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Beiderbecke Affair

James Bolam , Barbara Flynn , David Reynolds , Frank W. Smith    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 46.99
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Beiderbecke Affair + Beiderbecke Connection + Beiderbecke Tapes
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Product Description

Amazon.ca

The charms of The Beiderbecke Affair aren't immediately apparent--but before long, you're hooked by this sneaky combination of screwball-inspired dialogue, off-kilter yet genuine characters, and hopelessly loopy plot. Schoolteacher and aspiring political candidate Jill (Barbara Flynn) doesn't pay much attention when her boyfriend Trevor (James Bolam) says he was sold some Bix Beiderbecke records by a beautiful platinum blonde door-to-door saleswoman. But when the wrong records arrive in the mail, Trevor sets out to correct the situation--and both he and Jill tumble into a mystery involving junior football matches, the basement of a church, an overzealous and overeducated detective sergeant, two peculiar men called Big Al and Little Norm, an ex-fiancee who is alarmingly like the current girlfriend, and a mysterious man with a dog named Jason. This British mini-series will madden anyone who expects their mysteries to feature murder, easily identifiable suspects, and a logical process of elimination--in fact, it may take a few episodes before you see this as a mystery at all. But what emerges from the seemingly random incidents is a sly sense of humor, dialogue that bounces to and fro like a badminton shuttlecock, and the engaging characters of Jill and Trevor. Flynn and Bolam have been solid character actors for decades; fans of British television will recognize their faces. It's a pleasure to have this talented pair taking the lead as two ordinary people who accidentally fall into out-of-the-ordinary circumstances. Don't let the seeming casualness of the beginning put you off--The Beiderbecke Affair grows more delightful the more you watch. --Bret Fetzer

Product Description

Alan Plater's hit comedy/mystery series introduces the engaging partnership of jazz loving woodshop teacher Trevor Chaplin (James Bolam) and his girlfriend Jill (Barbara Flynn) who hopes to save the planet by winning a seat on the town council. They are on the trail of the gorgeous blonde saleswoman who mistakenly delivered a set of records that were supposed to be a Bix Beiderbecke series, the legendary jazz musician and Trevor's hero. As the adventure further unfolds, Trevor and Jill become involved in bizarre situations with even more bizarre people, including a borderline lunatic detective and an unlikely pair of brothers running a very suspicious business. It isn't long before they uncover a sinister web of corrupt government officials, crooked businessman and are on the receiving end of death threats. This outlandishly funny series weaves quirky characters, witty dialogue and a wonderfully smooth jazz soundtrack into a uniquely satisfying and entertainment experience.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of British TV July 21 2004
By A Customer
Format:DVD
This is one more example of why I miss British TV. It is nice to be able to see this again, this time on DVD. I hope Amazon will soon be making available the missig part of the series, the Beiderbecke Tapes.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bitish Comedy May 7 2009
By Marcia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
The Beiderbecke Affair

More comedy than mystery, this DVD is filled with typical British dry wit with shots at religion, bureaucratic government and police posturing. Nothing is sacred. While the box says "Bolam and Flynne plat the later-day Nick and Nora Charles with relish", I own The Thin Man set and must disagree. No dead bodies. The banter between the two is similar in a more British style, but the mystery is more satire on detective flicks. There are 3 quotes from Bogie films: Casablanca, Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep, but that's as far as the film goes in the genre of film noir or Raymond Chandler books.

