Do you remember a 1993 BBC sitcom called
Joking Apart? It was about the courtship, marriage and eventual
break-up of young couple, played by Cold Feet's Robert Bathurst and
Mother Love's Fiona Gillies. It was a semi-autobiographical story,
created and written by Steven Moffat, who would later create the
considerably more successful Coupling. Joking Apart has a
more cynical edge than Coupling, but it feels very similar, and
features many of the same themes and obsessions.
Craig Robins remembers Joking Apart.
In fact, his admiration for it spurred him to license the series from the
BBC, and release it on DVD on a brand new label, Replay. That's what you
call putting your money where your mouth is!
Using his technical background in
broadcasting, Robins has painstakingly re-mastered the tapes, giving them
a much more thorough going-over than many companies presenting archive
television usually manage.
He's also put together a package of
worthwhile bonus materials. It seems that virtually everyone involved with
the show was very proud of it, and was willing to contribute.
Stars Robert Bathurst, Fiona Gillies and
Tracie Bennett, and Steven
Moffat (currently basking in the praise
for his recent Doctor Who story, The Girl in the Fireplace),
feature are all present to support the release.
The disc features entertaining commentary
tracks for four of the six half-hour episodes. The actors have a good
rapport, and genuinely seem happy to be seeing the series again. The
tracks are held together by Moffat, who has a good memory for detail, and
offers plenty of production background information. There's no slack in
the commentaries at all.
The disc also includes a a fine
twenty-minute featurette, Fool If You Think It's Over (named after
the show's theme song). This is a streamlined account of the creation and
production of the series, and its subsequent broadcast and public
reception. The usual actorish back-slapping is kept to a minimum. In half
an hour it packs in more bona fide information than a dozen
The net result is a disc that's easily as
professional as any equivalent title from any other label, and one that's
better than you see from many companies! The series is presented in its
original 4:3 format, with standard BBC stereo audio.
The picture quality is very good, with
very, very few tape-related glitches. There are no significant encoding or
authoring issues. Although this is an independently-produced title, there
are English SDH subtitles for those that require them, on the episodes.
(It's probably a requirement of the BBC's license). Take note, Network!
If you're a fan of Coupling, or just
want to check out a relatively obscure, tightly-written, witty sitcom, get
hold of a copy.
Needless to say, creating this disc must
have cost Replay a substantial amount of money. Replay deserves your
support. If the Joking Apart disc is a success, then hopefully
they'll release the second season. They're also open to suggestions from
their customer base as to what titles they'd like to see on DVD.
The disc isn't available from the usual
sources - it's only available from Replay directly. You can find them
The disc is highly recommended.