Just Good Friends all on DVD

Monday, 25 October 2010 07:11

Produced between 1983 and 1986, Just Good Friends showcases the classic archetype of an on-off relationship. The series mines the subject for every last drop of romantic comedy and also a sizeable helping of drama. Paul Nicholas (The Royal Today, “Tommy”) and Jan Francis (Collision, Stay Lucky) are Vince and Penny, a couple as madly in love with each other as they are mad at each other.

Vince Pinner is a working-class smart aleck from Walthamstow who cannot resist the ladies and whose charm is as slick as his truthfulness is economic. His family owns a profitable scrap metal business and his parents spend their money on tasteless tat and flashy mod cons. In stark contrast, Penny Warrender comes from a posh upper middle-class family who pride themselves on their perfect pronunciation and quality furnishings.

Just Good Friends - almost complete on DVDAs the first series opens, Vince and Penny bump into each other five years after he jilted her on their wedding day. A lot has happened since that fateful day, but some things remain exactly the same. Like a moth to a flame, Penny cannot resist Vince’s charms despite hating him for his shameful actions, and knowing full-well that there is every chance he will break her heart again.

She is separated from boring husband Graham (Andrew Tourell), and Vince’s bubbly, spirited personality is a ray of sunshine that might just lift her out of her depression.

Vince explains that he could not face being married to Penny because her mother, Daphne (Sylvia Kay) looked down on and utterly despised him and his family, and made him feel uncomfortable whenever he was around. She wilfully suffocated the life out of their relationship. Whilst his story rings true, Penny suspects he has major commitment issues, too.

Despite being at each other’s throats again by the end of the evening, Penny leaves him with the coded message that she hopes she will not see him in the Red Lion pub the next evening, and thus the up and down, stormy relationship beings all over again!

Over the course of the three series, the humour and drama of their rocky relationship is bolstered and impacted upon by other people and events. Key examples include the fortunes of the Pinners’ metal yard and associated business ventures, Penny’s divorce from Graham, her promotion from secretarial assistant to more high-powered advertising posts, nationwide economic depression and the devious meddling of another woman in Vince’s life.

Early on, the series appears to be settling into a bit of a tedious rut in terms of the couple’s relationship, but all fears are quickly banished as the writers ably prove they can find new situations and character combinations to keep the show fresh.

Nicholas and Francis are perfect as the chalk and cheese pairing, him a handsome, loveable rogue armed with a barrage of witty retorts, flashing pearly-whites and sharp suits, and she is an attractive woman who demonstrates a fine balance of emotional vulnerability and strength through intelligence and good upbringing. There is plenty of chemistry between them, which helps energise the sparks of love and loathing.

The supporting cast is also wonderful. Sylvia Kay (Mary Soper in Dalziel and Pascoe) is spot on as Daphne, the mother-in-law that everyone dreads, but she occasionally reveals glimpses of a softer and more affectionate person underneath that prevent her from becoming a true monster.

John Ringham (London’s Burning, Woof!) is Penny’s bossed-about father Norman, a dignified man who manages to see the goodness in his daughter’s relationship with Vince despite his wife’s constant interference. He finds solace in his model ships and home-brewed beer.

On Vince’s side, his father Les (Shaun Curry) and mother Rita (Ann Lynn) are very bold and entertaining characters. Les is pretty rough around the edges, and he half encourages, half criticises his son’s cheeky behaviour. Rita is overly friendly and talkative, both qualities that make Daphne recoil in horror in conjunction with Rita’s commonness. They both love Penny to bits, and love the thought of their son and her getting back together regardless of their rocky past.

Topping off the Pinner family is Clifford (Adam French), Vince’s younger brother, an endearing twerp who breaks everything he sets his eyes on and with a knack for blurting out secrets at the worst possible moments! Plenty of tertiary characters fill out the story including some colourful friends and work colleagues.

Although the fashions and technology (such as massive wireless phones) look garish and dated, the comedy and character interaction is timeless. You soon see beyond the 1980s trappings and enter into the spirit of the series whole heartedly. Whilst it might not have you laughing out loud anywhere near as much as the people on the laughter track, I guarantee you will chuckle a lot at running gags such as Vince’s carelessness with his plastic cigarettes and his and Daphne’s sharp verbal sparring.

The show also employs a neat trick of running the closing credits whilst the camera is still rolling, always delivering an amusing or dramatic punch-line right at the end of the episode.

The box set sadly comes with no traditional special features at all, though it does feature the 1984 Christmas Special which ran after the end of the second series. Bizarrely, this feature-length 90 minute episode takes us right back to before the events of the first series. We finally get to see how Vince and Penny met, fell in love and got engaged, the tragic wedding and Penny’s tortuous marriage to Graham. The events close right at the start of the first episode of series 1, so you could opt to watch the special before everything else without any negative impact.

Sadly this special includes a few lengthy scenes where the sound track has been replaced due to legal issues over song rights, which means that you have to follow the dialogue by way of subtitles. The special also lacks the laughter track, so it feels quite flat in comparison to the three main series.

When all is said and done, I do not wish to let these relatively small complaints get in the way of the fact that this box set contains twelve hours of newly restored, classic British comedy on four discs. The asking price is well worth it!

Just Good Friends – Complete Series 1-3 (1983-1986) is out now on DVD, courtesy of Eureka Entertainment. The total running time of the box set is 12 hours approx, certificate ‘PG’ and the set retails for £49.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

denizli escort denizli escort