for peace … for freedom … for Canada

French Fields Complete Collection

Release Year:      1989 – 1991

Studio:      Acorn Media

Format:      Colour; NTSC; Box Set

Rated:      Not Rated

# of Discs/Episodes:      3/19

Running Time:      473 minutes

DVD Release Date:      February 28, 2012

Screenwriter:      Ian Davidson

Directors:      Mark Stuart, Derrick Goodwin

Actors:      Julia McKenzie, Anton Rodgers, Pamela Salem, Phillip Bird, Karen Ascoe, Liz Crowther, Phillip McGough

DVD Features:      SDH subtitles

E:Top Picks Rating:      8/10

Acorn Media Write-up:      A classic domestic comedy in the tradition of “I Love Lucy”, FRENCH FIELDS: COMPLETE COLLECTION has been broadcast continually on PBS since the 1990s. The lighthearted empty nester Brit-com stars beloved actors Anton Rodgers (“May to December”, “Lillie”) and Julia McKenzie (“Agatha Christie’s Marple”) as a happily married couple that relocate to France in search of a change of pace. The DVD 3-disc set includes all three series of this warm and witty comedy. FRENCH FIELDS (1989 – 1991) is the sequel to the award-winning FRESH FIELDS, which ran for four series (1984 – 1986).

Frustrated with his daily commute and clients who don’t pay their bills, accountant William Fields (Anton Rodgers) is ready for a change. His wife, Hester (Julia McKenzie) is always up for something new, so when William gets headhunted for a job in France, both are willing to give it a try. What will the Fields make of France – and what will the French make of the Fields? William and Hester dust off their phrase books, pluck up their courage, and soon discover there’s a lot more than the Channel separating the English from the French.

Jon Ted Wynne Review:      Situation comedy that eschews sexual innuendo and features happily married middle-aged protagonists is hard to find these days, at least in North America. That is why FRENCH FIELDS, the complete collection, is a welcome addition to the list of superb product being marketed in Canada and the United States by that purveyor of quality media, Acorn.

FRENCH FIELDS is a sequel to the series FRESH FIELDS, which featured the legendary Anton Rodgers and Julia McKenzie (the current Miss Marple) as William and Hester Fields, a middle-aged married couple who are very much in love and whose life together is alternately harmonious and discordant. Sometimes compared to “I Love Lucy”, the scenario is basically the same: tolerant and forgiving husband puts up with the antics of his hyperactive and well-meaning wife while at the core is a very loving, committed relationship. Zany neighbours and relatives add to the fun of it all.

The difference here is that in both FIELDS series, the acting is exemplary. True, Lucille Ball could act – she became a comedienne after a sincere stab at a dramatic career – but Desi Arnaz (wonderful and appealing as he was) was really just a personality, a foil for Lucy. Both McKenzie and the late Rodgers were seasoned stage actors when they assumed these roles in the mid-1980s. After four series and a total of 27 episodes of FRESH FIELDS, the creators realized that new life had to be breathed into the format were it to continue. And that is precisely what FRENCH FIELDS does. William and Hester decide that they aren’t getting any younger and decide to uproot and move to France. Of course the change of scenery and culture brings with it new characters and situations and, for a time, this serves to invigorate the show. Towards the end of FRENCH FIELDS, it all seems somewhat familiar though, and one gets the feeling the producers of the show were aware they needed to draw things to a close while they were still fun. Thanks primarily to the two central performances – this really is superb acting on display, folks – the show continues to charm right to the end.

FRENCH FIELDS ran for three series and a total of 19 episodes and is available in one set of three discs. FRESH FIELDS is available in two sets, also distributed by Acorn Media.

The show is absolutely delightful, in large part because it is totally free of cynicism. While some might prefer their comedy – like their coffee – black, FRESH FIELDS and FRENCH FIELDS simply add the right amount of sugar, without becoming saccharine. This is the type of relaxing programming that is fun to watch after a long day at work. And, if you are lucky enough to be in a loving, supportive relationship like that of the Fields, you will especially appreciate the interaction between these two lovebirds. The show was widely watched in its day, though even then it was considered light-weight. Having said that, the fact that it is now available on DVD suggests there will always be a market for quality programming, no matter how light/heavy it may be. Though the Fields’ storylines avoid controversy and contention, they continue to entertain. And that, my friends, is the bottom line. Highly recommended.