Comics (TV)
R2 - United Kingdom - Simply Media
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (31st May 2018).
The Show

Lynda La Plante's murder thriller set in the dark underworld of London's comedy club circuit

A two-part British drama written by one of Britain's most notable playwrights Lynda La Plante, unveiling a rarely-seen, dark and distorted side of British life.

Lazar (Tim Guinee) is a struggling, second-rate American stand-up comedian trying to make it big on the London circuit. His self-destructive tendencies mean he has blown his chances of hitting it big in the States, and often leads him to trouble. But misfortune follows Johnny, and his life is transformed after he witnesses a gangland hit. Becoming a target himself, he has to live his life on the run.

Starring BAFTA-nominee Lennie James (The Walking Dead), Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones), Tim Guinee (Iron Man) and Danny Webb (Alien 3)

Directed by BAFTA-winner Diarmuid Lawrence (Silent Witness) and Produced by BAFTA-winner Verity Lambert (Doctor Who)

Video

A Channel 4 production and one of Linda Le Plante’s specials, a 2-part mini series filled with gritty situations and characters, laced with dark humour and violence.

Being a UK television production this was probably shot on 16mm film and this DVD almost certainly uses an old broadcast master prepared in 1993.

Consequently the image is a trifle dull with a slightly contrasty look and evidence of mild black crush, especially in dark scenes. Occasionally blacks are more very dark grey and slightly milky. These issues are most likely baked into the master and symptomatic of television production at the time rather than anything done in the encoding process.

That said, this is a packed disc with three and a half hours of material on a single duel layered DVD. Compression issues are evident with mild macro blocking and a small amount of posterisation in darker moments. There is no grain apparent and the image is soft lacking in any fine detail.

Encoding is adequate but this should really have had a new HD master created which would’ve looked far better even in standard definition. A Blu-ray would’ve brought out the heavy grain which should be present.

On the plus side, colours are naturalistic and occasionally rich but they don’t pop like they should. The text book example of how to present 16mm are the recent DVD / Blu-ray editions of The Professionals (1977-81). There are no signs of tape dropout or print damage.

PAL / 1.33:1 / 214:10 (Episode 1: 107:55; Episode 2: 106:15)

Audio

English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

No subtitles

The soundtrack is a decently represented but basic stereo track from early ‘90s UK TV. Music is clear with decent fidelity and a nice amount of base; it occasionally bled into my subwoofer. Dialogue is always crisp and well defined and is resolutely front and centre. The surround field isn’t really given much of a workout with the exception of the score and action scenes.

No subtitles is not acceptable in 2018.

Extras

None.

A shame because a prestigious slice of TV drama like this would’ve had EPK (Electronic Press Kit) material, TV spots, promotional interviews and behind the scenes footage.

Overall

A barebones release using an adequate off the shelf transfer, with acceptable video and decent audio. No restoration has been done but the ageing master is in good shape with a dull-ish picture and robust sound. Obviously, an all-film production like this should really have had a Blu-ray release but the copyright holders (Channel 4) may not have sprung for an HD master; it may also be a video assembled production and is therefore locked into standard definition unless a pricy rebuild is commissioned.

This will obviously be light years ahead of any 25 year old off-air recordings.

The price isn’t too expensive so if this is your bag, snap it up.

Video: C+ Audio: A- Extras: F Overall: B-

 


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