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Bretts, The: The Complete Collection

Release Year:   1987-1988
Studio:   Acorn Media
Format:   Colour NTSC Boxed Set
Rated:   Not Rated
# of Discs/Episodes:   6 / 19
Running Time:   16 h 15 m
DVD Release Date:   July 26, 2011

Creator:   Rosemary Anne Sisson, Frank Marshall
Actors:   Norman Rodway, Barbara Murray, Belinda Lang, George Winter, Tim Wylton, David Yelland, Rebecca Lacey, Billy Boyle, Rhoda Lewis, Janet Maw, Sally Cookson
DVD Features:   SDH subtitles
E: Top Picks Rating:   9/10

Acorn Media Write-up: 
Brimming with wit and roaring Twenties flair, The Bretts: The Complete Collection arrives on DVD featuring all 19 episodes from series 1 and 2 of this Masterpiece Theatre hit. Broadcast on PBS and ITV in the late 1980s, this classic series co-created by Upstairs, Downstairs writer Rosemary Anne Sisson follows Britain’s leading theatrical family as they navigate their complicated personal and professional lives. Hilarity, tragedy, and slapstick comedy ensue as the family attempts to adapt to their rapidly changing world. Norman Rodway, Barbara Murray and David Yelland provide pitch-perfect performances, collected in this value-priced 6-disc collection.

The Bretts have ruled the London stage since the 1880s. Patriarch Charles (Rodway) is a matinee idol and a womanizer. His wife, Lydia (Murray) is a glamorous star of musical comedies. Their five children include actors and a radical playwright, and their dramatic household is further enlivened by loyal but gossipy servants.

Now it’s the late 1920s, and times are changing. As talking pictures loom and Hollywood calls, the family buys a West End theatre to manage. The Bretts is a glimpse into the lives of a theatrical family whose most dramatic moments often occur at home.

Jon Ted Wynne Review: 
Watching THE BRETTS: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION coincided with a recent trip to London where I had the extraordinary pleasure of meeting a friend at the Garrick Club, London’s most exclusive Arts Club.

Referenced repeatedly in THE BRETTS, the club is a celebration of theatre artists. It is this atmosphere, this ode, this great homage to all British actors that is at the heart and centre of the brilliantly conceived series THE BRETTS.

Who are the Bretts? They are a theatrical family who must adapt to changing times (the series is set during the transition period when cinemas began to replace live theatre as the public’s number one entertainment preference). There is father Charles (the great Norman Rodway) and his gorgeous and manipulative wife, Lydia (the ageless Barbara Murray). They have five children in the family business, all of whom have larger-than-life personalities and genuine, if varied, talents.

The thrust of the series is to take a successful acting family (rather like the Barrymores, one easily imagines) and use their lives, loves and careers as the foundation upon which to tell the story of England in the twenties and the beginning of the 1930s from the perspective of the privileged few.

The wit of the dialogue is astounding and the performances—all grand and appropriately theatrical—are pitch-perfect.

The show is packed with drama, romance, tragedy, hilarity and historical interest. While the upper-crust Bretts might be a bit of a stretch for those whose idea of a family drama is “The Sopranos”, open-minded viewers will eat this show up like a multi-course gourmet meal.

Anyone with experience in the theatre world, especially at the professional level, will howl at the spot-on characterizations. The egos, oh those wonderful, annoying, compelling and hilarious egos! THE BRETTS is a love letter to a long ago time when the acting profession at its most successful was just beginning to achieve a level of social respectability it hadn’t had before.

The series is so good that at the end you feel sad that it is ended. But then who better than the Bretts to know the truth of the old adage, “leave ‘em wanting more!”

The whole cast sparkles in this gem of a series. Bravo to THE BRETTS: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION!