'The Darling Buds of May - The Complete Series'
(David Jason, Catherine Zeta-Jones, et al / 5-Disc DVD / NR / 2011 / BFS Entertainment)
Overview: Set during the ever-sunny 1950s, this is the story of the indestructible Larkins, headed by dreamer and schemer Sidney "Pop" Larkin (David Jason). These folks lead an idyllic, flamboyant life in the English countryside, enlivened by Pop Larkin's never-ending entrepreneurial adventures and the fierce devotion of each family member to one another through good times and bad. Based on the best-selling novels of H.E. Bates, this is a touching, often hilarious tribute to family life.
DVD Verdict: 'The Darling Buds of May' was a British comedy drama which was first broadcast between 1991 and 1993 for the ITV Network. It is set in an idyllic rural 1950s Kent, among a large, boisterous family.
The three series, although here it is spread into five, were based on the novels by H. E. Bates. Originally categorized by Yorkshire TV as a drama, it is more commonly accepted as a broad comedy.
The key characters were Sidney Charles "Pop" Larkin (David Jason), "Ma" Larkin (Pam Ferris), who were unmarried, their eldest daughter Mariette (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and tax-collector Cedric Charlton (Philip Franks), who is re-christened "Charley" by the Larkins.
Charley arrives at the beginning of the first episode to get Pop Larkin to fill in his tax forms. He is distracted from this when he falls in love with Mariette Larkin at first sight, and the Larkins distract him even further by various ploys! But, and in spite of his terrible hangover the next day, he becomes captivated by the idyllic country life led by the Larkins, and ends up as a member of the family!
The show was an instant success for the network with the show's feel-good factor during a period of economic recession often noted as the reason. The show also launched the acting career of Zeta-Jones, which she talks about in a VERY QUICK 1993 interview included in the Special Features!
Indeed, it is a constant source of interest as to where Pop gets his money from, for in 'When the Green Woods Laugh' he pays 7,000 cash for an estate house, only to turn it over for 17,000 a day later! Always bringing things home, eating like a king - as do all the family, scene in scene out - their kitchen table is never short of an incredible outlay of food!
Even some bathing scenes between Ma and Pop have a whole chicken, half a ham bone, and other such food groups lumped between them both!
The running theme, as spoken about too in the show, is that 'there is nothing more perfick (which is how Pop says the word perfect each and every time!) that wild summer flowers in England.' The scenery is wonderful, all shot in Kent, where they also claim they live - which is refreshing!
But, the one thing that bothered me throughout this entire series, was that both Ma and Pop don't seem particularly troubled by their second oldest daughter's, Primrose (played in later episodes by Abigail Rokison) utter abandon about boys! I mean the girl is hot to trot for one boy/man one minute, over him and onto the next the blink of an eye later, only to be off and running up to Liverpool the next - for a man
Anyway, the show itself (costumes, liberal attitudes, and so on) is not at all accurate for the time period it is based (again, the early 50's). For example, in the beach scenes mentioned above, Mariette, and the guys she flirts with, are absurdly wearing very skimpy bikini-style bathing suits. Indeed, Mariette, supposedly a country girl growing up on a farm, is far too often seen in elaborate fashions, hair-styles, and excessive makeup, inappropriate or inaccurate for the period.
That aside, as I truly do love this show, the special feature of an interview with David Jason ('Pop') is WONDERFUL and VERY funny! Filmed for Aspel & Company, he sits alongside comedian named only as Josie, and relates stories of milking cows, and eating all that food take after take. Plus, they show an age old clip of him on a TV show, looking all of 19, alongside his in-the-future-to-be 'Only Fools & Horses' co-star, a VERY much younger (of course) Nicholas Lyndhurst!
Indeed, my favorite episode is 'A Breathe of French Air' when the Larkins go on holiday to Britanny, France. Things get off to a bad start: the weather is appalling, the food is revolting, and the receptionist unfriendly. The weather improves, and a local mechanic sees the crest on the doors of Mr. Larkin's car and thinks he is a lord. As a result, he is treated better - and aside from allowing Primrose the chance to fall in love with a local boy named Marc Antoine, brings Ma and Pop closer to the hotel patrone, Mademoiselle Dupont!
The two December specials included are: "Christmas is Coming," which was actually first presented in 1991 (in the middle of the second disc). The other special, "Le Grand Weekend" (from December 1992) fits in at the end of disc #3.
Lastly, and as a tidbit of info for those true fans of the show, the character of 'John Blenheim Charlton' (Mariette and Charley's son) is played by Daisy-May Bates - the grand-daughter of the author of the books on which the series is based! RT] This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TV and comes with the Special Features of:
2 Bonus Episodes, "Christmas Is Coming," and "Le Grand Weekend."
Interviews with Catherine Zeta-Jones and David Jason