Porridge-Series 2 (1974)
Bonus Episode-Prisoner And Escort (Pilot)
|Year Of Production||1974|
|Running Time||173:40 (Case: 205)|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Sydney Lotterby|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||Yes|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Porridge was a series that ran on British TV from 1974 for three seasons and a couple of Christmas specials. It was an expansion of an episode of a series called Seven Of One, which featured Ronnie Barker in seven different short comedies. One episode led to the series Open All Hours, and one, Prisoner and Escort, became the basis for Porridge.
Barker stars as Norman Stanley Fletcher, an habitual criminal who has been sentenced to 5 years in Slade Prison, as you hear the judge intone at the start of each episode (the judge's voice is recognisably that of Barker). Fletcher is an accomplished inmate, knowing all the ins and outs of prison life, although his schemes often go awry. He matches wits with the fearsome warden Mr Mackay (Fulton Mackay), and manipulates and outwits the timid Mr Barrowclough (Brian Wilde).
Fletcher's cellmate is the first time inmate Godber (Richard Beckinsale, father of actress Kate) whom Fletcher mentors, teaching him various scams, useful life lessons and helping him keep out of trouble.
Barker is of course the bulwark of this show, with his serious acting training enabling him to make a believable character out of Fletcher. The scripts by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais are also models of their kind, setting up a situation in each episode that is not only fresh and tightly plotted but also allows for character development and for the performers to add their own bits to the show. The comedy has hardly dated despite it being 29 years since this series first screened and there are still a lot of laughs to be had.
The episodes on this disc first screened in late 1975 and are as follows:
Just Desserts (28:52)
Fletcher's tin of canned pineapples is stolen. He suspects that there may be a thief in the prison.
Heartbreak Hotel (29:33)
Fletcher's nubile daughter Ingrid comes to see him on visiting day, catching the attention of the rest of the inmates. Godber's girlfriend sends him a "Dear John" letter.
Disturbing The Peace (29:03)
Fletch believes that Mackay is leaving the prison, and everyone thinks they are in for a cushy time. That is, until they realise that Mackay's replacement is "Napper" Wainwright (Peter Jeffrey). Time for a riot.
No Peace For The Wicked (28:21)
Fletch wants to have a quiet Saturday afternoon to himself, but a steady stream of visitors thwarts his ambitions. That is, until the Chaplain arrives.
Happy Release (28:26)
Fletch is laid up in the prison hospital with a broken ankle. In the next bed is the aged Blanco Webb (David Jason under heavy makeup). In the opposite bed is 'orrible Norris, who steals everything in sight. But Fletch and Blanco have their revenge.
The Harder They Fall (29:25)
Godber is in training for a boxing match against the next wing. Harry Grout (Peter Vaughan) wants Fletch to get Godber to take a dive, but he has already promised this to Grouty's rival. How can Fletch avoid serious GBH?
The video is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.
The video looks much like the series did when screened on television, which is about the best we could hope for. It was partly filmed on videotape and partly on film, the latter presumably because video cameras were more cumbersome to use outdoors. The image is not very sharp in the filmed sections, which look dull and grainy. Fortunately these sections are usually very short. The videotaped segments fare better, though even there the image is not as sharp as more modern productions. This is a guess but I think that the series has been remastered from the original video masters, not from the original material, so this reflects exactly what was screened rather than what was shot.
Shadow detail is poor in the filmed sequences, but otherwise this is not an issue.
Colour is typical of TV footage of this time, with the colour looking slightly muted and no bright hues in evidence, your honour. Flesh tones look a little grey.
There are small examples of aliasing from time to time, but nothing severe. There is an example of the moire effect on Fletcher's striped pyjamas in the first episode on this disc.
The filmed segments are grainy and there is an abundance of dirt and other film artefacts present, such as small hairs and faint scratches. Otherwise there are only the occasional analogue tape tracking errors to contend with, but I found myself not being distracted by them.
English subtitles are provided, and are accurate to the spoken word. This is a dual layered disc but there is no layer change, each episode being entirely on one layer or another.
The sole audio track is English Dolby Digital 2.0, but this is clearly a mono mix.
Dialogue is clear and easy to understand, which is good given that most of the humour is dialogue-driven. The sound is a little thin at times, with some stridency in some sequences, but generally it is quite acceptable for this sort of material.
Music appears only during the end credits, and seems wholly inappropriate for the show. No composer credit is given.
|Surround Channel Use|
I had always thought that this was the first episode of Porridge, as it tended to screen at the start of each repeat of the first series on the ABC. But it was in fact an episode of Seven Of One, a seven part series of short television films starring Ronnie Barker, and was deemed to be good enough to expand into a series. First screened nearly 18 months before the initial series of Porridge, it seems an odd choice to be included as an extra for series two rather than series one.
Fletcher is being transported from the city to the new prison by prison warders Mackay and Barrowclough, but the call of nature intervenes.
A couple of pages of text about the careers of Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This material is not available in Region 1. It seems likely that the present release is identical to that released in Region 2, as the disc is coded for for 2 and 4, so this is an obvious draw.
This series is still hilarious after all these years, benefiting from the acting talents of Ronnie Barker and the rapport he developed with the late Richard Beckinsale. Highly recommended.
The video quality is not so good, as you would expect.
The audio quality is average.
The pilot episode included as an extra is welcome.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-S733A, using Component output|
|Display||Sony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Yamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains|
|Speakers||Main: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175|