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'The Grand - The Complete Collection'
(Susan Hampshire, Louie Ramsay, Stephen Moyer, et al / 5-Disc DVD / NR / 2008 / Acorn Media)

Overview: As the most opulent hotel in Manchester, England, during the decadent Roaring ’20s, The Grand is more than a building. It’s a nexus for schemes, scandals, romance, and intrigue. For owner John Bannerman, The Grand symbolizes a tradition of luxury and elegance begun by his father. For Marcus Bannerman, it becomes a risky investment and a way to entice his brother’s wife into bed. And for the maids and porters employed there, it represents a possible escape from their hardscrabble past--and an endless source of backstairs gossip.

DVD Verdict: "The Grand" is certainly addictive - thanks to the interesting writing and fine performances from all involved. One caveat: Initially, even the villainy is enjoyable, but by the end, the series turns quite dark and disturbing.

My personal favorites among the actors: Tim Healy is excellent as the heart of the hotel; interestingly, as his character becomes a bit looser in "The Grand: Series Two," he becomes less affecting. Mark McGann is an extremely interesting villain - he manages to keep you wondering if, in fact, there are redeeming qualities in the character. He's a scene stealer, but Julia St. John, as his love interest (and his brother's wife), more than holds her own. Rebecca Callard is extremely appealing as one of the hotel servants. Stephen Moyer invests much depth into his character of the former soldier - it becomes apparent just how much when you view "The Grand: Series Two," where his character is played by another actor of lesser caliber.

As others have mentioned, you'll soon be hooked and find it hard to stop watching until you have finished the entire series. And you'll be sure to want to check in again for "The Grand: Series Two." But that's the point where you might be somewhat disappointed, and not only because two characters (one mentioned above) are played by different, less-effective actors.

In the initial episodes of the second series, the tone seems off. While the first series managed to feel like drama rather than soap opera, the second dives wholeheartedly into the soapsuds and becomes more episodic. Some characters even seem to act in ways inconsistent with their previous actions. It almost feels as if a new production team had taken over, although that's not the case.

Luckily, the second series hits its stride with the fourth episode and, for the most part, sustains it until almost the very end (with some nifty surprises and plot twists along the way). There's some very enjoyable writing throughout - great credit goes to Russell T. Davies for staying true to his period and not trying to impose modern sensibilities on his characters.

For example, the character who reveals his gayness is utterly confused and conflicted in a way that seems consistent for an uneducated worker in 1920s Britain; his self-hatred and seemingly unresolvable sense of isolation are never glossed over.

By the end of the second series, it becomes clear, though, why there were only two series of "The Grand." Just about every avenue of development had been explored and there was little ground left to cover with the characters. So, you check out of "The Grand" generally satisfied with your stay, but feel fine not returning for another. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs but does not come with any Special Features.