on 19 April 2010
This 3 disc set collects all 22 episodes of this classic British sitcom, that frequently topped the ratings during its run between 1984-86; infact it scored consistently huge ratings throughout. Time seems to have eclipsed its success, often being (questionably) over-looked, but without a doubt, Duty Free is a true classic and certainly one of the best and most well-written sitcoms of its time. This excellent DVD collection will be sure to remind you why.
Written by Eric Chappell and Jean Warr, Duty Free is set at the San Remo hotel in sunny, glorious Spain (well, actually it was all filmed at Yorkshire TV studio's, though the wonderful 1986 Christmas special was actually filmed at the Costa Del Sol), following two couples holidaying there. David Pearce (Keith Barron) had been made redundant after 20 years of loyal service as a draughtsmen. Leaving a bitter taste in his mouth David decides to blow all his money on a fortnights 'package holiday' in Spain, taking his down-to-earth, witty wife Amy (Gwen Taylor) with him. David is a bit of a dreamer, while Amy is much more of a realist, with both feet firmly planted on the ground. Amy is delighted, though, to be in Spain with her husband, seeing it as a second honeymoon. However upon their arrival they meet another couple, the glamorous and beautiful Linda (Joanna Van Gyseghem) and stuffy, pompous and slightly eccentric Robert Cochran (Neil Stacy). A mutual attraction between David and Linda is apparent and whilst Robert remains ever-oblivious, Amy is determined to keep hold of her man. David becomes (annoyingly) pretentious and goes out of his way to impress the sophisticated Linda, much to Amy's annoyance. Amy's sharp, witty put-down's to David are delivered superbly by the loveable Gwen Taylor.
THE COMPETE FIRST SERIES
This disc contains the full first season: Viva Espana, El Macho, Praying Mantis, Spanish Lace, Bedroom Farce, Forty Love, Hasta La Vista. Series one is set in the first week of David, Amy, Linda and Robert's holiday in Spain. Each episode is great fun in a now, rather coy and old-fashioned way, though miraculously still flows and bubbles along brilliantly. Particular highlights in this first season is undoubtedly the episode titled Forty Love. In this episode, the romance between David the dreamer and the upper-crust Linda hots up. Linda had long since been frustated by Robert's lack of passion and adventure and she feels she has finally met her true love match in David, despite all the odds being against them, having come form completely different backgrounds. Despite this it seems nothing will stop them and as they finally kiss in Davids hotel room, who should walk in but Amy, catching them right in the act. The comic dialogue that follows is hilarious not least by the always impeccably-timed Gwen Taylor, who it must be noted here arguably stole the whole show with her sparkling performances. Also notably funny in this episode (and the entire series run infact!) is Carlos Douglas as the camp, jittering waitor who never fails to get a laugh. By the end of disc one, a question mark hangs over the future of David and Amy's marriage as David and Linda plan to run off into the sunset together....but several complicated obsticales are thrown in their path.
THE COMPLETE SECOND SERIES
Series two of Duty Free is even funnier and the first episode on disc two, Manana, picks up where the first season left off. Season two follows both couple's second week in Spain and despite not running away together in the end, the romance between David and Linda is far from over despite all their best efforts to keep it a secret. Other episodes on here are: Casino, Couples, Pepe, El Astro, Snap and Adios. The last episode of S2, Adios, is my favourite of this season as the fortnight of sun and sangria comes to an end though David and Linda try (unsuccessfully) for one final night of passion.
THE COMPLETE THIRD SERIES AND THE SPECIAL FEATURE LENGTH CHRISTMAS SPECIAL
And this third disc collects up the final 7 episodes and the vastly hilarious hour-long Christmas special. Series three is set 18 months later. David and Linda return to Spain to rekindle their romance. But typically, and amusingly, a suspicious Amy and always unsuspecting Robert arrive to throw all their plans in turmoil. The episodes in S3 are: WInter Break, Deja vu, Close Up, The Go Between, Costa Del Crime, Cause Celebre and Party Night. Another of my favourites is on this disc, Close Up, where Judith Chalmers and her entourage arrive at the San Remo hotel to do a piece on it for the Wish You Were Here tv programme and David, Amy, Linda and Robert all desperately (and hilariously) try and hog the limelight and be seen on camera. The finale of the series is Party Night which brings Duty Free full circle where David finally comes back down to earth and realises Amy is really the woman for him.
However the one-off Christmas special is a real treat, as loyal viewers of this classic sitcom finally get to see the real Spain (although Gwen Taylor's scenes were all filmed in London, much to her dismay, owing to theatrical commitments) which adds a slight touch of realism to the episode, plus no studio audience laughter either. While Amy wants to return home for Christmas to be with the kids, David persuades Amy to stay in Spain for the festive season, claiming it to be like another honeymoon for them which she is delighted with until she sees Linda and quickly sees through David's not-so-cunning scheme. A Duty Free Christmas is another of my personal favourites - you'll laugh out loud watching David dressed as Father Christmas trying hopelessly to ride a donkey in order to entertain the childrens Christmas carol choir. And you'll feel sorry for poor Amy as she tries in vain to have fun and get a party going in the true festive spirit only to realise its Linda her husband wants, not her. Watch out for the final-ever moment of Duty Free as Amy catches David and Linda trying to embark upon a secret rendezvous in a hotel room; the look on Gwen Taylor's face is priceless!
All in all, Duty Free was an undemanding sitcom - it's all comic misunderstandings, hiding under beds and in wardrobes, and several botched attempts at bed-hopping, but it's these light-hearted elements of the series that makes it so refreshing. The cast are all engaging, turning in great comic performances and there's much witty repartee to enjoy here. So this DVD set is most definitely worth purchasing for those that enjoy classic British comedy - perfect viewing for a rainy day or a lazy Sunday afternoon. An underated comic gem.