STANDING ON GUARD

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Northern Lights: The Complete Collection

Release Year:      2004 – 2008
Studio:      Acorn Media
Format:      Boxed Set; Colour; NTSC; Widescreen
Rated:      Not Rated
# of Discs/Episodes:      4/12 episodes + 2 movies + bonus
Running Time:      713 minutes
DVD Release Date:      February 7, 2012

Screenwriters:      Bob Mills, Jeff Pope
Actors:      Robson Green, Mark Benton, Nicola Stephenson, Sian Reeves
DVD Features:      SDH subtitles; 46 minute behind-the-scenes featurette
E: Top Picks Rating:      8/10

Acorn Media Write-up: 
Broadcast on BBC America and produced from 2004-2008, the ITV series NORTHERN LIGHTS: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION follows lifelong friends and rivals Colin Armstrong (Robson Green) and Howard Scott (Mark Benton) on a hilarious series of misadventures in these four complete programs. From a stint in witness protection to an international Santa competition, there’s never a dull moment.

When they were schoolboys, their rivalries were over soccer teams, girls, and clothes. Now that they are married men in their thirties, they compete over jobs, cars, and even the Christmas decorations on their houses. Lifelong friends Colin and Howard are so bent on outdoing each other that they risk jeopardizing everything and everyone around them, especially their long-suffering wives, Jackie and Pauline. In the end, they find there is no escaping each other – for good or for ill, the bitterest of rivals and the best of friends.

Jon Ted Wynne Review: 
Robson Green is practically a national treasure in the U.K. North American audiences are gradually getting to know his work and one thing is certain: the man is versatile.

TOUCHING EVIL was this reviewer’s introduction to Green’s talents. That fine, intense series was released in North America by Acorn Media and clearly the response was positive. “Give us more Robson Green,” you could hear the fans crying.

Judging by interviews with Green on Youtube, the man is hilarious in person and it is no wonder that his comedic skills are every bit as competent as his dramatic abilities. This is plainly on display in the box set NORTHERN LIGHTS, which includes two movies and two series, the entire collection of programs featuring Green as Colin Armstrong and the wonderful, equally-gifted actor Mark Benton as his best friend, Howard Scott.

2004 – Movie, CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
2006 – 6 episode series NORTHERN LIGHTS
2007 – 6 episode series CITY LIGHTS
2008 – Movie, CLASH OF THE SANTAS

This charming series, though not without moments of drama, is a marvelously witty examination of lifelong friendship, male one-upmanship, love and the kind of typically adolescent but somehow charming humour that exists between friends who were closer than brothers right from their earliest school days.

This candid examination of male friendship is a breath of fresh air. Colin and Howard are two regular blokes who have wives, kids, jobs, hobbies and a tendency towards petty jealousy in common. The show is brilliantly written and affords everyone in the ensemble cast an opportunity to shine. Aside from some political correctness in one episode that comes across as preachy, the story threads remain believable (though only just, in some cases) and enjoyable.

A 46 minute behind the scenes look at the making of NORTHERN LIGHTS is fun, too. There’s no denying that in the competitive world of DVD marketing, such things as packaging and extras make an impact.

NORTHERN LIGHTS won’t change your world, but it will entertain you and keep you wanting more. The final film in the series, CLASH OF THE SANTAS, shows that the show has run its course. While it’s the weakest of the lot, it still provides time in the company of characters we’ve grown to love. You’ll have a smile on your face (most of the time) and, like the above-quoted Robson Green fans, chances are you’ll also be thinking “give us more Robson Green.” And Mark Benton, quite frankly. He’s a fine character actor visible in a number of shows and always gives a powerful performance.

Speaking of Green, it would be nice if Acorn Media would distribute Green’s show “Soldier, Soldier”, in which he and cast mate Jerome Flynn sang the classic song Unchained Melody. Due to the quick thinking of Simon Cowell–yes, THAT Simon Cowell–a record of their singing the song was soon made and became a huge overnight hit in the U.K. and the duo went on to release several albums. (“Soldier, Soldier” is highly regarded in its own right, however.)

Nice to know there’s a treasure trove of good programing still to be discovered. Keep up the good work, Acorn. And thank you for the Closed Captioning.

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