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You gotta hand it to the Brits. In terms of comedy series’ they really hit the nail on the head. Sure, there’s the tried and true formulae followed by American success stories such as Friends and Seinfeld, but for something a bit different and arguably a lot more intellectual you can’t go past some of the stuff to come out of the UK of recent times.

Manchild: Series One

In the case of Manchild, we’ve basically got the male version of Sex & The City. And thank goodness the series was in British hands; the Americans would’ve made the characters look arrogant, the Aussies would’ve made them look plain stupid. These 50-something, filthy-rich gentlemen are given just the right mix of style, substance and humility to make this more than just Carrie & friends with testosterone.

The Series
Four men are the focus of this seven-part series, with each episode running for just over 28 minutes. Terry (Nigel Havers) is a stockbroker and loves to dress extremely sharply, frolic with women more than half his age and talk to the camera every now and then. He is our narrator, who gives us more than just a bit of an insight into what 50-year-old men think when they’ve just discovered a new kind of freedom. Terry’s ex-wife is still around, as is their child who is extremely reluctant to bond with his dad, despite Terry’s enthusiasm.

Manchild: Series One

James (Buffy’s Anthony Head) is also free from the ties of marriage as well as his career as a dentist. He’s a rather reserved but sophisticated individual who delights in smoking big, fat cigars and picking up women. James also runs into trouble early on in the piece when his appendage decides to malfunction but you’ll have to watch the episodes to hear the full story. One of the friendly-four who never subscribed to the marriage theory is Patrick (Don Warrington), an eccentric art dealer who oozes the word “posh”. He’s possibly the most complex character of the bunch, which really doesn’t help the audience relate to him in the same flippantly fun way we see the other three and their antics. Warrington makes Patrick more slimy than stylish and more weird than interesting, and it’s got nothing to do with his skin colour. Luckily he’s the least focused character for the majority of the episodes.

Rounding out this intriguing foursome is Gary (Ray Burdis), wealthy thanks to a booming home decking business. But Gary is the odd one out of the group because of his long-standing marriage to his wife Cheryl. And it’s testament to the writers behind the series that they don’t portray Gary and Cheryl’s relationship as struggling, rather one that’s ultimately grounded with love. It would’ve been quite easy to make Gary out to be the tied down husband and Cheryl as the uninspired wife who longs for a bit of excitement. Sure, their sex might not be what it once was and their son is your typically distant teenager, but on the whole it’s a solid relationship between the two even though Gary sometimes moans about being the black sheep among his friends.

Manchild: Series One

We see a limited number of locations on the series but each of them looks as extravagant as the lifestyle the four men lead. All scenes were shot in actual bars, clubs, galleries and saunas, so this isn’t your typical mid-budget TV show. But it’s great to see the main characters living it up, getting in some very humorous situations and partaking in the humorous banter we’ve come to love of British comedies over the years. The series runs into a bit of a lull just over the half way mark when the focus turns to a far more serious situation than what goes on in the other episodes, but thankfully the seventh stanza rectifies the situation by giving us a great finale to the first installment.

Overall this is a good series that is just short of being very high quality. It’s great to see men portrayed as smart, successful and fun-loving as opposed to rude, obnoxious and stupid which has become far too common in recent times. There’s improvement in this one but the first series is well worth a look.

Video
The 16:9 enhanced visuals on this DVD and the beautifully shot locations make this series easily one of the best looking BBC shows to come out of Britain in recent memory. The baths, the bars and the exteriors all come up looking extremely vibrant, with only the odd bit of grain and softness expected from your average television show transfer. In all this is a great looking disc with no signs of any visual defects of any kind.

Manchild: Series One

Audio
Naturally, all we get here is a Dolby 2.0 mix that does the job perfectly well. Kick-started by the theme music taken from Bryan Ferry’s Let’s Stick Together and a host of other well-known sixties and seventies tracks, the rest of the audio sounds naturally fine out of the two front speakers. Dialogue is easily heard and you’ll have no trouble listening out for some subtle gags along the way.

Extras
Nothing here at all, which is probably not surprising for a fledgling series such as this one. Anything would’ve been an improvement, though, especially considering the series consists of only seven 25-minute episodes.

Manchild: Series One

Overall
While it’s definitely not the best BBC comedy of all time there’s certainly a good mix of characters, situations and gags to make the first series of Manchild well worth a look. Sadly, there are no extras but if that means we receive the second lot of episodes down under one shouldn’t be too disappointed. Grab it and take a look at the Brits doing what they do best.


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