JOKING APART - THE COMPLETE FIRST SERIES

Region 2 (UK) Edition

Director Bob Spiers

Starring: Robert Bathurst, Fiona Gillies, Tracie Bennett, Paul Raffield

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 Hollywood fluff-fests.

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 here. The disc is highly recommended.

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