It is, however, a great romantic commedy with a subtle plot and well worth owning. There is a mystery, but it's more in the style of Hetty Wainthrop where the detectives are foreground and the mystery is background. The acting is excellent, the comedic pace is right on and the characters are engaging. My only criticism would be a week wrap up after the resolution. Yes, the coppers, well ... maybe you better watch it ... it takes a long time to sort out who is 'good' and who is 'bad' in this flick. The plot twists are subtle and interwoven into the fabric of the main characters relationships. I recommend this movie highly, if you like satire, British humour, wacky romance and a convoluted plot. Do not buy it expecting The Thin Man and a 'body in the library' where all the suspects are rounded up in the end and the truth will out. It's good fun!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 300 min. of quality british TV May 6 2009
By rbw
Format:DVD
Made in the mid 80's this mystery/comedy has lost none of it's appeal.Set in Northern England, Trevor (James Bolam)orders some Bix Beiderbecke records but receives the wrong items.With his girlfreind he sets out to find the elusive saleswoman encountering lots of odd characters on the way,culminating in exposing local government corruption.Very well written by Alan Plater the dialogue is witty rather than hilarious,some knowledge of UK life would add to the enjoyment.Jazz sound track by Frank Ricotti adds to the fun.Overall a top class production.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brit serio-comedy does it again . . . July 1 2003
By Michael K. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Properly-done British humor, as I frequently explain to acquaintances who are puzzled by it, is probably an acquired taste. It's certainly more subtle and intellectual than your average sitcom -- Yank or Brit -- and even when it's topical, its popularity is likely to last. This is Series One of a terrific comedy-mystery featuring a clutch of character actors who are not in the Hollywood mold. In fact, I had never before come across James Bolam, who plays Trevor Chaplin, public school woodworking teacher in West Yorkshire, and I only knew Barbara Flynn (Jill Swinburne, English teacher at the same school and Environmentalist Party candidate for the town council) from her supporting role as Mrs. Maigret, and from _Lorna Doone_ and _The Forsyte Saga_. Dudley Sutton was an old favorite from the _Lovejoy_ series, and Colin Blakely has been marvelous in nearly all his many roles. The dialogue is frequently off-the-wall, especially when Jill and Trevor are dealing with the officious Headmaster or the semi-clueless Det. Sgt. Hobson, B.A. (a "graduate copper," beautifully played by Dominic Jephcott), and their cautious personal relationship is believable and endearing. Trevor isn't actually as limp as he might at first seem, and Jill isn't nearly so independently fearless and self-sufficient as she would like to believe. The plot is also just this side of terminally bizarre, involving the "gray economy" (which Big Al refers to as the "white economy," in an attempt to improve its image) and the lengths to which the Powers That Be will go to subvert its influence, the reappearance in Trevor's life of his old flame, Helen of Tadcaster, and a retired bookie's runner (with his dog, Jason) who tries, not very successfully, to make a buck as a police informant. But another major character in the series is the blighted landscape of urban Yorkshire, staring out at you as Trevor and Jill tootle around town in his delapidated minivan. Finally, the very last scene, "running downhill in slow motion," is almost worth the price of admission all by itself!
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great series still awaiting a decent presentation Jan. 28 2003
By Dave Matthews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Given the dire quality of the recent VHS-only releases by Granada Media in the UK, I was pleased to find this American DVD issue.
However it's not all good news: the prints used are noticeably grainy & scratchy - particularly in the first couple of episodes. Clearly no attempt has been made to polish them up, let alone remaster the series. The dialogue track, however, has been "cleaned up" on the first episode - presumably in an attempt to remove background hiss. Sadly this has been done rather amateurishly and results in unnatural silences during pauses in dialogue.
Although the episodes are complete, a minor but puzzling point is that the end titles for segments 1 and 3 have been removed.
Overall, then, while I applaud Goldhil for issuing the series on silver disk, the set isn't worth its normal retail price. The prints used might have been acceptable for VHS but their flaws are quite apparent on DVD. Lack of proper extras don't help, either.
Hopefully this wonderful series will receive the quality of release it deserves one day. In the meantime, however, Goldhil's attempt is certainly better than nothing!
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Off-Beat Fun That Might Remind You of Nick and Nora Jan. 22 2009
By Stephanie De Pue - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
"The Beiderbecke Affair," a box set of a light-hearted British television mystery series, was made by Yorkshire Television for Britain's Independent Television stations (ITV). The six-episode series was broadcast on PBS in this country in the 1990's, along with its sequels, Beiderbecke Tapes, and The Beiderbecke Connection. It was created by the award-winning Alan Plater, one of Britain's more prolific, entertaining writers, and centers on a pair of wisecracking schoolteachers caught up in some amateur sleuthing.

