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Ever Decreasing Circles - Complete Collection [DVD]
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All four series of the popular British television comedy. Richard Briers plays Martin Bryce, well-meaning local busybody and enthusiastic convener of his suburban residents' association, and Penelope Wilton stars as Ann, his long-suffering wife. The only threat to Martin's settled existence is the presence of his new neighbour Paul (Peter Egan), a younger man who might just be paying too much attention to Martin's wife, and who always seems to get the better of him in any exchange.Episodes from series one are: 'The New Neighbour', 'Taking Over', 'A Strange Woman', 'Holiday Plans' and 'Vicars and Tarts'. Episodes from series two are: 'The Tea Party', 'The Cricket Match', 'A Married Man', 'Housework', 'Snooker', 'Boredom', 'The Psychiatrist' and 'The Party'. Episodes from series three are: 'Manure', 'One Night Stand', 'House to Let', 'Local Hero', 'The Campaign' and 'Cavaliers and Roundheads'. Episodes from series four are: 'Relaxation', 'Goodbye, Paul?', 'Stuck in a Loft', 'Neighbourhood Watch', 'The Footpath', 'Jumping to Conclusions' and 'Half an Office'.
Written by the successful team of John Esmonde and Bob Larbey (The Good Life, Brush Strokes), Ever Decreasing Circles was first broadcast by the BBC in February 1984. Richard Briers, Penelope Wilton and Peter Egan star in this popular surburban comedy. All four series and both Christmas specials are featured in this complete collection.
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The only problem with the DVDs lies with the packaging - there is no index of episodes either on the disc or on the cases. This absence becomes very irritating if you stop watching halfway through a DVD because there is then no way of identifying which episodes you have and haven't watched. Additionally, the design on the discs is identical so it at very easy to muddle them up too. An irritating absence in an otherwise perfect piece of television.
There is great pathos at work here, as we witness Martin Bryce's carefully planned life begin to unravel with the arrival of his new effortlessly urbane neighbour, Paul, and watch the tension which is clearly (although not to Martin) present between Martin's wife, Ann, and the suave newcomer. The laughs are at Martin's expense; the glaring contrast between his uptight nature and the careless ease with which Paul conducts his own life make it hard to reach any other conclusion than that Martin needs to relax a little. But, like the reviewer mentioned above, I too can sympathise with Martin. Yes, he can be oblivious to Ann's needs and so wrapped up in his various clubs, societies and activities that he neglects to experience real life, but Ann is not without her own guilt. Martin may be a busybody, but he's the type of person without which the world wouldn't function anywhere near as well. He's fussy but he's also solid, dependable and well-meaning. He is also what all great sitcom characters are - a reflection of people we know (or even people we ourselves are), and a three dimensional person who reveals something about our own lives, both in the way he reacts to his surroundings and the way in which he interacts with other people.
Martin is still the only person in the close who does not think that his next-door-neighbour, Paul, is wonderful, and he fights a valiant but losing battle to try to convert the others to his way of thinking!
There is something very touching about Martin - he could come across as a bumptious, interfering busybody, but he is a kind man at heart, and his problems with Paul arise because he feels inferior.
In the first episode, Martin invites an old lady to tea, but turns up with a Dormobile full of them! Howard and Hilda pitch in to help prepare tea and entertain the visitors, but needless to say, it is Paul who is the biggest hit, providing them with a sing song and a free hairdo!
In other episodes, we see Martin desperately trying to win the snooker tournament, trying to find ways of not picking Paul for the cricket team, and dealing with Paul's Christmas house-guests who end up sleeping in Martin's house. There is an hilarious episode where a psychiatrist takes a professional interest in Martin - who thinks that Ann has the problem! Perhaps the biggest surprise in the series, though, is that it is Martin who comes up with the ideal solution when Ann needs more than housework to inspire her!
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