Thin Blue Line, The Complete (1995)

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Released 7-Nov-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 438:15 (Case: 441)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Birkin
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Rowan Atkinson
David Haig
James Dreyfus
Mina Anwar
Rudolph Walker
Case Amaray-Opaque-Dual-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Howard Goodall


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

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

Plot Synopsis

   Originally broadcast from November 1995 until December 1996, this short-lived series, written by Ben Elton and starring Rowan Atkinson, is about life at a fictitious police station in Gasforth. Atkinson, as the sexually-repressed and totally boring Inspector Fowler, tries to keep the peace, not only with the local population, but also with his long suffering girlfriend of 10 years, Sergeant Patricia Dawkins (Serena Evans). His opposite number in CID is Detective Inspector Grim (David Haig), a frustrated man who is constantly trying to get one up on Fowler by making himself out to be a go-getter on the up.

   Among the rest of the local constabulary is PC Goody (James Dreyfus), the effeminate constable who is always trying to get into PC Habib's (Mina Anwar) pants. She, in the meantime, is the ultimate in left-wing feminists, and wants nothing to do with Goody's advances. Rounding out Fowler's uniformed officers is PC Gladstone (Rudolph Walker - Love Thy Neighbour) as the old-time copper with a story for every occasion. On the CID front, Grim is backed up by the wise-cracking DC Kray (Kevin Allen) in Series 1, and by the pudgy, but ultimate sex machine (in his mind anyway), DC Boyle (Mark Addy - Full Monty) in Series 2.

   The show takes a while to get used to. It is traditional English humour, as you'd expect from the pen of Ben Elton, but it doesn't quite have the panache or style of the BlackAdder series. Still, it does grow on you, slowly at first. As you become more used to the characters, it does lend itself to some funny situations, and a couple of real belly laughs. All-in-all, it's another in a long line of British comedies that may tickle your funny bone.

Disc 1 - Series 1, 7 episodes

    Rag Week - 29:03
    It's Rag Week at the local university and the students are up to their usual pranks, including sending fake terrorist notes, and prancing about in tutus and gorilla masks. Inspector Fowler is having his usual problems with his girlfriend Patricia (Sgt Dawkins), and can't find time to visit the local bank to sort out a standing order. DI Grim is at his stupidest, seeing international conspiracies in every prank note he receives.

    The Queen's Birthday Present - 28:54
    It's the Queen's birthday, and Inspector Fowler and Sgt Dawkins' 10th anniversary. Fowler is more interested in buying a present for the Queen than for his beloved, which does nothing for Patricia's sensibilities, or her demeanour.

    Night Shift - 28:30
    Our favourite bobbies are doing the night shift, and the locals are out in force breaking the law. Sgt Dawkins is having her own problems with a lack of sexual satisfaction. She insists on seeing a sex therapist. Meanwhile, Fowler's son comes to visit for two weeks.

    Honey Trap - 29:04
    It is the semi-final of the Gasforth Pub Trivia challenge, and Fowler and his team are into the finals, with a thrilling win which he can't get over. DI Grim, meantime, has come up with an idea for a honey trap, and needs the assistance of PC Habib for some undercover work. This threatens Fowler's attempt to win the trivia contest; he realises he's going to lose his best two players because of Grim's determination to go ahead with the sting.

    Fire and Terror - 28:45
    A local fire brigade is in action and PC Habib is totally taken by one of the local firemen. This causes PC Goody no end of angst, since he can't hope to match up to the fireman's macho image, no matter how hard he tries. Back at the station, crank callers keep Inspector Fowler busy and DI Grim is co-ordinating with Scotland Yard on Operation Bang-Bang to bring in a mad bomber.

    Kid's Today - 28:41
    Fowler announces that Gasforth Station is to host the next Sub-District Regional Police Conference, and he wants to come up with an initiative on youth crime. He decides on a camping trip, which puts a severe dent in DI Grim's attempt to nick the local youth when he takes off with them to a camp run by Brigadier Blastasump, who's loopier than a fruit bat.

