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The Series
How could anyone not like Ronnie Barker as Norman Stanley Fletcher and his rather unique assortment of fellow inmates at H.M. Prison Slade? Porridge is yet another classic BBC comedy that has delighted audiences since its debut in 1974. Written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, the series had an interesting beginning. Ironically, on the first of April 1973 (April Fool's Day), while doing his series Seven Of One, Ronnie Barker did an hilarious episode loosely based on the life and times of a convicted criminal named Norman Stanley Fletcher. Little did he know that history was in the making. To Ronnie Barker's credit, he also had The Two Ronnies and Open All Hours running on the BBC as well.

The Six episodes that appear on Series One are: New Faces, Old Hands, The Hustler, A Night In, A Day Out, Ways and Means, and Men Without Woman. We are entertained by the processing of Fletch, Leonard and Cyril in New Faces, Old Hands, amused at Fletch’s organization of illegal gambling in The Hustler, and drawn by Leonard's realization that he is really in prison for 24 months of days and nights. We are bemused by the comradeship shown in sewing of fishing nets in Ways and Means and are dazzled by the ways Fletch handles matters of the heart of his fellow inmates. All the viewer is invited to do is to sit back, relax and view the world through the eyes of the Slade Prison inmates.

Porridge Series One

Fulton Mackay as Mr Mackay plays a brilliant Senior Prison officer of Scottish descent. A perfectionist of sorts, his quirks, facial gestures and certainly the way he thinks he is in full control of his inmates is comical. What makes any of these character portrayals even funnier is that we all know someone who is like at least one of the characters. Brian Wilde as Prison Officer Henry Barrowclough has a gentle disposition and is often taken advantage of for his kindness. One starts to think he almost wishes that he was an inmate amongst them for the comradeship. On the side note, there has been much interest in finding exactly what Brian Wilde's real birth date is. It seems it is still a mystery to date. Michael Barrington as Governer Geoffrey Venerables plays an interesting part whose concern is more for his tropical fish than in the actual running of the prison. Nevertheless, he is an important part of the success of this series. A special mention goes to Brian Glover as Cyril Glover. Whom among us does not know someone who can be described as thick as two short planks?

In New Faces, Old Hands we find Fletcher trying to show the ropes to some of the newbies. Does experience make us any wiser or smarter? Nice to Have You With Us it's nice to be welcomed to the new place. What time is tea? I Got Caught shows us we are all human and after all no one in this prison is guilty, are they? The only thing is they got caught! If you didn't know what Fin rot was before, you will certainly be entertained to find out what it is in Know Your Tropical Fish. The one things all of the episodes in this series have in common is that while it features life as it might be like in prison, the humour and the characters really make this series. From the one-off episode on Seven of One, three series and a film were made.

The music was produced by Max Harris and one of the things that will draw you automatically to it is the sentence handed down by the judge presiding over Norman Stanley Flecher at the beginning of each episode. Ironically, he was sentenced five years for each episode!

Video
Porridge Series One is presented in its original aspect ratio and is not 16x9 enhanced.
If one recognises that the series is more than 30 years old, I don't think the viewer will be looking to critique the series if some graininess appears on occasion throughout the episodes.
With regards to the colouring and shading, I think the same thing would apply. Why not just enjoy the laughter and humour Porridge Series One has to offer. The jokes and innuendoes are there for the taking.

Porridge Series One

Audio
Overall the sound quality if quite good taking into account this is presented in English Dolby Digital 2.0. There is not too much one can really expect to experience sound-wise. However, I enjoyed the addition of the clapping of a live audience found at the beginning of the DVD makes one feel like they are almost part of an actual live audience. One can hear the dialogue very well, but may be tempted to view a scene and or episode more than once if you are caught out by any of the pranks or humour.

Extras
I am a big fan of Ronnie Barker and as such, went right to the extra features. Here, I was delighted to hear the Exclusive interview with Ronnie Barker. I admire his work and when explaining about the Series, he had nothing but the highest regard for his fellow actors. It almost appeared as if he was sitting in front on me having a cuppa tea. I found it almost amusing when he stated he had done no research for any of his parts and simply left it up to the writers.

Richard Beckinsale played the part of Leonard Arthur Godbur who had been a first-timer sent to prison for two years for breaking and entering. One can sense through the interview that Ronnie Barker held a soft spot for Richard and was deeply touched by his early passing in 1979. Ronnie described one of his favorite episodes was A Night In and will always remember Richard (a.k.a Leonard) for his timing and mood of the scene.

The rest of the features include the obligatory scene selections which includes, obviously, all the scenes from each episode. In addition, there are artist profiles, which could have been left out as this segment  was merely a written summary of the various artists. If I wanted to explore the artist profiles further, I could always read a book or search the net.

One of the things I liked about this Porridge Series One DVD is the main menu, which  provides a “play in order” feature as well as an episode select option. While I am not a big fan of the select a scene option on most DVD's, I found that on this particular DVD, it was a tantalising tidbit of what was to come. Also, if you enjoyed a particular scene of an episode, you could easily access it through this option.

Porridge Series One

Overall
Have you had your daily dose of Porridge? The colourful characters provide for hours of amusement and entertainment. If, like me, you are a big fan of BBC comedies and classics, then this is the DVD for you. It's great to see that the series that provided much laughter over the years has been preserved for future generations to enjoy.Porridge provides a delightful, hilarious insight into the monotonous routine of the inmates of Slade prison. No wonder Fletch came back for a crime he did commit. You will find you will want to come back and enjoy each episode more.


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