GOODNIGHT SWEETHEART - THE COMPLETE
Region 2 Edition
Nicholas Lyndhurst, Dervla Kerwin, Michelle Holmes
Goodnight Sweetheart is an amiable
fantasy sitcom about a TV repair man, Gary Sparrow (Only Fools and
Horses' Nicholas Lyndhurst) who discovers he's able to travel back in
time to London during the World War II, where he engages in an flirtatious relationship
with a barmaid (Ballykissangel's Dervla Kerwin). Gary confides to
his best friend, printer Ron Wheatcroft (Bread's Victor McGuire),
and they conspire to keep the secret from Gary's wife, Yvonne (Michelle
The show was created by Laurence Marks and
Maurice Gran, two of the UK's most successful comedy writers, with series
like The New Statesman and Love Hurts peppering their
The DVD features the first six half-hour
episodes of the series: Rites of Passage, Fools Rush In,
Is Your Journey Really Necessary?, The More I See You, I Get
Along Without You Very Well and In The Mood. (Many of the
episodes were named after songs of the 1940s).
Many people will assume that Goodnight
Sweetheart is a BBC production, but it was actually an early example
of a series made for the BBC by an independent company (Alomo Productions,
the company behind other Marks and Gran sitcoms, including Birds of a Feather,
and another series that dearly deserves a DVD release, Nightingales).
This also explains why the two series were released on VHS by Select Video
The series was shot on videotape, and, as a
relatively recent production, you wouldn't expect the episodes to exhibit
any significant problems.
There's a touch of ringing (ghosting),
which is most evident on areas of high contrast, and a touch of underlying
analogue video noise, both flaws that are typical of material of this age
and provenance. There are also occasional
glitches (moments where the chroma disappears for a frame or two, and the
odd minor tape dropout), but no serious flaws.
The wartime sequences were purposefully
drained of colour (especially the blue part of the spectrum). This is
explained in the commentary track for the first episode. The effect is not
unlike watching an old Eastmancolor film, and quite appealing.
The bitrate is a virtually constant
4.57Mb/s. Three hours
of videotape material and almost an hour of bonus material is pushing the limit
of what is acceptable for a single dual-layer disc, and it shows. There are many patches where the MPEG
encoding struggles a little, but it's tolerable with this sort of
Subsequent seasons are all ten episodes
long, and will presumably be split across two discs. Two DVD9s, each
containing five episodes, would allow a better bitrate. It would be
unfortunate if Revelation decided to try a 6/4 split, using a DVD9 and a
DVD5, as that wouldn't allow for any improvement. Of course, it might be
that subsequent seasons might not feature an hour's worth of bonus
material, and the space used for that here would be freed up.
The audio (presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital
format, at 192kbps) is typical of a studio-based production of this era.
Dialogue is generally clear and distinct, and the period-style music
(provided, we're told, by a composer who specialised in
Glenn Miller-style pastiche) is free from distortion. The mix is
characteristically un-ambitious, though, and exhibits the usual dynamic range
limitations of most modern television productions.
It's worth noting that the episodes are
apparently identical to the versions originally transmitted (albeit with
updated end logo's - a regrettable necessity). References to Princess
Diana, which might have been removed on the grounds of poor taste, are
The sleeve makes a point of mentioning that the "DVD features all the original
music from the TV series": no mean feat considering it includes snatches
of popular tunes like Elton John's My Song. (One of the show's
running jokes is that Gary is able to take credit in the 1940s for
composing popular tunes that wouldn't actually be written for decades).
Either Alomo was very foresighted in getting rights clearance for home
video exploitation, or Revelation has some very canny negotiators! It will
be interesting to see if Revelation are able to maintain this pledge with later episodes, which feature tracks by The
Beatles that are notoriously difficult to clear. Keep your fingers crossed
that the rest of the series escapes unscathed!
Another grouch - the episodes themselves
have no chapter marks. Perhaps this is done on purpose, to keep the
authoring as simple as possible (perhaps working on the erroneous
assumption that if you have chaptering, you have to have a separate menu
screen to access them). It's not a big deal, but it would be nice to have
them (especially if there was one just after the opening title sequence,
to make it easier to skip to the beginning of the action, if you were
watching more than one episode back-to-back).
There are no subtitles.
THE BONUS MATERIAL
There are commentary tracks by Marks and
Gran on all six episodes. The commentary on the first episode, Rites
of Passage, does a good job of filling in some of the background to the
series, explaining where Marks and Gran got the idea for the show; how
they chose the cast and key crew members; and how they established the look of
the series. The commentary becomes patchier during subsequent episodes.
When there's no commentary, audio from the programme itself can be heard,
and sometimes the lulls in the commentary are so long that you might be
surprised when an ethereal voice suddenly interrupts the dialogue. It may have been wiser to
have reduced the number of episodes with commentary, or added other
contributors. It would also have helped if the writers had re-acquainted
themselves with the
episodes beforehand. One of them mentions that they probably haven't seen
the episodes since they originally aired, and it often seems like the
writers get too caught up watching what's going on to say anything.
The disc also features a videotaped
interview with Marks and Gran (56m). Although they grew up in the same
area (Finsbury Park, London), and are more or less the same age (both were
born just after the Second World War), they didn't really get together
until they met on holiday in the mid-60s.
The interview takes the form of a simple
question and answer session, where the questions are posed by on-screen
captions. It's well worth watching, and full of interesting information.
Most of it is related to Goodnight Sweetheart, but it
strays into other areas, and other shows, including another Marks and Gran
wartime series Shine On Harvey Moon. They also have some
interesting comments about how the BBC used to commission comedy series,
and how this
has changed over the years. They pointedly note that Goodnight
Sweetheart didn't really take off with viewers until the first series
was repeated, by which time the second had already been commissioned, and
was only weeks away from being transmitted. They also explain how their
writing partnership works, and have some nuggets of advice for aspiring
Viewers who are new to Goodnight
Sweetheart should note that there are some major spoilers about the
series' cast changes during the commentary and interview.
It would have been very easy for Revelation
to issue the series without any bonus material at all. A very large percentage
of their customers will probably have bought the series without any
extras. It's also worth noting that the disc has a very reasonable RRP
(£15.99), and, if it follows the pattern set by most other Redemption
titles, it won't be very long before it's very cheap indeed.
The Goodnight Sweetheart disc proves
that Revelation has come a long way since the label's early days. Despite
a few minor technical grumbles, and some criticism of the patchy
commentary tracks, this is a perfectly fine DVD. With a bit of tweaking,
subsequent releases in the series might be virtually perfect.