    Yuletide Spirit - 29:00
    Inspector Fowler has an interest in amateur theatrics, and reads for the part of Captain Hook in a local version of Peter Pan. Much to his chagrin, the part goes to DI Grim, and Fowler instead gets to play the part of the Crocodile, and become Grim's understudy. It is now Christmas Eve, and PC Goody is handing out his Christmas presents, but gets them mixed up. He gives Inspector Fowler some sexy underwear, and PC Habib a puncture repair kit. Naturally, this raises Fowler's suspicions, and he confronts Goody, but is placated by the obvious error. Sgt Dawkins though, compounds the problem, when she sees the underwear on Fowler's desk and believes it's for her, becoming all aroused.

Disc 2 - Series 2, 7 episodes

   Series 2 sees the departure of DC Kray (Kevin Allen), to be replaced by DC Boyle (Mark Addy). There is a small monologue by Inspector Fowler as a preface to what each episode is about.

    Court in the Act - 32:25
    CID are after a desperate criminal named Harry the Spike. The Home Office have decreed that officers shall have a new change of uniform, but it's not official yet, and PC Goody is asked the model the new look. Harry is brought to justice when some suspicious powder is found stuffed behind his cooker. Meantime Sgt Dawkins is in one of her moods (which seem to occur every four weeks or so), and Fowler is trying his best to prepare Goody for cross-examination which he will encounter during the trial.

    Ism Ism Ism - 35:30
    Sgt Dawkins has a problem. Surveillance tapes seem to indicate a crime being committed, but since the tapes catch the act while being used for another purpose, it would be illegal to use them as evidence. Meantime the Lady Mayoress wants Fowler to prepare to arrest an illegal alien, and demands his police officers take courses in ISM's. DI Grim, on the other hand, is preparing to take another form of test to become a Todger (like the Freemasons).

    Fly on the Wall - 29:41
    Fowler has managed to reject all 92 applications for firearms licences (something we should be doing) that have so far crossed his desk, and DI Grim isn't well pleased. The BBC meantime have decided to do a 'Fly on the Wall' documentary about the Gasforth Station, and everyone ends up falling over themselves in an effort to doll up for the camera.

    Alternative Culture - 32:04
    The female lavatory at the station house is out of commission. The men must share their locker room with the women, which causes some friction. Naturally DI Grim is not amused, although the others take it more philosophically. CID have a tip-off that a local rave party will have drugs on the premises, so Grim co-opts some of Fowler's officers to assist. PC Habib's sister is back in town, and has changed from a quiet shy girl into a right raver. Habib runs foul of Grim during the rave raid, attempting to cover up for her sister.

    Come on You Blues - 32:07
    Policing the local Saturday afternoon football games is one of the regular duties of the station. While waiting for the match to begin, PC Habib decides to expound her left-wing theories on the socially sanitised homo-erotic ritual called football. The football team, on the other hand, is managing to win a few games, and suddenly the town is in an uproar when they are drawn to meet Chelsea in a round of the FA Cup. The Mayoress wants total order to impress visiting dignitaries, and CID are hoping to score big by rounding up visiting hooligans. While all this is happening, Sgt Dawkins is being harassed by labourers as she visits the local bank.

    Road Rage - 33:46
    Patricia (Sgt Dawkins) has taken 2 weeks annual leave, and intends to use it protesting the local bypass planned through Gasforth. Naturally her boyfriend Inspector Fowler is aghast, but powerless to stop her. He doesn't believe roaming around a forest using the name Squirrel is worthy of her time, but she goes anyway. At the station, Fowler tries to role-play for his troops a scenario in which they arrest a protester without using violence. A communiqué arrives with news that M.I.5 have infiltrated the protestors, looking for subversives and agitators, leaving Fowler with a sense of dread at Patricia's ultimate fate.

