Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer continue their prickly but loving affair in the eighth and ninth series of As Time Goes By
. Young lovers reunited 38 years after a lost letter ended their relationship, Jean (Dench, Shakespeare in Love
) and Lionel (Palmer, He Knew He Was Right
) have settled into cozy married life, but that doesn't stop Jean from meddling right and left with the lives of the younger folk around them--Jean's daughter Judy (Moira Brooker), her best friend Sandy (Jenny Funnell), and Lionel's wealthy and excitable publisher Alistair (Philip Bretherton). After eight years, you'd expect a sitcom to be played out, but As Time Goes By
sustains its spark; it helps that British comedy-makers don't crank out dozens of mediocre episodes each season, but instead pour as much imagination and humanity as they can into a handful. The six episodes of Season eight are straightforward, with stories revolving around such tidbits as a lost dog or Jean's efforts to get on the Internet, but the simplicity of the plots only lets the rich rapport between Dench and Palmer be the show's true subject. The four-episode 9th and final season not only maintains quality but even picks up energy from bringing a satisfying resolution to the characters, with proposals and weddings skillfully managed by the man who wrote the entire series, Bob Larbey. He must have felt like he was bringing an enormous novel to a close, yet he avoided the temptation to go for some kind of spectacle, ending the show with the same basic pleasures of human foibles with which he began. This is obviously not the ideal starting point for a newcomer (though the show's tart but gentle humor is always accessible and enjoyable), but for any long-time fan, these final seasons will prove warmly satisfying. --Bret Fetzer
Once upon a time, a dashing young British Army officer and a lovely student nurse fell deeply, magically in love. Then he was shipped off to Korea and they never heard from one another. Forty years later, fate brings them together again ... with hilarious results. In this collection of final classic episodes, Alistair and Judith prepare for their wedding. Harry gets an offer to start a new life in Canada, but will Sandy be a part of it? As the younger generation starts to move on, the house begins to feel empty for Jean and Lionel. But a mystery woman on their doorstep and a surprise reappearance ensure things won't be dull for long.