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British stage and screen legends Alan Bates (Gosford Park, Women in Love) and Sinéad Cusack (Stealing Beauty) star in an irresistible blend of romantic comedy and mystery. He is a professor obsessed with word games who is forced into early retirement; she is a policewoman suspended from the force for voicing suspicions about a superior officer. They team up to find a missing person and wind up discovering much more. Traveling through some of Britains most glorious countryside from South Wales to the Orkney Islands, they uncover a web of nefarious activity, dodge an aerial attack, and exchange some of the wittiest banter since Hepburn and Tracy.
Written by Alan Plater (The Barchester Chronicles, The Last of the Blonde Bombshells) and also featuring Bill Paterson, Mollie Sugden, and Miles Anderson, this story proves once again that with mystery and lovegetting there is more than half the fun.
- U.K. broadcast edition
- Cast filmographies
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Lord and everyone else knows the screen writer, Alan Plater, was not pleased. He wrote the part of Oliver as a vehicle for Tom Courtenay, but it somehow went to Alan Bates. Certainly there are things to complain about. Bates is pretty arch throughout and his makeup is appallingly distracting from first to last. Plater's plot is built around a love for word games and the script follows suit, occasionally being almost too witty and cryptic to follow, especially for an audience that is not English, but there IS something about the piece that is warm and right.
For starters both Sinéad Cusack and Bill Paterson are spot on. Ms. Cusack manages to make her character, WPC Priest, display a reasonable skepticism even while she shows her growing affection for the childlike and distracted Oliver. Paterson's Mr. Baxter balances an affection for his quarries with mystery and menace right through, although the director's decision to briefly and abruptly turn Mr. Baxter into a bumbler who drops things and stumbles is quite odd coming as it does after 4 hours of competent menace.
The story of two middle aged cynics rediscovering a quiet and comfortable love after having giving up on the notion is attractive to middle aged romantics like me. There is much endearing and witty interplay between Oliver and Mrs. Priest and it is when they are quietly getting to know one an other or quoting from what will be to Americans very obscure writers, that we like them as a couple.
I mustn't forget the bit players who add enormously to the pleasure of the series. There are the self-described "bimbo," the Scottish undertaker, the homeless man who might be making conversation about a Restoration playwright (and might not), Diane's father the "monumental mason", and the hotelier affectingly explaining that he lives at the edge of the Scapa Flow so he can pay homage to his father each night before he goes to bed, among others and all played by familiar British actors.
And finally there is the landscape of Scotland. Beautiful, old, and spare.
Here are all the answers you need - Buy This Now, and Buy A Second Copy for A Loved One.
I'm a 40ish, straight, Hollywood blockbuster-lovin' American male and was told by a ditto male friend that he'd seen this great English (he thought) mystery series on PBS some ten years ago that was just one of those movies you stumble upon, later to believe it was seen ... or perhaps created ... just for you. He wanted to recommend it, but had never seen evidence of it again. A year later he sent me the DVD of Oliver's Travels - so excited to have found it - and insisted that my wife and I should watch it immediately.
We put it off for weeks because ... well ... it just didn't seem that it could be very good. All your questions were our questions - how could we even know if we were ever in the mood to watch it when we couldn't even tell what type of movie ... I mean TV ... show ... whatever ... it was? But finally one boring evening we decided to try one episode just so that we could appease this friend who called regularly to see if we'd watched it.
WE called HIM several hours later - mourning that we'd finished the whole thing - addicts now - wanting to know how to get more. Shortly after we sent copies to others and waited just as impatiently for them to watch. Weeks later one finally phoned to say she was exhausted because once she and her husband saw the first episode they stayed up half the night finishing the others.
Why these reactions? I'm a writer, and quite frankly I can't put this one into words. Maybe it's a week's vacation by train alongside good friends through a bright and colorful countryside, when unexpectedly you find yourself on a mysterious mini quest that somehow you know means more to you than it really means at all. It is such a relaxing trip that as each episode goes to credits you'll feel as if someone is trying to force you awake from a pleasant dream of your best childhood memories. You'll hit play and go right back to sleep. For a while.
Beautifully filmed country; the characters are fun, though simple, and very likable. Not a strong plot, but just interesting enough to keep you coming back, and with some fun twists. We even like the "bad guys."
But, alas, I can't shield you from the pain of when it ends. Maybe it's better that the series only ran once. It's a shame b/c I'd dearly love to see more episodes. But some trips are only meant to be taken once - see the pictures of it again and again if you wish and there will be some enjoyment - but this trip was only meant to be REAL once in your life.
Take heart though - this holiday will stay with you - you just won't be able to put it into thoughts much less words ... as for all your questions and need to categorize, you won't care. But know this - you will believe that life wouldn't have been as rich if you'd missed it.
I am so grateful that I could still find a copy to have as my own.