    The Green-Eyed Monster - 40:45
    It's budget time and DI Grim is annoyed that all his high-powered training is being wasted on toilet paper counting. Sgt Dawkins and PC Goody are part of the same aerobics class, and not doing too well. Goody invests in an abs-trainer. Fowler and Grim, meantime, are awaiting the promotions board, who, Grim assures him, are looking for stable, married men for promotion, not Inspectors who are still living with their girlfriends. Fowler therefore decides to ask Patricia to marry him, but botches it up totally.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Being a fairly recent show you'd expect a decent transfer to DVD, but this was made for the BBC. Still, apart from a few minor inconsistencies, this is relatively good, although not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.

    Made for TV, this is shown in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and not 16x9 enhanced.

    The term out of focus comes to mind (eg: Caught in the Act - 10:38, Sgt Dawkins' face) watching the various episodes in the series. Not all the time, but long shots have that slight touch of blurriness, enough to give you a slight headache if you end up watching all 7 hours in one long session .Shadow detail is fairly inconsequential for the most part, since most of the action takes place on two or three static staged sets. Where it does come in is in any outdoors shots and then it's quite decent. Grain was surprisingly light and unnoticeable and low-level noise was not an issue.

   Given the limitations of the set construction, there was a fairly decent palette used, for good variety. The colours are deep and visually satisfying, with real crispness in the whites and excellent skin tones. There is colour bleed, if you look closely, in almost every episode (eg: Fly on the Wall - 27:40 on the wall signs). Chroma noise was not an issue.

   Some macro blocking, possibly caused by cross colouration, is visible from time to time (The Green Eyed Monster - 23:27, Sgt Dawkins necktie between the cross-hatch) although you'll need to look hard to see most of them (and be quick). Surprisingly, no film artefacts were visible in the entire series. Aliasing can be seen in almost every episode, although most of the time it doesn't get worse than a shimmering effect (Yuletide Spirit - 3:34 on the glass door) although where it does become full blown (Alternative Culture - 2:33, on the lockers and wire mesh) you'll probably end up noticing a moiré effect as well (The Queen's Birthday Present - 1:30, on the Venetians in this and every other episode where they are visible).

   There were no subtitles on these discs.

   No layer changes were noted on either disc.

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

Audio

    There is only one soundtrack available on these discs, English Dolby Digital 2.0 at a bit-rate of 192 kilobits per second. The sound is adequate, considering that this was meant for TV. The only real separation offered is the laugh track, which is spread across the fronts, while the dialogue was from the centre. Otherwise, this acts almost strictly as a mono soundtrack.

    There is one minor syncing issue in Come on You Blue at 31:16, where some bad dubbing can be detected on some Asian guests. Otherwise, everything looked fine. Dialogue was fairly clean and concise.

    Within the opening and closing credits is where the music lies. Otherwise, it was notably absent. Composed by veteran Howard Goodall, who has a list of other British comedy music tracks to his credit, it is light, airy and suits the tone of the show perfectly.

    No surround nor subwoofer activity was present.

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

Extras

     There are no extras on these discs.

R4 vs R1

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

    There doesn't appear to be a Region 1 release of this DVD, although it is available in Region 2. No details were available as to the Region 2 release, but what I could glean seems to indicate a similarity of releases: no extras there, either. Given that this is a BBC release, it is likely the two are identical.

Summary

     Another typical British comedy, competently done, and mildly amusing, without being over the top. The style of writer Ben Elton is there for all to see, and Rowan Atkinson makes the most of the material for some good laughs. A decent cast makes it that much more watchable, although it's easy to see why the series petered out. Still, a more enjoyable 7 odd hours of entertainment is hard to find for fans of genre comedy.

    Decent video with some minor problems.

    Adequate audio that you'd expect from a TV production.

    No extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Wednesday, December 18, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD5300, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
Film artefacts - John R