I was first introduced to Chief Inspector George Gently in the third series. Acorn Media brought out the third series before the rest. Now they've circled back around and brought out the very first set of 'George Gently' episodes, which is a very welcome treat.
The thing that struck me the most about 'George Gently' when I reviewed its third series, was the deep characterization going on. I didn't know anything about Inspector Gently (Martin Shaw) or his partner John Bacchus (Lee Ingleby). Coming into a third season of a serialized American television show is never recommended. You won't know who anyone is, what their motives are, or what is going on in the plot. However, already into the third season, 'George Gently' proved to be an engrossing police procedural.
The episodes are feature-length. Each one runs around 90 minutes long. With the extended amount of time we're able to get some rich background on the characters involved without blasting through their pasts with frenzied flashbacks.
For those who haven't heard of the show, George Gently is a Scotland Yard Chief Inspector in the 1960s. The show uses the time period to its benefit and makes sure to cover topics that were hot-button issues of the times like the expansion of the IRA, the overwhelming negative feelings about homosexuality, and strong animosity between the English and the Germans leftover from the last World War. Each of these situations play big roles in each of the three episodes that make up the first series of the show.
The best part about seeing 'George Gently' from the beginning is seeing how Gently came to be the policeman he is in later seasons. In the very first episode Gently is dealing with the tragic loss of his wife, all the while dealing with rampant corruption in Scotland Yard, and trying to hunt down the man he thinks is responsible for killing his wife. In an American police show the storyline of Gently hunting down his wife's murderer might take a whole season, or two, to actually conclude. Here it takes one episode, but you don't feel like you're missing out on anything. It makes for a very taught and intense first episode. A great way to kick off the series as a whole.
Gently's talent at interrogation is a great part of the show. The writing during the interrogation scenes provide for some of the best dialogue of the show. Gently is quiet and reasonable towards the people he's interrogating, but you can tell that the wheels are turning in his head. He's figuring out what is going on just by reading the people he's interrogating. Bacchus is more of the slap 'em around and ask questions later type of detective. The difference between their detective methods is central to the show. Their complete opposites, but Bacchus desperately wants to be a good cop, although he may be just a tad too ambitious. Gently grounds him. He teaches him the ropes of real, honest police work. However, Bacchus' ways do come in handy every once and a while, which is a nice change of pace. He isn't just there to be ridiculed by Gently. He adds a worthwhile and interesting character to the mix.
'George Gently' is a breezy police procedural with much deeper elements than, say, your standard 'Law and Order' episode. The characters are deeper and more well-rounded. The episodes don't just focus on the case at hand, but how the case affects Gently and Bacchus as policemen and people. It really is one of the better shows to come out of Britain, and that's saying a lot since they have a habit of producing great shows.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a 2-Disc set. Both discs are BD-50s. The first disc has two episodes on it, while the second disc only has one. They come packed in a standard sized keepcase and a slipcover with matching art work.
'George Gently' is presented in 1080i, but identical to the presentation on the third series of the show, this one is almost impossible to tell the difference between it and 1080p. It's a lush and vibrant video presentation that never stopped wowing me.
There's a scene where Gently is looking out over a valley from the side of the road as Bacchus drives up to join him. It perfectly represents the overall clean and defined look of the series in that one shot. At long range we're still able to see individual blades of grass that Gently is standing on. Their cars glimmer in the sunlight, while the vista they're looking at is beautifully rendered and reminded me of the time I spent living in England. That's how good it looked.
There's a scene where Gently is overlooking a valley from the side of the road as Bacchus drives up to join him. It perfectly represents the overall clean and defined look of the series in that one shot. At long range we're still able to see individual blades of grass that Gently is standing on. Their cars glimmer in the sunlight, while the vista they're looking at is beautifully rendered and reminded me of the time I spent living in England. That's how good it looked.
This is where the show suffers a bit. Just like the previous release this series of 'George Gently' comes with a 2.0 LPCM track that fails to portray just how great the sound could be in this series. Dialogue is always clear, but there's no sense of action. The show's musical soundtrack routinely drowns out much of the show's sound effects just because everything is fighting over the two channels. It's a stereo track so there is directionality that works well whenever characters are speaking out of frame.
Suspenseful scenes lack the impact they may have if we had a few added channels and a sub-woofer. It does present clean dialogue, but that's about the only thing this anemic audio mix does well.
'George Gently' really is a great little police procedural. It's got something different and more humanistic about it than most American police shows. If you're into British television, or you're just looking for a new show to get into, I'd recommend you pick up 'George Gently.' Now that Acorn has brought out the first series it seems that they are committed to continuing to bring out subsequent series on Blu-ray. So, if you choose to purchase this set it would seem that you won't be wondering if the other sets will get released. 'Gently' is definitely worth a look.