Review of Joking Apart : Series 1
Ok, you`re now at the main menu, and there are two options for you.
1) You`ve heard of Joking Apart and you absolutely loved it and have been waiting for DVDs of it to come out ever since DVD was invented.
2) What`s Joking Apart?
If you picked option 1, then you`re in for a treat, since it`s finally arrived (more on that later). If you picked option 2, keep reading, because you`re about to find out all about a BBC sit-com that never broke away from the tag "cult classic", but which should have ended up as "all time classic".
Joking Apart was what writer Steven Moffat did after Press Gang and before Coupling. If you don`t know his name from those then you may know his name as possibly the best writer for the revived Doctor Who. His episodes (so far) are "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances" (from season 27), "The Girl in the Fireplace" (from season 28) and "Blink" (from season 29).
Joking Apart was first aired in July 1991 on BBC One as part of a season of new BBC pilots. It was comissioned and filmed, and the first series aired in January 1993 on BBC Two (with a repeat run in May 1994). I watched it religiously, having been hooked from the first episode. One of my favourite one-liners comes from Joking Apart:-
"I had a bad experience at a funeral once. I caught the bouquet..."
The (partly autobiographical) story centres around comedy writer Mark Taylor, and tells the tale of him meeting Becky, falling in love, getting married and then breaking up all in "a series of six twenty-eight minute three act farces" (to quote one of the participants in the extra feature on this disc). Along the way, their friends Robert & Tracy (not the sharpest tools in the box) get entangled in the mess too.
It`s funny, it`s clever, and it`s finally here. The first series on DVD. And it`s available exclusively from www.replaydvd.co.uk, a small company set up with the express purpose of bringing this excellent programme to DVD.
A 1.33:1 transfer as first broadcast. It`s undergone a nice bit of restoration too so it looks as good as it can, and possibly even better than when you first watched it.
A DD2.0 stereo soundtrack, again as good as (or better than) the original broadcast.
And if the fact that it`s finally available wasn`t enough to make you happy, there are some extras here.
First up are commentaries on selected episodes with writer Steven Moffat, and stars Robert Bathurst (Mark), Fiona Gillies (Becky) and Tracie Bennett (Tracy). Great to hear their insights into the series after all this time.
Second up is the excellent feature "Fool If You Think It`s Over", created exclusively for the DVD. It features clips from the show and interviews with Steven Moffat, Robert Bathurst, Fiona Gillies (who doesn`t look a day older!) and Tracie Bennett. An excellent addition to the DVD.
One of the best sit coms ever made finally gets a DVD release. My heartfelt thanks to Craig Robins (described by Bathurst as "the fan with the plan") whose own passion and dedication (and skills from working in the TV field) has seen this series brought to DVD. And please go out and buy this if you were a fan of the series, because Craig gets rewarded for his hard work and you get rewarded with a fantastic comedy series.
Joking Apart is simply brilliant. A small but excellent cast, a tight script, and the then novel idea of interspersing each episode with bits of stand up coming from inside Mark`s head. Whilst Moffat isn`t so keen on the way it fits into the series nowadays, I still think it works. And apart from some of the props, sets and fashions (which scream early 1990s), it`s timeless. True, you wouldn`t be able to use the "remote control that plays your answering machine messages back to you over the phone" plot device nowadays (we had the same answerphone back then) but Moffat used similar plot devices in Coupling with more up to date technologies.
If you ever saw Joking Apart, you`ll want this. If you liked Coupling, you`ll love this. Even if you didn`t like Coupling, but like comedy, you`ll love this. It`s just funny. Plain and simple. So head on over to www.replaydvd.co.uk and buy it.
What are you waiting for?
Go and buy it.