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After 20 years of marriage and raising two children, suburban housewife Hester Fields (Julia McKenzie, Agatha Christie’s Marple) is ready for a new challenge. And it doesn’t seem to matter what it is—she dabbles in painting, jogging, cooking, pottery, and even fencing. Her staid accountant husband, William (Anton Rodgers, May to December), feels no such need for change, yet somehow always seems to get dragged into Hester’s exploits. Each morning he sets off for the office, never knowing what he’ll face when he returns home. But with Hester trying something new each day, life is never dull for the Fields.
Imagine the English version of I Love Lucy: Instead of a wacky blue-collar gal, the red-headed heroine is a suburban empty-nester with a knack for French cooking, while her husband, instead of a hot-blooded Cuban bandleader, is an accountant. You have just imagined Fresh Fields, an endearing Britcom about Hester and William Fields (Julia McKenzie and Anton Rodgers), whose quiet middle-aged lives get sent gently awry by Hester's dotty schemes to bring something new and exciting into their live… which generally means a new hobby, like painting or fencing, or helping her husband around the office, leading to exasperated sighs from William. Ironically, it's the very mildness of the comedy that makes Fresh Fields so charming--it's a portrait of a genuinely happy and long-lived marriage, and the rich affection between Hester and William nicely balances what could be described as domestic slapstick. Additional irritants include their neighbor Sonia (Ann Beach), who's constantly dropping by to borrow a bottle of sherry; Hester's disapproving mother Nancy (Fanny Rowe), who lives in a cottage in the back; and their free-spirit daughter Emma (Debby Cumming), who calls regularly but is never seen, and whose unmarried cohabitation with Peter (Philip Bird) causes many a kerfuffle with Nancy. Fresh Fields: Set 1 includes the first two seasons of the series, a total of 12 half-hour episodes. This is dependable comfort television for Anglophiles. --Bret Fetzer