The series is set, and filmed in the city of Leeds, in Yorkshire, a place we don't hardly ever see over here. (Though, warning to the wise, we don't hardly ever hear Yorkshire accents over here, either, and that's what the cast is using. And there are no subtitles). Anyway, Trevor Chaplin, our protagonist, is also actually a transplanted Geordie, from further North, up Newcastle, Hadrian's Wall way, (upon which friends and acquaintances comment), with his own accent. As played by James Bolam ("New Tricks," "The End of the Affair"), he's a jazz-loving, kind of befuddled, but witty everyman woodworking teacher. And apparently he hasn't reflected upon the fact that beautiful, well-dressed platinum blonds seldom go selling door to door, until he buys a bunch of Beiderbecke records - that's vinyl records, and there are also no cell phones, only phone boxes - from one. The Beiderbecke records fail to turn up (Beiderbecke was an early American jazz great of the 1920's), and Trevor goes looking into things with his girlfriend and fellow teacher, who's running on the green line for town council, Jill Swinburne (Barbara Flynn, Mrs. Cracker, from the long-running mystery series Cracker: The Complete Collection).

The mystery's kind of light-weight, not exactly watertight, and moves along in a leisurely British fashion, but it will get round to gray-market goods hidden in a church basement, secret meetings on level 4 of a multi-story car park, and corruption at the highest local levels. The banter's consistently witty, and so is the sound track, inspired by Beiderbecke's work, by the award-winning musician Frank Ricotti. Co-stars include Dominic Jephcott ("The Scarlet Pimpernel.") There's also a substantial number of those sturdy British supporting players: Colin Blakely, Dudley Sutton, Terence Rigby, and James Grout, among others.

The award-winning writer Alan Plater's credits include Last of Blonde Bombshells,and A Very British Coup.

The episodes in this series are:
1. "What I don't understand is this...?" Where are the records?
2. "Can anybody join in?" A newly-minted, university graduate cop (Jephcott), has his suspicions.
3. "We call it the white economy." The plot thickens.
4. "Um...I know what you're thinking." And gets thicker still, as Helen McAllister, a wealthy, well-connected former girlfriend of Trevor's, suddenly shows up.
5. "That was a very funny evening." Helen and Jill go out to dinner together and put away a lot of champagne. They toss a coin for Trevor, and Helen wins...
6. "We are on the brink of a new era. If only...."City council elections, and dirty tricks.

It's all offbeat fun, and might just remind you of those charming Nick and Nora mysteries of the 1940s, but things do get a bit whimsical and/or farcical at times. Those who have a taste for such entertainments -- like me--will appreciate it best.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Watch Out July 14 2007
By G. Price - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Over the past six months I have purchased and returned this set five times. Each time the problem has been that the first disc of this three disc set may be labled disc one but is in fact disc three containing episodes 5 & 6. and of course disc three is disc three and also has episodes 5 & 6.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jazz and Intrigue in Yorkshire July 12 2005
By takingadayoff - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Alan Plater's stories are always just on the verge of being a little too cute. The dialogue is sometimes too clever by half, but more often than not, it actually works. So I can understand if the Beiderbecke series is not to everyone's liking. After happening on the series on tv, I had to find the books. I've read the trilogy at least five times since I found a paperback copy in London in 1994 (at Books, Etc., which was replaced by Borders and is still on Charing Cross Road near Tottenham Court Rd.).

The Beiderbecke Affair is my favorite of the three Beiderbecke stories (The Beiderbecke Tapes and The Beiderbecke Connection are the second and third of the series). We are introduced to Trevor and Jill, Big Al and Little Norm, the gang at school, and the mostly incompetent bunch at the police station. Why has a beautiful platinum blonde offered to sell jazz records to Trevor? What do Big Al and Little Norm have to hide? How are Jill's English students getting extra copies of Tess of the D'Urbervilles? And how does Bix Beiderbecke fit in?

As you may guess, the mystery is secondary in these stories. The appeal is the interplay among the characters and the running gags. The music is a big plus in the video versions, with an excellent band playing the songs of Leon "Bix" Beiderbecke, jazz musician of The Twenties, who died tragically young, and whose cornet playing inspires Trevor and occasionally other characters, but alas, never Jill.

Start with the The Beiderbecke Affair, not just because it is the first of the series, but because it is the best story.
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