One Foot in the Grave-Complete Series 1 (1990)

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Released 7-Jul-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Britain's Best Sitcom
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 174:06 (Case: 184)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Susan Belbin
Christine Gernon
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Richard Wilson
Annette Crosbie
Doreen Mantle
Angus Deayton
Janine Duvitski
Owen Brenman
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Eric Idle
Ed Welch
John Dunstan


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 1.29:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    On 4th January 1990, BBC1 in the UK screened the first episode of a sitcom that would go on to exceed all expectations. Producing some forty four episodes in total and spanning ten years on television, One Foot In The Grave is widely regarded as a milestone series of British television comedy.

    Ironically, the sitcom had only moderate success early on and was not particularly well received by many critics. However, by the time the third series arrived, One Foot In The Grave was attracting excellent ratings and had cemented a loyal following with many Brits.

    The series was conceived and written during the height of Margaret Thatcher's power in Britain. High inflation and unemployment had much of the population worried about their future prospects. Perfect timing then for a sitcom that reflected similar concerns, albeit with a humorous edge.

    One Foot In The Grave was written with dark humour and biting sarcasm by David Renwick. David's impressive writing credits include The Two Ronnies, Not the Nine O'Clock News, The Kenny Everett Television Show and Jonathan Creek.

    When Victor Meldrew (Richard Wilson) is made redundant from his security job, the sixty year old needs to find new pursuits to consume his days. This proves to be more difficult than you would expect, as a degree of chaos follows Victor's every move. His cantankerous personality also tends to put him at odds with everybody, as he struggles to cope with his retrenchment and to find a meaningful use for his increased leisure time.

     His cranky nature is balanced by the calm and level-headed patience of his wife, Margaret (Annette Crosbie). She mostly endures Victor's tantrums and misadventures, although at times even the calmest persona has limits.

    The regular cast for the first series is complete with Mrs Warboys (Doreen Mantle). She is a good friend to Margaret, but a minor irritation to Victor, as she offers them constant and often unwelcome advice.

    Over the ten year running period of the series more regular cast members were introduced and many special guest appearances were made.

    The series also spawned a famous catchphrase that would be widely known by devotees of the sitcom. In fact, actor Richard Wilson is still haunted by the words wherever he goes in Britain. It is interesting to note that we don't hear Victor's famous cry of "I don't believe it" until the last episode of this series.

    The premise of One Foot In The Grave is quite simple and seemingly rather common. Many of us will relate some of the characters in the series to people we know in everyday life. This is perhaps one of the qualities that made One Foot In The Grave such an enduring and respected sitcom.

Episode One: Alive And Buried (29:13)

    This episode introduces the main characters and sets up the basic premise for the entire collection of forty-four episodes. At the age of sixty, Victor is made redundant from his security job. With all this extra time on his hands, he can now concentrate on life's irritations. To stem his rage against the world, Margaret suggests he revive his old magic routine for Mrs Warboys' community group.

Episode Two: The Big Sleep (28:14)

    Victor is accused of flashing by a young female cleaner and is later confronted by two official looking gentlemen. Margaret convinces Victor to join her in an exercise and yoga group, with chaotic results. A medical reference book is fuelling Victor's hypochondriac tendencies.

Episode Three: The Valley Of Fear (29:03)

     Victor is mugged in town by a gang of football louts. He decides to call a meeting of local residents to discuss strategies, but are his suggestions really that sensible? A stray cat is discovered dead in the couple's freezer. Mrs Braddock arrives to pick up some jumble for the local fete and is unintentionally locked in the loft by Victor. A strange smell that is coming from near the sideboard has everyone talking.

Episode Four: I'll Retire To Bedlam (29:19)

    Victor and Margaret become trapped in the garden shed, unable to leave due to the presence of a swarm of bees. A visit to the optometrist proves to be a very long appointment for Victor. But even more joy awaits him at home - Margaret has arranged for him to baby-sit Iris's two young boys.

