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Under the Hammer
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Ben Glazier (Richard Wilson, One Foot in the Grave) and Maggie Perowne (Jan Francis, Just Good Friends) head the paintings department at Klinsky’s, a well-regarded auction house. Ben can’t resist a good mystery, whether it’s identifying a potential Titian masterpiece, tracking down a lost Dickens manuscript, or pondering how to catch Maggie’s attention. Maggie, meanwhile, dabbles in her own workplace intrigue—in the form of dashing-yet-dodgy wine expert Nick Roper (Michael Siberry, The Grand).
Ben and Maggie share a profound passion for the art they put under the hammer, even if the job means contending with professional competition, a cash-mad boss, and the ever-present threat of fraud. One part art caper, one part slow-burn romance, Under the Hammer provides a revealing glimpse into a world that celebrates profit nearly as much as artistic genius.
Written by John Mortimer, creator of Rumpole of the Bailey, the series also features superb guest stars, including John Gielgud (Arthur), Emily Mortimer (Match Point), Rosemary Harris (Spider-Man), Hermione Norris (Cold Feet), and Ian Carmichael (The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries).
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Top Customer Reviews
DVD: 7 episodes on 2 discs in average size plastic case. approx 357 min. Bonus. Biography of john mortimer.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Cast is led by Maggie (Jan Francis-`Just Good Friends' `Anne of Green Gables, Avonlea') head of Old Masters dept. who's desired by painting expert Ben (Richard Wilson-`One Foot in the Grave' but never says "I can't be-lieve it!"). Maggie is hot for wine dept head Nick (Michael Siberry-`The Grand'). Klinsky's London office Lord Bernard `Chairman' (Robert Lang) cheats with office gal Camilla (Marsha Fitzalan), & then Annabelle (Kate McKenzie-`Endgame'). Shrimsley (Stephen Boxer-`Garrows Law' `Prime Suspect') is too busy counting the company beans to get female-frisky. Receptionist Lucy (Rose Keegan-`Lilies' `Harry Potter') dizzily dreams of acting.
And then the GUEST STARS begin to appear profusely in each episode. Many stars are not even recognized as such on the box or in the credits, just listed as a cast member. Many are noted below in the episode details (without spoilers).
7 Episodes, about 51 minutes each, all with SUBTITLES provided.
Bonus is a text bio of Mortimer, the AMAZING writer.
Rated perhaps PG (?) with plenty of adultery and bed shots but everyone covered. General family entertainment, but content likely more young adult and older.
THE FATAL ATTRIBUTION== A suspicious but potential Bronzino (1500s) oil gets the Old Masters dept thrilled and off to solving the mystery behind the art brought by Sarah Napper (Susan Wooldridge). Another expert, Hugo (John Gielgud-`Six Centuries of Verse' `Brideshead Revisited') is called to help. Romantic subplots also go up for bid at London Klinsky's.
WONDERS IN THE DEEP== Lord Bertie's wine cases are tossed into the lake by his tea-total wife. Valuable bottles offered for sale at Klinsky's leaves Ben suspect of love-rival Nick's find. Wine and a silver antique get the mystery investigation moving. Are the old items for real? In-house hormones rage on.
THE VIRGIN OF VITEBSK== Potential for a Moscow Klinsky's office is the exploratory trip reason by Ben & Maggie. Is this Ben's romantic opportunity to hit on Maggie? A resurfaced icon and a tour guide create a Russian block. Angela (Emily Mortimer-`Coming Home' `A Dance to the Music of Time' & writer Mortimer's daughter) is traveling in Moscow chaperoned by Batty (Judy Cornwell-`Keeping up Appearances'). A Russian gallery lady, Olga (Rosalie Crutchley-`Anglo Saxon Attitudes') knows something about the icon art piece.
THE JOLLY JOKER== Chairman of Klinsky's may have been taken when he purchased from a modern artist. Ben and Maggie find clues to a fraud plot as well as true romantic spark between themselves. Ned (Keith Barron-`Where the Heart Is') flings modern paint. Liz Hardcastle (Phyllida Law-Emma Thompson's ma) sings in a pub.
AFTER TITIAN== A Klinsky's NY bidder drops dead. Is Ben right in associating the Titian oil to the event? A conflict twixt conscience & career. Scot art buyer, Flecknow (Dan O'Herlihy)want Scot Ben's opinion. Klinsky's NY office head, Whiteside (Michael J. Shannon-`We'll Meet Again' `Superman II') who flirts with Maggie-& she with he.
THE SPECTER AT THE FEAST== Rare finds are always questioned-including an unpublished Charles Dickens manuscript. When it is stolen, Ben gets the blame. Did he do it? A host of guest stars make up the client's family. Dame Thora Hird (Hallelujah!' `Last of the Summer Wine') plays Nanny to the Bovington clan. Ma Hester (Rosemary Harris-`Holocaust' `Being Julia'); her son Hector (Martin Clunes-`Doc Martin'); son Mike (Richard Huw''Van der Valk' `Murder Investigation Team'); in-law Authea (Hermoine Norris-`Berkeley Sq.' `MI-5') make up the Bovington family. Annabelle (Kate McKenzie) appears at the London office to double up on the adultery for Klinsky's Bernard. Fun episode.
TREASURE TROVE== Maggie's personal life and company relations take a bit of a hit. Decisions must be made. Calpurnia (Susan Fleetwood-`Persuasion'), head in Antiquities dept, causes issues too. Sad because there is no more "UNDER THE HAMMER."
See, that's a lot of stars in one series.
TRULY FUN MYSTERY, ROMANCE, DRAMA, HUMOR MIX. Not just a DVD for the art lovers. All lovers will like this one.
Richard Wilson's attempt at portraying a sophisticated Ben came off more as just an unpleasantly snide man. I could not like the character or root for him, in his attempts to romance a much younger woman.
To me, the series would be greatly improved by an almost police procedural approach to investigating the art. Very little analysis was shown. If this was meant to be a comedy, it was just not funny enough. As a mystery, the series is only passable. I find that I much prefer "New Tricks" in a similar TV series category.
However, the cameos, by the likes of John Gielgud, were really wonderful. To me, the guest star performances only served to accentuate what was lacking in the rest of the episode. More engaging characterizations and a more interesting treasure hunt would have been just my cup of tea.
Besides some wonderfully humorous dialog for the viewer to enjoy, there are good mysteries to be solved by the team of Ben (played greatly by Richard Wilson) and Maggie (played wonderfully by Jan Francis) heading up the "Fine Arts" team and are always questioning "is it real or fake" uncovering extreme efforts by many characters (played by some famous British actors such as Sir John Gielgud--he's fabulous plus there are many, many more "guests") to "pass off" fakes or to just "pull one over" on the experts. In addition to the "Art Intrigues", there are delicious sub-plots involving the "sexual affairs " of Maggie and the wine Department head of the Auction House, Nick and the ongoing affair of the chairman and his "office gal" that he's not married to along with his many efforts to"hide" her. Added to the aforesaid, Ben is secretly in love with Maggie and is very jealous of she and Nick,
All in all, I derived hours of pleasure from viewing "Under the Hammer" and highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys wonderfully written, directed and acted British "mysteries".