of this DVD misses out on;
The Region 4 version of this DVD misses out on;
The comparison here is somewhat moot given the fact that this particular disc is not actually available individually for purchase (the individual release is a 2 disc set including the above extras), but is part of the 4 disc Absolutely Fabulous - The Whole Thing...Sweetie! box set compilation. However, given that the likely intended aspect ratio of this particular Series of Absolutely Fabulous is 1.78:1, the Region 4 version of this DVD would remain the version of choice.
Absolutely Fabulous has never looked or sounded as good as they do on this almost flawless disc.
The video quality is excellent.
The audio quality is very good.
The extras are mostly of very good quality and enhance the presentation.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-S733A, using Component output|
|Display||JVC Interiart Flat 68cm Display 16:9. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum/AVIA.|
|Speakers||Front LR - NEAR MainMast, Center - NEAR 20M, Surround LR - NEAR Spinnaker DiPoles, Rear LR - NEAR MainMast-II, Subwoofer - NEAR PS-2 DiPole|