Episode Five: The Eternal Quadrangle (29:18)

    Margaret is not at all pleased about Victor's drawing of a nude female model in his art class. She's even less pleased when she finds out he gave her a lift home and that he has accepted a small job offer from her. Meanwhile Margaret is somewhat naive about some friendly interest in herself from another man. She later suspects Victor of having an affair with the model when she finds an open condom wrapper in his coat pocket.

Episode Six: The Return Of The Speckled Band (28:59)

    Victor and Margaret are looking forward to their holiday in Athens, despite Mrs Warsboys' less than subtle efforts to put them off. When Victor returns from the local plant nursery, he is unaware of the visitor curled up in his basket. A pet python is subsequently on the loose in the house. The python finds its way into many different openings around the house, especially an open suitcase ready for the Athens holiday. Richard unknowingly takes possession of a box of alligator eggs. With Mrs Warboys in bed, recovering from recent food poisoning, Richard delivers her a couple for breakfast.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer is, unfortunately, a little disappointing.

    The series is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.29:1 and is a full frame transfer. This disc is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer exhibited reasonable clarity, but was generally soft on the whole. Foreground images displayed acceptable levels of sharpness, while backgrounds had a definite softness. Blacks and shadows were average and displayed some low-level noise on occasions. With the source material being videotape, it's probably as good as we are likely to get from this medium anyway. I sampled this disc on a smaller 4x3 display and found a significant improvement in overall image quality when viewed on the smaller screen. Sharpness and the consistent quality of blacks and shadows were decidedly eroded on a larger 16x9 display.

    Colours were rather subdued and sometimes appeared washed out, giving the impression the series was many years older than it actually is. However, this is consistent with many BBC sitcoms made around this era, using the same source material. I certainly don't class this as a criticism, merely an observation.

    I found no evidence of MPEG artefacts. During the first episode, minor but noticeable noise reduction was evident throughout. This was noticed mainly in the faces of the characters and a couple of times on items of furniture. Thankfully, this problem did not persist and was only really noticeable during the first episode. Some minor edge enhancement was also noticed occasionally throughout the episodes, but wasn't a significant issue. There were no film artefacts.

    There are English subtitles for the hearing impaired on this DVD. They are presented in easy to read white and are very accurate.

    This is a single sided, dual layer disc. The layer change occurs at 14:30 during the fourth episode and is quite noticeable, but not overly disruptive.

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

Audio

    The audio transfer is quite acceptable.

    There is one audio track available on this DVD. English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    Dialogue quality is generally very good. I had no problems hearing and comprehending any of the dialogue throughout the series. Audio sync was also not an issue and appeared to be spot on.

    The music is credited to two people; the first is Eric Idle of Monty Python fame. He wrote and also sings the catchy theme from the series. The second, Ed Welch, is credited for the incidental music in the series.

    The surrounds and subwoofer were not used.

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

Extras

    The selection of extras on offer here is limited to one short featurette.

Menu

    The main menu is a static screen which is themed around the series. It is 16x9 enhanced and features a looped sample of Eric Idle's theme. Dolby Digital 2.0 (192 Kb/s) audio.

Featurette - Britain's Best Sitcom (13:30)

    Seemingly produced recently by the BBC, this extra appears to be part of a survey or competition that set out to find Britain's best sitcom. It's a worthy inclusion on this disc and features interviews with cast members and various others, discussing many aspects of the series. Small video grabs from the show are incorporated with the comments. Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) audio.

R4 vs R1

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

    At the time of this review, I could not find any reference to an R1 version of this first series of One Foot In The Grave.

Summary

    Finally, this much loved BBC sitcom is presented on DVD in the series format. Fans of One Foot In The Grave will appreciate the opportunity to view the series in order, from the beginning.

    If you view your DVDs on a large widescreen display, you may be a little disappointed in the quality of the video transfer. But, if you're a fan of the series, don't let that stop your purchase.

    The audio transfer is perfectly adequate.

    The only featured extra is a worthy and relevant inclusion on the DVD.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Friday, October 21, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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