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4.8 out of 5 stars
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HALL OF FAMEon 4 August 2004
'To the Manor Born' is one of the better Brit-coms, witty and intelligent without being over-the-top or inaccessible. It has an oh-so-British tone to it, deliberately so, as it looks with grace and humour at the clash of cultures in modern Britain, the clash between tradition and modernity (finding out that neither is always what it seems), as well as the clash between social classes. All of this is done in such a light-hearted manor, er, manner, that one scarcely realises the biting and insightful satire that runs alongside the comedic situations.
The series begins as Audrey fforbes-Hamilton, a straight-backed, upper-crust woman of breeding who revels in her situation, is celebrating the funeral of her husband (yes, celebrating). Meanwhile, Richard Devere, wealthy (read, nouveau riche) financial officer heading a multinational conglomerate of food stores, arrives in the village in search of a classic gentleman's period home in the English countryside. As Audrey's husband was not one to keep up with the bills, she discovers that she is in fact bankrupt, and is forced to sell the manor. Richard Devere buys it at auction; Audrey is a surprising twist retains the estate's hunting lodge down the road, and the stage is set for the tensions between new homeowner and historical lady of the manor.
Supplementing the main characters are Audrey's best friend Marjorie, who variously has designs on Richard Devere, but these are almost always thwarted; Richard's mother, Mrs. Pu (Poluviska, actually, but the name is reduced for ease by Audrey); Ned, the traditional groundskeeper who helps keep the traditions alive with Audrey; and finally, Brabinger, the quintessential English butler, who relocates to the old lodge with his mistress Audrey, and always has a few suprises up his sleeve.
There are twenty-one episodes in all, filmed and broadcast over a two-year period in 1979-1981. These run from the start of Audrey's losing the manor through to her regaining the manor, along with the hand of Richard in marriage, but not by the means often expected throughout the series. Throughout the episodes, Audrey is constantly introduced to 'ordinary life', from having to rely on the National Health for her doctor rather than private-pay, personal service, to having difficulties in shopping in supermarkets (Devere's, as it turns out) and not being able to entertain as she once did, or go on holiday (this makes for perhaps the best episode of the lot, save for the first and final episodes). Meanwhile, Devere gets lessons in being lord of the manor by the ever-present Audrey, who counsels him on everything from horse-purchasing to community responsbilities. Despite his wealth, Audrey says, 'he is still at the bottom of it all a grocer.' This is a biting commentary -- the upper-class disdain for the working class is an undercurrent here, and the entitled/en-nobled folk in Parliament used to insult both Ted Heath and Margaret Thatcher, who were both children of shopkeepers, by using the term 'grocer' to describe them.
From the threadbare carpets to the when-we-were-in-India knick-knacks to the church clock that never worked properly, this is a wonderfully crafted comedy trip through a slice of British culture that is both past and future. These are not 'issues' episodes -- 'To the Manor Born' educates by stealth. One might be completely unaware of having been taught ways of acting and being. Grantley Manor is a perfect backdrop (shot in a town with the very English-sounding name of Cricket St. Thomas), and the actors are perfectly selected. Penelope Keith as Audrey fforbes-Hamilton has the kind of mannerisms and deadpan delivery befitting a displaced socialite; Peter Bowles has the blustering presence as a self-assured businessman flustered in his new environment. Old Ned (played by Michael Bilton) and Brabinger (John Rudling) are perfected cast in both physical type and acting ability. Angela Thorne as Marjorie Frobisher, the life-long friend of Audrey, always in her shadow, is great as the 'straight man' against whom Audrey's humour unfolds.
The DVD release contains special features including bits about Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles, as well as excerpts from the late-90s radio broadcasts on BBC2.
This is a perfect show, certain to win the heart of any Anglophile.
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on 10 September 2001
What a fantastic buy! One of the classic Brit shows available to buy in one hit.
Recently widowed, Audrey fforbes-Hamilton (Penelope Keith) is forced to leave to leave her home of Grantleigh Manor and it's estate when it becomes apparent that her deceased husband has left her bankrupt.
The Manor is bought by self-made millionaire and widower, Richard DeVere (Peter Bowles) who moves in with his mother and plans on using it as his business headquarters.
Audrey is true blue and is horrified to find out that the new owner is not from British descent, nor does he understand the ways of the countryside and what being, 'Lord of the Manor' entails.
Audrey is determined to get the Manor back and moves to the Old Lodge with her butler, Brabinger, and is near enough to her old home for her to 'spy' on the new owner and what he does.
