The Main Feature: A delicious situation comedy – one of the earliest, one of the most oft-forgotten, but unquestionably one of the best. Richard Briers plays the pedantic, officious, but well-meaning Martin Bryce. He lives life in a Quiet English Way, personifies pieces of wood and nails, and views filing as art form. Actually, not art – that’d be a little too left wing - more a necessary accompaniment to life. Martin runs every society in The Close – from the Neighbourhood Watch Scheme to the Cricket Club – keeping him busy, in control and the centre of attention. That is, until Paul Ryman moves in next door. Paul is the original Neil Godwin to Martin’s David Brent; he’s everything Martin isn’t - a Cambridge Cricket Blue, effortlessly charming and has a seemingly infinite number of ‘mates’. It is around these unlikely neighbours that the series is based – with Martin’s long-suffering wife, Anne, somewhere in the middle. This is a wonderfully observed sitcom that’s as good the first time you curl up with it on a Friday night, as it is when you’re laughing at it for the twenty-third time on a drizzly Sunday afternoon. As with other great comedies, the premise is a simple one; a glimpse of ordinary people and the way they live their lives together. And that is largely from where Ever Decreasing Circles derives its power and timeless appeal; we all know a Martin, a Paul or an Anne – we may even have a little bit of them inside of us. Although naturally, Martins will do as Martin would, and not even think of admitting it. Highlights: Writing that deftly shows how the boring bits in life can be funny too. The ‘Vicars and Tarts Dance’ episode in Series 1, the ‘Cricket’ episode in Series 2 and the final 80 minute episode (shot two years after Series 4) showcase Ever Decreasing Circles at its very best – clever, witty, pacey and gently poignant. Engaging, often beguiling characters – from the suave Paul, to Howard and Hilda who always wear matching clothes. Overall Package/Extras: A fairly standard BBC adaptation to DVD that combines all the extras that accompany each of the separate series DVDs: • A good 1989 ‘Wogan’ interview with Peter Egan that includes some outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage • An interesting 15 minute exclusive interview with Richard Briers • A mildly entertaining Christmas ‘Wogan’ feature with Egan, Wilton, Lebor (Howard) and Newman (Hilda) A slight disappointment only because this is just the sort of Series where you’re dying to know more than you’re ever told. The DVD comprises five disks; one per Series and one Extras disk. All are packaged in a fairly boring, standard plastic DVD case.
Verdict: Wonderfully observed and timelessly funny comedy - dare I say it, frequently better than much of The Good Life. A must-buy.