To The Manor Born - Series 1 (DVD)

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To The Manor Born - Series 1 (DVD)

Penelope Keith, who was riding a crest of a wave after her success in The Good Life, was given her own starring comedy vehicle in the shape of TO THE ...

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Review of "To The Manor Born - Series 1 (DVD)"

published 02/04/2008 | sunmeilan
Member since : 05/05/2005
Reviews : 1138
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About me :
Not around quite so much at the moment - new job and mum getting married - will catch up when I can.
Excellent
Pro Classic comedy
Cons Not laugh out loud funny
very helpful
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"Born with a silver spoon in her mouth"

Audrey fforbes-Hamilton is not exactly devastated when her husband, the owner of Grantleigh Manor, dies, thinking that she finally will have full control of the estate. But then she discovers that her husband hadn't been entirely truthful with her and in fact was practically bankrupt before his death. Audrey is forced to sell the Manor to Richard De Vere, a nouveau riche who is not even British - his family hark from Eastern Europe. Audrey, however, is not going to give in without a fight. She takes up residence in the Lodge, and makes it quite clear that De Vere will carry on the traditions of the Manor in her honour. Will Audrey be able to make her mark? Or has she met her match in Richard De Vere?

Following her success in The Good Life, this show gave Penelope Keith, who plays Audrey, the chance to have her own show, which developed into three series in the late seventies and early eighties. And although Peter Bowles (De Vere) plays an important role in the show, Keith is very definitely number one, owning the screen from the minute she appears. Audrey is a very strong-willed woman, used to getting her own way even when her husband was alive, and a little problem like Richard De Vere will not stand in her way. Just as the audience begins to dislike her though, particularly for her bullying of best friend Marjory Frobisher, the barricades come down and we see a softer, more caring side. Penelope Keith manages to portray all this with great skill and it is no surprise that the series became as popular as it did.

Peter Bowles, a hugely popular actor during the eighties in particular, always seems to play what my Gran would call a bit of a dandy. Very smooth and charming, as De Vere, he can actually be a bit annoying, but his saving grace is the way that he works with Penelope Keith; he softens her bullying nature and helps to show the real person underneath. I can't imagine that many De Veres exist in today's world, so he does seem a bit old-fashioned, but this is nevertheless a good performance from Bowles.

Marjory Frobisher is played by Angela Thorne. Having known Audrey since their schooldays, Marjory has become accustomed to playing second fiddle, although she does sometimes rise to the occasion and fight back, which is always a plasure to watch. In this first series she seems to have a bit of a crush on De Vere herself, although accepts that it is Audrey who will get first choice. I think Angela Thorne's performance here is the blueprint for Hyacinth Bucket's neighbour in Keeping Up Appearances.

Each episode has a very similar layout; De Vere and Audrey have a mental battle, both are determined that they are going to win and, in a way, both of them do. This should get boring, but thanks to some clever writing by creator Peter Spence, it somehow doesn't. That is probably just as well, because the layout continues for another two seasons and a Christmas special after this. Despite the quality of the writing though, the comedy is not really of the laugh out loud sort of humour, like, for example, Only Fools and Horses; instead it is a gentle, comforting humour that will offend few, despite the occasional derogatory references to the lower classes and the Eastern Europeans.

This first series comes on two discs, and is made up of seven episodes and, unusually for a sitcom from this period, special features. This includes an interview with the creator, Peter Spence, filmographies of the cast and production notes. The interview is worth watching, although it is clear that Spence had indigestion at the time(!); it gives some insight into his writing and the choice of location for the series - apparently the Manor was owned by Spence's parents-in-law. The filmographies and production notes are worth a glance, but no more.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly why this series was so successful, although that it was successful is without doubt - the show regularly attracted audiences of twenty million people and it was certainly one of the highlights of my childhood. Even those not around to see the original episodes have probably heard about it, because the actors returned for a Christmas special last year. I personally think that it was because of the relationship that develops between De Vere and Audrey - a sort of will-they won't-they story that never seemed to go in quite the way that the audience was expecting. It could also be the opportunity, albeit ficitonal, to catch a glimpse of how the other half live. In Spence's interview, he suggests that it may have been linked to Margaret Thatcher coming to power - power to the women and all that. Ultimately, I don't think the reason for its success is important, this is a well-written, well-acted show, the quality of which is obvious especially when compared to today's sitcoms and I highly recommend this first series.

The DVD is available from play.com for £6.99 - bargain!

Classification: U

Running time: 210 minutes

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Comments on this review

  • rachael23 published 10/04/2008
    I like this show it always makes me smile x
  • arnoldhenryrufus published 03/04/2008
    I loved this series and I have even stayed at the manor (cricket st thomas - warner breaks) - lyn x
  • RICHADA published 03/04/2008
    Don't think that I'd actually go out and buy To The Manor Born, but I remember having a soft spot for it when first shown on TV. Always good to see the likes of Audrey taken down a peg or two! Richard.
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Product Information : To The Manor Born - Series 1 (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

Penelope Keith, who was riding a crest of a wave after her success in The Good Life, was given her own starring comedy vehicle in the shape of TO THE MANOR BORN. She plays Audrey Fforbes-Hamilton (with two F's), who inherits a large stately home after the death of her husband. No sooner has she taken sole charge of Grantleigh Manor than she finds that her husband was bankrupt and she is forced to sell up to rich London businessman Richard DeVere (Peter Bowles). Moving into the Manor's lodge, Audrey is determine to keep an eye on the new owner and to one day get back her home. Whilst at Grantleigh, Richard is finding that being Lord of the Manor comes with its own problems and responsibilities and that he could use Audrey's help.

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