Combustible Celluloid

As Time Goes By: The Complete Series (1992-2002)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Lionel and Jean

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy As Time Goes By: The Complete Series on DVD.

Perhaps the droll British humor of this series makes its stupid sitcom laugh track palatable, but the truth is that whenever I watch it, I can tune it out. Geoffrey Palmer and Judi Dench and star in constantly superior performances as Lionel and Jean, an autumnal couple who meet and re-kindle their romance after three decades apart. Like any episode of "Friends" or "Coupling," "As Time Goes By" has fun playing with the differences between men and women, especially as they get more set in their ways. Not stodgy at all, the show works just as well for younger audiences as it does for older audiences -- and how many shows are there for people over 60? My wife and I watch this nearly every weekend on PBS, and we received a lovely surprise on our first trip to London; we bumped into actor Paul Chapman ("Stephen") in a pub. He must have been surprised and flattered to know that a couple of thirtysomething Yanks had seen his show several thousand miles away. This new DVD (1997, BBC Video) collects the seven half-hour episodes from Season Six, during which Jean eases into her retirement and Alistair and Judy get used to their recent breakup. The disc also contains cast biographies and trailers.

Other TV shows recently released on DVD include the following:

The Adventures of Jim Bowie: TV Collection (1956, VCI Entertainment)
Scott Forbes starred as the title character, who carries a big knife he named after himself, in this rather stiff, silly Western series from the early, tentative days of television. VCI's two-disc set comes with 13 half-hour episodes. Not nearly as engaging as "The Rifleman," which came only a year or so later.

The Persuaders (1971, A&E Home Video)
A pre-Bond Roger Moore and a post-Some Like It Hot Tony Curtis star as a pair of playboys who team up to fight crime in this strangely homoerotic cult series. For some reason they can hardly keep their hands off of each other. This box set collects 13 episodes on four discs and includes commentary on the pilot episode by Roger Moore, producer Robert S. Baker, and executive in charge of production Johnny Goodman, plus Roger Moore and Tony Curtis biographies and a photo gallery.

Prime Suspect 1 (1991, HBO Video)
Oscar-nominee Helen Mirren (Gosford Park) had perhaps her best role on this mini-series as Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison. HBO has released the first set in a handsome two-disc box set running about four hours, but with no extras. Future stars Ralph Fiennes and Tom Wilkinson appear in small roles.

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