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THE BEIDERBECKE AFFAIR

3.3 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Create by Alan Plater (A very British Coup), one of Britain's most prolific and entertaining writers, this lighthearted series centers on a pair of wisecracking schoolteachers turned amateur detectives. When Trevor Chaplin (James Bolam, New Tricks) buys a set of jazz records that go missing, he and his girlfriend, Jill (Barbara Flynn, Cracker), decide to track them down. Soon they are drawn into a mystery that includes secret meetings, black market goods, and local government corruption. With colorful characters and a soundtrack in the style of 1920s jazz great Bix Beiderbecke, this is a wry, dry romp of a mystery series. See on public television in the 1990s. 6 episodes.

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The charms of The Beiderbecke Affair aren't immediately apparent--but before long, you're hooked by this sneaky combination of screwball-inspired dialogue, off-kilter yet genuine characters, and hopelessly loopy plot. Schoolteacher and aspiring political candidate Jill (Barbara Flynn) doesn't pay much attention when her boyfriend Trevor (James Bolam) says he was sold some Bix Beiderbecke records by a beautiful platinum blonde door-to-door saleswoman. But when the wrong records arrive in the mail, Trevor sets out to correct the situation--and both he and Jill tumble into a mystery involving junior football matches, the basement of a church, an overzealous and overeducated detective sergeant, two peculiar men called Big Al and Little Norm, an ex-fiancee who is alarmingly like the current girlfriend, and a mysterious man with a dog named Jason. This British mini-series will madden anyone who expects their mysteries to feature murder, easily identifiable suspects, and a logical process of elimination--in fact, it may take a few episodes before you see this as a mystery at all. But what emerges from the seemingly random incidents is a sly sense of humor, dialogue that bounces to and fro like a badminton shuttlecock, and the engaging characters of Jill and Trevor. Flynn and Bolam have been solid character actors for decades; fans of British television will recognize their faces. It's a pleasure to have this talented pair taking the lead as two ordinary people who accidentally fall into out-of-the-ordinary circumstances. Don't let the seeming casualness of the beginning put you off--The Beiderbecke Affair grows more delightful the more you watch. --Bret Fetzer

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: James Bolam, Barbara Flynn, Dominic Jephcott, Terence Rigby, Dudley Sutton
  • Directors: David Reynolds, Frank W. Smith
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Acorn Media
  • DVD Release Date: January 27, 2009
  • Run Time: 300 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001HZ4K8A
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,306 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "THE BEIDERBECKE AFFAIR" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael K. Smith TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 1, 2003
Format: DVD
Properly-done British humor, as I frequently explain to acquaintances who are puzzled by it, is probably an acquired taste. It's certainly more subtle and intellectual than your average sitcom -- Yank or Brit -- and even when it's topical, its popularity is likely to last. This is Series One of a terrific comedy-mystery featuring a clutch of character actors who are not in the Hollywood mold. In fact, I had never before come across James Bolam, who plays Trevor Chaplin, public school woodworking teacher in West Yorkshire, and I only knew Barbara Flynn (Jill Swinburne, English teacher at the same school and Environmentalist Party candidate for the town council) from her supporting role as Mrs. Maigret, and from _Lorna Doone_ and _The Forsyte Saga_. Dudley Sutton was an old favorite from the _Lovejoy_ series, and Colin Blakely has been marvelous in nearly all his many roles. The dialogue is frequently off-the-wall, especially when Jill and Trevor are dealing with the officious Headmaster or the semi-clueless Det. Sgt. Hobson, B.A. (a "graduate copper," beautifully played by Dominic Jephcott), and their cautious personal relationship is believable and endearing. Trevor isn't actually as limp as he might at first seem, and Jill isn't nearly so independently fearless and self-sufficient as she would like to believe. The plot is also just this side of terminally bizarre, involving the "gray economy" (which Big Al refers to as the "white economy," in an attempt to improve its image) and the lengths to which the Powers That Be will go to subvert its influence, the reappearance in Trevor's life of his old flame, Helen of Tadcaster, and a retired bookie's runner (with his dog, Jason) who tries, not very successfully, to make a buck as a police informant.Read more ›
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Format: DVD
"The Beiderbecke Affair," a box set of a light-hearted British television mystery series, was made by Yorkshire Television for Britain's Independent Television stations (ITV). The six-episode series was broadcast on PBS in this country in the 1990's, along with its sequels, Beiderbecke Tapes, and The Beiderbecke Connection. It was created by the award-winning Alan Plater, one of Britain's more prolific, entertaining writers, and centers on a pair of wisecracking schoolteachers caught up in some amateur sleuthing.

