Saturday, September 07, 2013

As Time Goes By


As Time Goes By invokes the great song from Casablanca, but focuses in on a more routine love story of two people, once in love during the early 50s, who are separated by war and a postal fluke. A misdirected letter leads the pair to think they are not a couple any more. Decades later they meet and discover the damage the fluke of delivery has done to them. Lionel and Jean begin life as lovers over again from a more mature perspective.

The series stars Judy Dench as jean and Geoffrey Palmer as Lionel. Dench has, of course, fame in movie circles in America. Among the other characters Janet Henfrey as Mrs. Bale is notable for her rigid, quirky behavior. Her rigid devotion to order and precise living is just wild to watch. She also connects into village traditions and marks their importance.

For geography you get to see the Holland Park section of London, where they live, and Hampshire, where Lionel's father Rocky has a country home. Beyond that you get to see a detailed slice of British life involving urban housing and issues contrasted with the cute eccentric nature of rural village life.

Holland Park is a park and a district in the west central part of London. The neighborhood is fairly well off and clean. Depending upon where you live in the Unnited Sates, the tight row house building structures may seem different. The suburban-rural viewer will find this very different. One takes a high stairs down to the sidewalk, often quite a number of steps. The front yard (garden in British terms) is tiny to non-existent.

Housing and life urban houses are tight and compact. Kitchens are small as far as appliances go. One notices the smallest of the refrigerator in many British comedy series. It is often the size of a normal American dishwasher. Along with this note they shop more often. Lionel often goes out just to get some sausages for breakfast. Things are minimal in storage at home. The pub is a focus for life as people seem to regularly just go out for a drink. The urban ones used seem like quiet places of discussion.

Hampshire is the setting for a number of funny episodes. It is a short drive to the West of London, and Jean and Lionel will make that drive often in certain periods of the show. That drive is along mostly clear of traffic country roads. They are well maintained and paved. Here we see the estate of fame. A large imposing house often seen in other media places. The garden area is large. We might note for English majors that Hampshire is the home of Jane Austin and Charles Dickens. Farming is obviously important, but of that smaller European nature versus North Dakota and Minnesota.

Life in the rural areas is traditional in British comedies. The locals can be, shall we say, different. as many 1940s Hollywood pictures used rural New England for people of quirky character, so do the producers use rural England for them. They have their traditional roles in village life, and seem not to question those spots in society. Part of that life is in very old fashioned looking pubs.

Of note, but not obvious to the viewer without background, is the tension of new people versus older residents. The islands of the United Kingdom have the most significant display of this. Richer urbanites move in and do not quite fit with the more poverty leveled local folk. This element if lightly seen here, but is present over the series. Out in the islands, this variables has led to more massive problems of land price increases and such.

And then there is Mrs. Bale. One ginat gem of a character. She is Rocky's housekeeper and epitomizes the rural traditionalist. She is eccentric to the max. She is precise. She listens to the shipping forecast (a detailed weather forecast of the weather in the channel, for shipping use), though one is never sure how this influences local weather. A joy to watch while seeing a stereotypical rural British character.

The show ran 1992-2002 with a 2005 reprise to catch up on things. Your PBS station is the place to look for it as many have it in rotation.

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