People Like Us: The Complete Series (DVD)
Ian McShane is back as Lovejoy, the crime-solving antiques dealer with an eye for beauty…and trouble! The worlds quirkiest crime-solving antiques hero is back in Season three, now with four discs of side-splitting and outrageous escapades! Much to Lovejoys annoyance, hes not the only one on a never-ending quest for wealth and valuables. However, while he proves unstoppable in the face of sinister Italians, vengeful customers and even Erics vintage motorbikes, can he manage to escape the snares of love?
Hilarious in its dry, understated, and very British way, People Like Us debuts on DVD more than a decade after its inception, with its two and only seasons (1999 and 2001) on two discs, each containing six roughly 30-minute episodes. In each of these "mockumentaries," interviewer Roy Mallard (Chris Langham, whom we hear but never actually see, save for an occasional limb or the back of his head) talks to and observes various folks--the managing director of a computer company, a young policeman, a couple of lawyers, a pair of airline pilots, a photographer, a vicar, a bank manager, and so on--as they go about their work. Of course, they aren't really "people like us" at all. For one thing, they're actors (mostly unknown to American viewers, with the exception of Bill Nighy, the photographer); for another, they are appallingly dunderheaded and inept, not to mention cluelessly self-important (a prudent exception is the pilots, who are amusing but definitely not incompetent). But they're a flock of Einsteins compared to Mallard. It's not just his narration, which is thinly veiled nonsense ("Rob's voice-over is relatively short, compared to longer ones" he says of an actor on an audition, while another interviewee is "one of the most promising young potential sporting prospects for the tomorrow of the future"). Mallard inevitably inserts himself into his interviews in the most tactless and inappropriate ways, usually with results that are disastrous for all concerned; he's particularly unprofessional and embarrassing in the second set of episodes, in which his squirm-inducing behavior borders on the Larry David-esque. If there's a parallel for the U.S. audience, it might be This Is Spinal Tap, with Mallard as director Marty DiBergi and his various subjects similar to Nigel Tufnel and his mates; as in Tap, the interactions appear to be at least partially improvised, and the subtlety of much of the humor requires that viewers pay close attention, lest some gem of idiocy pass unnoticed. --Sam Graham