Eye For Film >> Movies >> As Time Goes By: Series 6 (1997) Film Review
Shows like As Time Goes By just go to prove there will always be room in the crowded TV sitcom marketplace for subtle, character-driven comedy. Although lacking the fast punchlines of other popular shows, it wins itself an audience through good writing, perfect comic timing and believable, well-crafted performances. Plus, unusually for a comedy aired on BBC1, it is actually funny without resorting to the caricatures and cheap jokes seen in more recent offerings. The series has also gained a strong following across the pond on public broadcast television, where the contrast with the often-overstated US comedies must be even more evident.
The plot of the show focuses on the relationship between Lionel (Geoffrey Palmer) and Jean (Judi Dench); separated for nearly 40 years following Lionel's time in the Korean War, but reunited after a chance encounter in London. Taking a slow approach, the show has developed over the time it has been on our screens in a way that has allowed the characters and story to grow at their own pace. By this sixth series, Lionel and Jean are married and living together along with Jean's grown-up daughter Judy (Moira Brooker) and friend of the family, Sandy (Jenny Funnell). The regular cast of characters is completed by the addition of Lionel's yuppie-esque publisher, Alistair (Philip Bretherton).
Much of the humour in this series centres on Lionel and Jean's now familiar relationship, as inconveniences such as old age and retirement start to come into play. The supporting characters' relationships are explored as well, in particular Alistair's long-suffering pursuit of romance with Judy. Regular guest characters from previous seasons also make an appearance, including Jean's brother and sister-in-law in a couple of the episodes, but particularly episode three; the highlight of the series.
What could have been just another "nice" sitcom is lifted to another level by the excellent performances from Geoffrey Palmer and Judi Dench. Palmer, an actor more usually known for his dramatic work, delivers a succession of dry, witty lines perfectly, while Dench (pre-Oscar) plays Jean with more seriousness, but with just the right amount of playful humour. Certainly, working alongside these two actors must have been intimidating for the other cast members, but they more than pull their weight as well. If there is a weak link, it's Bretherton's over-the-top Alistair, who does begin to grate as the series progresses.
As Time Goes By is the kind of television series that slowly grows on you over time. It may not have the instant appeal of other shows, but give it a chance and you might just be surprised.Reviewed on: 26 Mar 2006