The series is set, and filmed in the city of Leeds, in Yorkshire, a place we don't hardly ever see over here. (Though, warning to the wise, we don't hardly ever hear Yorkshire accents over here, either, and that's what the cast is using. And there are no subtitles). Anyway, Trevor Chaplin, our protagonist, is also actually a transplanted Geordie, from further North, up Newcastle, Hadrian's Wall way, (upon which friends and acquaintances comment), with his own accent. As played by James Bolam ("New Tricks," "The End of the Affair"), he's a jazz-loving, kind of befuddled, but witty everyman woodworking teacher. And apparently he hasn't reflected upon the fact that beautiful, well-dressed platinum blonds seldom go selling door to door, until he buys a bunch of Beiderbecke records - that's vinyl records, and there are also no cell phones, only phone boxes - from one.
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Format: DVD
Given the dire quality of the recent VHS-only releases by Granada Media in the UK, I was pleased to find this American DVD issue.
However it's not all good news: the prints used are noticeably grainy & scratchy - particularly in the first couple of episodes. Clearly no attempt has been made to polish them up, let alone remaster the series. The dialogue track, however, has been "cleaned up" on the first episode - presumably in an attempt to remove background hiss. Sadly this has been done rather amateurishly and results in unnatural silences during pauses in dialogue.
Although the episodes are complete, a minor but puzzling point is that the end titles for segments 1 and 3 have been removed.
Overall, then, while I applaud Goldhil for issuing the series on silver disk, the set isn't worth its normal retail price. The prints used might have been acceptable for VHS but their flaws are quite apparent on DVD. Lack of proper extras don't help, either.
Hopefully this wonderful series will receive the quality of release it deserves one day. In the meantime, however, Goldhil's attempt is certainly better than nothing!
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Format: DVD
Alan Plater's stories are always just on the verge of being a little too cute. The dialogue is sometimes too clever by half, but more often than not, it actually works. So I can understand if the Beiderbecke series is not to everyone's liking. After happening on the series on tv, I had to find the books. I've read the trilogy at least five times since I found a paperback copy in London in 1994 (at Books, Etc., which was replaced by Borders and is still on Charing Cross Road near Tottenham Court Rd.).

The Beiderbecke Affair is my favorite of the three Beiderbecke stories (The Beiderbecke Tapes and The Beiderbecke Connection are the second and third of the series). We are introduced to Trevor and Jill, Big Al and Little Norm, the gang at school, and the mostly incompetent bunch at the police station. Why has a beautiful platinum blonde offered to sell jazz records to Trevor? What do Big Al and Little Norm have to hide? How are Jill's English students getting extra copies of Tess of the D'Urbervilles? And how does Bix Beiderbecke fit in?

As you may guess, the mystery is secondary in these stories. The appeal is the interplay among the characters and the running gags. The music is a big plus in the video versions, with an excellent band playing the songs of Leon "Bix" Beiderbecke, jazz musician of The Twenties, who died tragically young, and whose cornet playing inspires Trevor and occasionally other characters, but alas, never Jill.

Start with the The Beiderbecke Affair, not just because it is the first of the series, but because it is the best story.
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