What follows is a hilariously, sharp-witted comedy that focusses on the continuing battle of one-up-man-ship and blossoming romance between Audrey and Richard.
The series is excellent and has you laughing out loud all the time. An array of eccentric character's only add to the comedic value of the show.
Notable character's are, the elderly Brigadier who's so typically, 'British' and loves younger ladies and cricket.
Marjory Frobisher who is Audrey's best friend who likes Richard alot and tries to keep her friend from being too harsh on him.
And another great character is Richard's mother, Mrs. Polouviska or Mrs. Poo as she's better known, who is determined to act as matchmaker between her son and Audrey.
And then there's the Vicar, who due to his vocation can't be rude about Audrey but would dearly love to be.
If you enjoy watching razor-sharp wit rather than just seeing someone slip on a banana skin then this set is a must for your collection.
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on 10 January 2012
This is a really lovely box set. To the manor born was definately one of the best TV series of the late 70's and early 80's and this set gives you every episode. It brings back a lot of memories as I watched this as a child and it is now very strange as I work as a chef in Cricket St Thomas Hotel which was the House used as Grantleigh Manor in the series. If you love this series you must buy this collection.
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on 3 January 2004
This has to be my favourite comedy program ever. I only saw one episode before I decided to buy the DVDs and they've definitely lived up to my expectations. The humour is excellent and the characters realistic. The storyline centres around Audrey fforbes-Hamilton (Penelope Keith) who is forced to sell her beloved family estate after the death of her husband. To her horror it is bought by Richard DeVere (Peter Bowles) who, although terribly charming and handsome (not that she ever admits this), is head of a chain of supermarkets and even worse isn't English. That's all I'm saying but you can probably guess where it's going! Add Audrey's friend Margery Frobisher (Angela Thorne), Richard's mother Mrs Polouvicka (Daphne Heard) and Audrey's butler Brabinger (John Rudling) besides others and you have a hilarious comedy.
This DVD contains the entire second series and a special. Although each episode is self-contained there is a general storyline that streches over the whole three series, so if you're new to the program it's probably better to buy series 1 first. You couldn't have a better "Chapter 2" than this DVD though!
All in all it's worth more than 5 stars really! It might seem a little expensive but in my opinion worth every penny.
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on 5 June 2003
This is great - when are the others coming out on DVD.
The picture quality is fantastic, it's great to see the first series again.
I watched this as a child and the gags are funnier than ever watching them as an adult.
I highly recommend this and I can't wait for the others to be put on DVD.
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on 12 June 2003
It was such a pleasure to watch this series again, it's a comedy series that involves a love story, representations of the English class system and an illustration of a piece of English history, the upper classes having to sell off their grand homes because they can no longer afford them.
Penelope Keith as Audrey is one of my favourite TV characters, she really is astonishing and highly amusing. I love this series and am very much looking forward to watching the following series when they are available on DVD (hurry up with that whoever makes them!).
The final episode ever had an audience of nearly 30 million when it aired, a record that wasn't broken until over a decade later. It's easy to understand why it was so popular.
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on 19 September 2003
Excellent - and worth every penny even if a little expensive. Is a timeless classic on same level as Dads Army.
It is one of those situation comedies that can be watched time and time again without getting bored.
Only trouble is why only 1st series - how about bring out ALL the episodes on DVD?
I would HIGHLY reccomend it
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on 21 May 2003
I have been waiting for some time for this series to be released on DVD. They are still very amusing look at the snobbery and elitism of some sections of the aristos.
I was slightly disappointed in the fact that there was only seven episodes on a double DVD. If four hour long Professionals episodes fit onto one, surely more than four half hour To the Manor Borns would fit.
The picture quality was fairly good, likewise the sound, but this series would be worth getting even on 8mm film!!!
The extras are not fantastic, the interview is interesting enough without being amazing and the filmographies are ordinary.
Looking forward to the next installment.
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on 7 January 2012
Living Overseas, I had seen the occasional episode when visiting the UK. Now retired and with time on my hands I bought the Complete collection and can barely put it down. It is well written and appropriately cast and a British Classic.
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on 17 December 2003
This is a great collection of episodes from the second series. Penelope Keith plays her part beautifully as a woman of high class - a part to which she has become something of a stereotype. Not as good at the first series but definatly worth a look if your a fan of the series as i have noticed that their are odd additional scenes slipped in that were not shown on the TV...
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