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The Beiderbecke Trilogy: The Complete Series [DVD]
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The entire comedy drama series from Alan Plater. In 'The Beiderbecke Affair' (1984), woodwork teacher and jazz buff Trevor Chaplin (James Bolam) has always fantasized that a beautiful blonde will enter his life and simultaneously provide him with rare recordings of his hero Bix Beiderbecke. Unlikely as it seems, this is just what happens one evening when Trevor is at home in his flat. It is an encounter which will ultimately involve him and his colleague, independent political campaigner Jill Swinburne (Barbara Flynn), in exploding lawnmowers, political corruption and the strange world of 'black economists' Big Al (Terence Rigby) and Little Norm (Danny Schiller). In 'The Beiderbecke Tapes' (1987) Trevor and Jill find themselves plunged into another jazz-related mystery when the former purchases some Bix Beiderbecke tapes from a pub barman. Jill is intrigued when one of the tapes contains a conversation about the planned dumping of nuclear waste in the Yorkshire Dales, her curiosity being roused still further by the discovery that the barman who sold Trevor the tapes has now gone missing... The intrepid duo soon find themselves up to their necks in trouble once more as their investigation takes them from the relative safety of Yorkshire to the mean streets of Amsterdam and Edinburgh. In the final part of the trilogy, 'The Beiderbecke Connection' (1988), Trevor and Jill are still living together, and they now have a baby boy to look after as well. Their household is increased still further when old friend Big Al asks them to take in a refugee as a favour; Trevor is reluctant until he discovers that his new guest is, like him, an ardent jazz fan. However, this visitor is only the first of many who will involve Trevor and Jill in yet more intrigue and deception.
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The entertainment 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. 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. Dudley Sutton (Lovejoy - The Complete Lovejoy Collection [DVD] ) has a supporting role as Mr. Carter, history teacher, at the dilapidated local school, known as San Quentin High, where they work. Further adding greatly to the fun is Terence Rigby (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy : Complete BBC Series  [DVD]) as Big Al. And Dominic Jephcott (Scarlet Pimpernel - The Complete Series 1 & 2 [DVD]), who begins the series as Detective Sergeant Hobson, ends it as Detective Inspector Hobson, PhD, and says, memorably, that he finds above all, the "most dark impenetrable mystery to be the psychology of Yorkshire." Other notable supporting stars are Beryl Reid, (TINKER TAILOR), Colin Blakely (Love Among the Ruins) and James Grout.
THE BEIDERBECKE AFFAIR is about the "grey" economy (the buying and selling of "legitimate" merchandise, without the bother of taxes, nor the upkeep of a shop).Trevor purchases some Beiderbecke jazz records--and I do mean vinyl records--from, oddly enough, a beautiful blond selling door to door. This unorthodox purchase, predictably, does not go as he expected. And then Chaplin discovers that the people he's bought the records from are under police surveillance. In short order, he and his partner Jill, find themselves making midnight assignations on multi-story car parks. They find they must deal with corruption and collusion between big business, the local council and the police.
THE BEIDERBECKE TAPES, the second series, was to me the weakest of the three. The tape, supposedly of Beiderbecke music that is at the center of the story is two degrees removed from any sort of reality. And there's just not much going on.
THE BEIDERBECKE CONNECTION, the third series, was the most enjoyable to me. It's much more reality-based, for a start. In it, Trevor and Jill, now settled down, and parents of a darling baby boy, agree to take in the Russian refugee Ivan, who is not so terrible, for the night. But Ivan comes trailing a significant back story that interests the police, and influences the couple's lives.
Of course, the mysteries move along in a leisurely, gentle British fashion that 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, furthermore, we hear solos by jazz great Kenny Baker. Alan Plater's credits include Last Of The Blonde Bombshells [DVD] ; Oliver's Travels, and A Very British Coup . 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, not to be taken too seriously, served up with heaping helpings of charm and whimsy. It may remind a viewer of the zany mysteries of the 1930s and `40s, Nick and Nora falling a couple of ranks socially and economically, but still having fun. Most viewers will too.
Get Alan Plater to write, James Bolam and Barbara Flynn to act, throw in good direction, wonderful music (says the heavy metal fan), and a varied Yorkshire back-drop ............ mix well, and leave to mature.
Ta - da............ The Beiderbecke Trilogy.
Think back to a gentler time (the mid 80's). A time of fewer cars, TV with 'only' 4 channels to choose from and, I'll swear, longer and hotter summers. So, sit back and relax with a glass of your favourite wine as you put your feet up and enjoy an object lesson in how things work - You don't have people racing maniacally round and effing and blinding every time they speak - you just get a wonderful beautifully written and beautifully played nice gentle humour with nary a swear word in sight!
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