Customer Review

4.0 out of 5 stars I Liked This One Best of the Series, 16 Mar. 2011
This review is from: The Beiderbecke Connection [VHS] (VHS Tape)
"The Beiderbecke Connection," (2003), a box set of a light-hearted British television mystery/comedy/drama series, was made by Yorkshire Television for Britain's Independent Television stations (ITV). It's a sequel to The Beiderbecke Affair and The Beiderbecke Tapes, set in Yorkshire as were they, and was created by the award-winning Alan Plater, one of Britain's more prolific, entertaining writers. It broadcast on American public television stations (PBS), following its two predecessors. The series consists of four episodes, each taking place immediately after the other, and runs approximately 204 minutes.

Unfortunately, there are no subtitles. And the cast, from stars James Bolam and Barbara Flynn - each of whom has frequently appeared in entertainments set in this part of the world, Bolam in The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner [DVD] [1962], among others; and Flynn in Cracker Complete Collection [DVD] [1993], and Cranford : Complete BBC Series [2007] [DVD]), among others --down to the bit players, has been encouraged to trot out their local accents. It makes for tough going for some of us, who may miss some of the witty byplay among the characters. But the plot is easy enough to follow.

The entertainment, as its predecessors, centers on a pair of wisecracking Leeds schoolteachers (and we don't often see Leeds on our side of the pond), caught up in some amateur sleuthing. And much is made of the inadequate funding of British schools, leading to the possibility that the pair is receiving stolen school equipment from friends and contacts. At any rate, the pair has settled down, and is raising their first child, a darling baby boy whom they're calling "Firstborn" because they can't agree on a real name. Jill Swinburne (Flynn) teaches English and wants to save the world. Trevor Chaplin (Bolam) is a befuddled but witty everyman, who teaches woodworking and loves jazz, particularly Bix Beiderbecke, a 1920s American jazz great. The couple agrees to take in, for friends, overnight, an immigrant boarder named Ivan (Patrick Drury), who is said to be not so terrible. And Ivan shares Trevor's love of Beiderbecke. But Ivan also has a past that comes back to haunt him and his friendly hosts in this offbeat comedy-drama.

Dudley Sutton (Lovejoy - The Complete Lovejoy Collection [DVD] [2004]) repeats his supporting role as Mr. Carter, history teacher, at the dilapidated local high school, known as San Quentin High. We meet some entertaining new characters, a couple of lazy cops who seem to have wandered in from Miami Vice - The Complete Collection [DVD]; Jill's ex-husband, always short of money. Further adding greatly to the fun is the return of some favorites from the first series. Terence Rigby (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy : Complete BBC Series [1979] [DVD]) as Big Al; his brother Little Norm; Mr. Pitt, former town planner, now owner of the jazz club the Village Vanguard (of beloved memory to some New Yorkers, and former New Yorkers). And Dominic Jephcott (Scarlet Pimpernel - The Complete Series 1 & 2 [DVD]), formerly Detective Sergeant Hobson, now Detective Inspector Hobson, PhD, who says, memorably, that he finds above all, the "most dark impenetrable mystery to be the psychology of Yorkshire."

The episodes in this series are:
1. Oh look-- it's average sized Trevor Chapman. The pair come back in contact with Big Al and Little Norm, who ask them to take Ivan in for the night. The next night the couple is asked to take Ivan to the Lincolnshire border.
2. Hello, Sir, Hello Miss. But Ivan returns the next day, and the couple are asked to take him to the Lancashire border. Trevor and Jill realize they are under police surveillance, and spend an evening at Mr. Pitt's jazz club.
3. Is he the lodger? We find out more about Ivan, and Jill's ex. DI Hobson explains why the house is under surveillance.
4. What do we have on hockey sticks? Problems with petty thefts that seem to be related to the school. Everybody takes a trip to the seaside. Trevor concludes there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who hear the music, and those who don't.

I actually liked this series best; it's my favorite of the three. Of course, the mystery moves along in a leisurely, gentle British fashion. It may be too slow for some viewers. But the banter's consistently wry and witty. So is the rollicking sound track, inspired by Beiderbecke's work, by the BAFTA award-winning musician Frank Ricotti: on the track, we hear solos by jazz great Kenny Baker. Ricotti and his All-Stars, in fact, are playing at Mr. Pitt's jazz club, the Village Vanguard, the night everyone is there: or at least a hand-printed poster says so. Alan Plater's credits include The Last of the Blonde Bombshells; Oliver's Travels, and A Very British Coup [1988]. He wrote the scripts for this trilogy based on his own novel. There is no onscreen violence, nor sex, for that matter. All concerned keep their clothes on, which is probably just as well, as all concerned are at least middle aged. And for some of us, a middle aged romance is really rewarding. The script is as light in weight as the production is light of heart, served up with heaping helpings of charm and whimsy, reminiscent of the zany mysteries of the 1930s and `40s. To me, this time, it's last and most likable.
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