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After the huge success of The Royal Family you could have forgiven Craig Cash for resting on his laurels and sit back for a while. Luckily for us he didn’t and along with a new writing partner, Phil Mealey, produced a comedy that is similar in style but with more humour added to it.

Early Doors: Series Two

Series


Early Doors is set in typical northern pub, The Grapes, a place where a group of distinctive characters meet up each evening to discuss local and worldwide events as well as shedding lights on their private lives. Arguments happen, sarcasm rules and, at times, the odd tear is shed, but one thing you’re guaranteed is that you’ll want it to remain open after hours. Let me introduce you to the characters.

Ken (John Henshaw) is the landlord of The Grapes. He’s a sarcastic but deep person, his step daughter, Melanie (Christine Bottomley), has just gotten in contact with her biological father and although he puts on a brave face, its killing him inside. Her boyfriend Dean (Lee Ingleby) adores her but finds the situation between her two dads a bit uncomfortable. Eddie and Joan (Mark Benton and Lorraine Cheshire) are a married couple who face every disaster with a smile that grates with Old Tommy (Rodney Litchfield), an aged man who is as bitter as the ale he drinks. His scathing comments about anything nice or romantic bring a touch of pathos to many scenes, this is a lonely old man who has nothing in his life except coming to the pub for a moan and wonderfully played. Anyway, Joe (Craig Cash) is helping his friend Duffy (Phil Mealey) to come to terms with the fact his wife has left him. Duffy is a role model father and even though he’s had numerous affairs he’s gutted she’s gone. Local coppers Phil and Nige (James Quinn and Peter Wight) always pop in for a drink before they go onto the next pub, The Oaks. Self righteous, lazy and as crooked as the thieves they claim to catch, they always have a dodgy deal for Ken.

Early Doors: Series Two
Winnie (Joan Kempson) is Ken’s cleaner who always has to listen to his dominant mother, Jean (Rita May), moaning on and telling her all the local gossip. Then there’s regulars Debbie and Tanya (Lisa Millet and Susan Cookson) who support the bar most nights. Debbie is a loving mother who always buys her kids a drink whilst she’s in the pub, they may have to wait for her in the car but at least she buys them something. As for Tanya, well she holds a torch for Ken and slowly tries to show him how she feels but at the moment the pub is on its arse and the brewery is on Ken’s back. There’s talk of turning The Grapes into a family fun pub, but they’d have to evict Old Tommy first and he’s going nowhere.

Early Doors is a joy to watch, its easy on the eye and hard on the funny bone as each scene, no matter how long it may be, is crammed with beautiful dialogue which touches on all corners of human emotion. The large cast play wonderfully off each other and although the main plotline is built around Ken, the supporting players shine like a newly polished beer mug. It oozes with creativity and utilises the four main sets without it becoming stale, stagnant or too similar to be enjoyable.

Early Doors: Series Two
Each episode is built to a formula and you wait for each character to enter the pub, this is not as predictable as it seems and although it appears that not a lot is happening you realise that this is truer to real life than you first realise. It’s just so skilfully written I can’t emphasise enough the beauty each episode holds and how each character is developed slowly over the six weeks shows a great.

Craig Cash directed this season and shows that he’s as good behind the camera as well as in front of it. He’s deliberately made the feel of the series slightly warmer from the first and generated a funnier feeling to it. Another plus is that the writers haven’t given themselves the best lines either so each player gets their chance to be funny or dramatic in equal measure.

Early Doors: Series Two

Video


The anamorphic transfer is absolutely faultless. I know this isn’t some high bit rate blockbuster of a series but the detail the DVD holds for each scene is perfect. The pub is generally very smoky so I did expect some pixilation but there’s none here at all. You can make out all the dull colours the pub décor holds, which is in contrast to Ken’s living quarters, which is decorated in some hideously garish colours. Skin tones are natural looking; you can almost touch the hairs coming out of Tommy’s nose or touch the badly applied lipstick on face. This is a great transfer.

Audio


The stereo soundtrack is as clear as Ken’s beer, capturing the atmosphere of a local pub perfectly. The dialogue is reproduced so that each voice can be heard without being too shrill and the jukebox music never muffles them out. A Dolby Digital 5.1 track would have added nothing to the experience, we don’t need to hear Ken pouring pints in the rears do we? The theme by Roddy Frame is as sharp as the picture and a beautiful acoustic piece. If anyone can tell me where to get this piece of music I would be very grateful.

Early Doors: Series Two

Extras


The only problem I had with this release with the amount of extras. The writer’s commentary is good value for money and both Cash and Mealy provide a humorous insight into the creation of the series. Next up is an excellent selection of outtakes all set out in episodic order. Like the commentary this is good value and well worth watching. But that’s it, nothing else, what a shame that a behind the scenes documentary or cast interviews wasn’t included. Saying this, the first series DVD only had the same type of extras.

Overall


In short Early Doors is a pleasure, a treat, the BBC’s strongest comedy in years and should be viewed and appreciated by all lovers of observation as well as sit-com comedy. Fingers crossed that rumours of a third series come true. Buy this disc as soon as you see it and if you missed the first one, buy the box set!


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