To the Manor Born-Series 1 (1979)

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Released 3-May-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Interviews-Crew-Peter Spence (Writer)
Filmographies-Cast
Production Notes
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 199:51 (Case: 212)
RSDL / Flipper No/No
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Gareth Gwenlan
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Penelope Keith
Peter Bowles
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $39.95 Music Ronnie Hazlehurst
John Dunstan
Fran Needham


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    To the Manor Born is one of those brilliant English comedies. First aired in 1979, it went on to be one of the most popular shows on British TV. In excess of 27 million people tuned in for the final episode, breaking all previous records for a single show. This record would stand for the next 15 years. People fell in love with the main characters, the pithy humour and the very sparky attraction between them.

    Penelope Keith, one of the mainstays of many of these comedies, plays Lady fforbes-Hamilton. She is one of the vanguard of the upper class in Britain. All around her, society is falling to pieces - foreigners and lower class people are taking over Britain. Even worse, they are the nouveau-riche. With the death of her husband, she finds herself in dire straits as she is forced to sell the family home in which her family has resided for over 400 years.

    Much to her horror, the mansion is bought by someone who is not even of British descent - a foreigner! Richard DeVere is played with consummate skill by Peter Bowles, and his down-to-earth foil to Lady fforbes-Hamilton is a mainstay of the programme. While the DeVeres try and settle into British country life, even though he has brought his work with him and coverts one of the rooms of the mansion into a modern study, Lady fforbes-Hamilton has moved into a much more modest house on the edge of the estate - in times gone past this was the lodge of the manor. She has purchased the lodge so that she can keep an eye on the manor, and on Mr. Richard DeVere, which she does with a pair of binoculars.

    While the two are attracted to each other, they live in different worlds: Richard with the money and mansion but no history, and Audrey with all the lineage of British aristocracy behind her but nary a cent to her name. Audrey is a true blue-blooded aristocratic snob and her views on life give us about half of the many laughs in the show. They spend each episode revolving around each other's orbits, fatally attracted, but every time they get close the sparks fly and they move apart again (but not too far).

    This is satire of the highest order. What Yes, Minister does for politicians, To The Manor Born does for the British upper class. Written by Peter Spence, originally as a radio play, there are some fascinating connections to the show. For example, Peter Spence is married to the daughter of the family that lived in the manor that features in the show.

    There are seven episodes in the first season. I don't believe that the episodes have official titles:

1: (24:58) The season opens with the funeral of the late Mr. fforbes-Hamilton and Audrey's shock discovery that she can no longer afford to live in the manor.

2: (29:33) Audrey moves out in one of the funniest scenes in the first season and the DeVeres move in. Neither are initially impressed with their new neighbours.

3: (30:38) One of the many episodes that revolve around Audrey trying to educate Richard in the responsibilities of ownership of the manor. In this case he has not attended the local church on Sunday and is taken to task for this by Audrey.

4: (25:47) In remodelling the manor, Richard discovers that behind the current fireplaces are the original and much better fireplaces - they were covered over and made smaller as an austerity measure in the second world war. Simply to be difficult, Audrey gives him a hard time about removing the fireplaces. Audrey does Richard a favour and helps him to purchase a horse for the manor and in gratitude he has one of the removed fireplaces installed in the lodge. Unfortunately, this turns out to be a bad idea.

5: (30:03) It is time for the yearly Hunt Ball, an event that has always been held at the manor and organised by Audrey. Just to be difficult, she wants to be begged to manage the ball, something Richard will not do. So, in revenge, he asks Audrey's friend to manage the event and drives Audrey to frustration until she breaks and takes over the event.

6: (27:30) No longer able to afford a yearly holiday on the continent, Audrey hatches a plan to appear to go on holiday but in actual fact spends the time under a sun lamp hiding in the living room.

7: (31:22) A film crew arrives at the manor to film an advert, one that is supposed to feature an English Lord in his ancestral home. Audrey discovers this and gives the director a few words to the wise, upsetting DeVere's plan to become accepted as an English gentleman.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The 1.33:1 non 16x9 enhanced image is about what you would expect from a weekly show of this age.

    The video-based material is quite sharp but there is some video noise present. The film-based material is slightly less sharp and has a fair amount of grain present. There is more than the usual amount of film footage in the earlier episodes as there is quite a bit of location footage. The material inside the manor is also film-based. Shadow detail is good for both media but there is some low level noise triggered both by the grain and the video noise.

    Colours are slightly faded but still good as are the skin tones (English skin tones of course).

    There are no major MPEG artefacts. There is some posterization in the faces such as at 10:58 in the third episode. The film footage does suffer from film artefacts such as grain, dirt and in particular white flecks that can be a bit distracting at times.

    Unfortunately there are no subtitles present on either disc.

    Both discs are single layered.

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

Audio

     There is a single English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack present on these discs.

    Dialogue quality is very good as is the audio sync.

    There is little music other than the opening theme, which is very reminiscent of the theme for Yes, Minister.

    The surround and the subwoofer have little to nothing to do.

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

Extras

Menu

    A static menu presented at 1.33:1 with no audio contains a picture of our two main characters on the left and the menu selections on the right. The background picture is the same on both the discs.

A conversation with Peter Spence (11:57)

    A short but fascinating interview with the creator and writer of the show, offering many interesting tidbits of information along with the difficulty he faced moving from radio to a visual medium. Presented at 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced, the audio is Dolby Digital 2.0.

Cast Filmographies

    The usual page or two of information about the actors: Penelope Keith, Peter Bowles, Angela Thorne, John Rudling, Gerald Sim, Daphne Heard and Michael Bilton.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 2 version of this disc appears to be identical to our release. The R1 release appears to be scheduled for June this year. It is a boxed set of the entire series (three seasons) and includes an interview with Peter Bowles, a profile of Penelope Keith but not the interview with Peter Spence. What it also includes (and I wrote the below summary before I found this out) is the four radio episodes based on the same series.

    As it does not appear that the R2 discs, all series of which have been released, have the radio episodes, I am giving R1 the provisional win.

Summary

    There are similarities between Penelope Keith's character in this show and in The Good Life, the show which she was in just prior to this one. In that case it was the middle class to which she belonged rather than the very upper crust. I loved both characters and can easily see why this show still has a large following many years after it was originally aired.

    The video is good for its age.

    The audio is perfectly functional.

    The extra is a nice little inclusion, though again as with other ABC releases there is a missed opportunity by not including the radio broadcast version of the series.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252q CRT Projector, Screen Technics matte white screen 16:9 (223cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR800
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

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