The New Statesman-Series 1 (1987)
|Year Of Production||1987|
|Running Time||171:13 (Case: 170)|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (86:09)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Geoffrey Sax|
Universal Pictures Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes, mildly|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
I'll admit it right now - I am just as much a fan of The Young Ones as every half-intelligent human being who lived during the heyday of Pop and the dawn of mass consumer acceptance for the VCR (and gawd what a funny episode that was!). As a result, I am always keen to see a new comedy programme from any of the five leads from that show, be it a piece of vulgarity such as Bottom, or political satire like The New Statesman. The New Statesman could roughly be summarised as a satire of politics in post-Thatcher England, but some of the situations that its main character finds himself in are so timeless that they could be transferred to any society in any era - especially a pseudo-democracy such as Australia.
The New Statesman concerns itself with the squirming adventures of one Alan B'Stard (Rik Mayall), a representative from the Conservative party who has just been elected to the House of Commons. B'Stard (pronounced with a very short B for those who are wondering) has a very simple policy regarding anything that crosses his path - those who can serve his own best interests get whatever they want. If it involves selling the Police Force guns that explode when the trigger is pulled, or dumping nuclear waste in a tunnel under a school, so be it. The result is actually a very clever satire of British politics, the Conservative party in general, and a few elements thereof which I won't spoil for those who have yet to see this fine programme. While some of the jokes are very British-relevant, most of them will go over just as well with Australian audiences, especially those who have seen the posters for Fred Nile's so-called Christian Democratic Party hanging around on telephone poles in their area.
Those who are expecting to see a grown-up version of Mayall's character from The Young Ones will be very disappointed, but this is more than compensated for by just how unpleasantly mean this new character can be. The episodes that appear on this disc are as follows:
To be very honest, I feel this programme is best watched one episode at a time, as watching the whole three-hour season in one hit can be somewhat tiring. While the stories are outright hilarious at points, they can tend to grate a little, as Rik Mayall is virtually carrying the whole show, which results in a certain lack of variation in the routine. However, all of these episodes are utterly hilarious in their own right, and the behaviour on offer from all sides of the political circle will have you shaking your head in disbelief that this country ever ruled nearly half of the planet's surface.
The New Statesman appears to have been shot using video for the indoor sequences, and sixteen millimeter film for the outdoor sequences. This particular arrangement, which is typical of British television, does not result in the best of transfers, although this is certainly not too bad, all things considered.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced.
This transfer is not going to win any awards for sharpness. While the indoor sequences are reasonably sharp and defined, the outdoor sequences often look rather indistinct. Most of the sequences that advance the story were shot in a studio, anyway, but occasionally the transfer looks murky enough to look like a recycled videotape. The shadow detail is adequate when called for, and there is no low-level noise.
The colours in this transfer are acceptably rendered. There is some dot crawl in the titles, but no other major problems were noted.
MPEG artefacts were not apparent in this transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were occasionally observed, generally consisting of some minor shimmer in the fine lines of props or locations such as the outside of the television studio. Vertical lines that look like minor videotape dropouts appear in the picture at regular intervals. One example can be seen at 5:50 during Happiness Is A Warm Gun, but they are a fairly constant nuisance. At a guess, I'd say that these artefacts are inherent in the videotapes that were used to shoot the episodes. Film artefacts are plentiful during the sequences that were shot on film, and some of them were quite distracting.
There are no subtitles of any kind on this disc.
This disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change taking place at 86:09. Since the series is presented as one long title, rather than allocating a title to each episode as has been done with The Black Adder, this is acceptable. The pause occurs just before Rik Mayall says "What have you two been chatting about?", and it is noticeable, more because of the placement than anything else.
There is only one soundtrack on this DVD: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 kilobits per second.
The dialogue is generally quite easy to understand, although there are some moments, such as when Rik Mayall is whispering into his mobile phone at 108:09, where some effort is required to understand what is being said. Dialogue intelligibility was also a little bit of an issue during the announcement of the election results in Happiness Is A Warm Gun. There are no problems with audio sync.
The music in this series is credited to Alan Hawkshaw, and it is quite appropriate for the theme of the series. The most notable piece of score music in this series appears in the credits, and it does a great job of contrasting the image that British parliament would like to present to the world with the childish, infighting reality. A Dire Straits number also makes an appearance towards the end of Happiness Is A Warm Gun.
The surround channels were not engaged by this soundtrack. There are precious few sound effects in the programme, so they were not missed.
The subwoofer didn't get a look-in at all. It was missed mainly because it would have made some of the sound effects for car crashes and exploding guns seem more real, but for the most part, it could have been turned off and nobody would have known the difference.
|Surround Channel Use|
A grand total of nothing. It would have been nice to get some commentary from Rik Mayall, but I guess that will have to wait until someone brings out a 25th Anniversary edition of The Young Ones.
The menu is static, prone to showing shimmer around the edges of objects (especially text), and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. There is no menu for selecting specific episodes, only scenes.
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 title appears to be pretty similar to the Region 4 version. This title does not appear to be available in Region 1 as yet.
The New Statesman is a British political comedy that is so good that it transcends the boundaries of the British system, and contains tidbits that can well be considered relevant in just about every so-called First World nation. Rik Mayall is at his snivelling, scheming best here, although the supporting cast do not give him a lot to work with, and as a result, he is carrying the series pretty much on his own. Still, those who like to see how decisions are really made will get a good laugh out of this.
The video transfer is pretty ordinary, mostly because of the source materials.
The audio transfer is a flat stereo soundtrack that does the job.
There are no extras.
|DVD||Toshiba 2109, using S-Video output|
|Display||Samsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Sony STR DE-835|
|Speakers||Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer|