Written by: Alan Plater
Directed by: David Reynolds, Brian Parker, Frank W. Smith, and Alan J. W. Bell
Starring: James Bolam, Barbara Flynn, Terence Rigby, Dominic Jephcott
- Photo gallery
- Three disc set, two episodes per disc
Released by: Goldhil Home Media
Anamorphic: N/A; presented in its original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: Rent It if you’re an Anglophile.
Trevor Chaplin (Bolam) and Jill Swinburne (Flynn) are teachers (woodwork and English respectively) and while they have their own passions (jazz music and the environment respectively), they also have a passion for each other. One day Trevor orders some records by the obscure jazz artist Beiderbecke (remember, this is 1984) for a very good price from a platinum blonde door-to-door saleswoman. Unfortunately, he gets the wrong records delivered. He then discovered that a fellow teacher received an explosive hedge trimmer from the same blonde. Chaplin and Swinburne decide to investigate who this woman is and how to get those Beiderbecke albums. Along the way they meet: Big Al (Rigby), whose development of ‘The White Economy’ has made some enemies; Det. Sgt. Hobson (Jephcott), whose college degree and distrust of eccentricity makes him a thorn in the side and a possible ally; an ex-girlfriend; and other odd people. As they struggle through bureaucracy and corruption, will Trevor and Jill save the day and define their relationship?
While The Beiderbecke Affair is set in England during the early 80s and viewers might miss a few references, everyone can identify with the byzantine bureaucracy and small-minded corruption the characters deal with. The story isn’t fast paced, but that fits with the scope of having local people dealing with local problems. The battle between the massive bureaucratic government machine and the men who benefit from it and regular people who don’t fit the status quo is what this series is all about. Keeping the show from becoming a crusading diatribe is the inclusion of dry but silly British humor. The good example is when Jill tries to find Office 5005 in the City Council building. Of course the office-numbering scheme seems completely random, she gets conflicting directions from employees, and the lift is out of order and there are a lot of stairs. The main characters exhibit that famous English eccentricity without becoming stereotypical. All the actors give good performances, but I find that most British actors do. It must be something in the water.
The extras are a bit of a disappointment. The only thing on the discs is a photo gallery. I can forgive the DVD set for not having production shots, it’s doubtful they took any during its making. But the photo galleries on all three discs have the same exact shots. How difficult would it have been to have separate galleries contain shots from the two episodes included on the discs? Much less any kind of documentary or commentary from those involved with the show. But ah well. If you enjoy British television, check out this forgotten gem.