To the Manor Born: The Complete Series - Silver Anniversary Edition (DVD)
As beneficiary of Grantleigh Manor, the snobbish Lady fforbes-Hamilton becomes a happy widower upon the death of her husband. But in the face of her late husband's creditors, bank, and the government, she can no longer afford to maintain the family's hold on the estate. Reluctantly, she sees it auctioned to Richard De Vere (formerly Bedrich Polouvicka), a millionaire bachelor of Czechoslovakian extraction who runs a multinational grocery business. With his mother he wastes no time in moving into the Manor. Audrey is annoyed at her new position on the estate, and she is forced to move, with butler, to the Manor lodge. DeVere represents everything Audrey regards as bad taste. Their differences of background, breeding and behavior are at once infuriating and endearing.
To the Manor Born
is another BBC sitcom from the genre's golden age, one that came to dominate the ratings during its initial three-season run from 1979-80. Providing Penelope Keith with her first major role after The Good Life
, the show focuses on a way of life that now appears hard to comprehend, with storylines concerning hunt balls, village committees, and eccentric brigadiers only adding to the dated feel. What provided the program's key interest, however, was not the terribly quaint Little England setting but the burgeoning relationship between Keith's Audrey fforbes-Hamilton and Richard De Vere (Peter Bowles), the new owner of Audrey's old home, Grantleigh Manor. It's all very, very English (the show is set in a village called Cricket St. Thomas) and the continuing use of farce almost creates a sense of parody. But look beyond the infuriating stereotypes and there is some sharp writing going on, predating the city vs countryside debate by nearly two decades. Penelope Keith is, as ever, fantastic value and while new viewers may simply not get the joke, those looking for a spot of nostalgia could do far worse. The 2008 Silver Anniversary Collection
includes the complete original series as well as the 2007 Silver Anniversary Special
, which fast-forwards 25 years to Audrey and Richard's plans for their silver-anniversary celebration. --Phil Udell