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Monday, December 23, 2013

'Oz and James Drink to Britain' DVD: Beer, Whiskey, and Gin Oh (James) May

Oz & James Drink to Britain DVD
The BFS Entertainment DVD release of "Oz & James Drink to Britain" is the third installment in a trilogy of travelogue/reality series by wine expert Oz Clarke and "Top Gear" host James May. This review is the second in a trilogy of posts on these series.

The first review is on "Oz & James Big French Wine Adventure;" the third review will be on "Oz and James Big Wine Adventure - California." To further complicate things, BBC America aired the "Wine" series under the title "James May Road Trip."

Confused? You won't be after reading this review of "Britain."

This pairing of the crude and slovenly car expert James May and more refined wine expert Oz Clarke begins with their trek across France for the purpose of Clarke educating May about wine. After crossing the pond to continue their adventure in Napa Valley, the pair finishes their quest in Britain. The dual challenges in that eight-episode four-hour series are to brew a quality beer and to identify the beverage that best represents modern Britain.

As the first review in this series states more thoroughly, the element that makes the "Oz and James" shows especially awesome is that they essentially are reality shows that go beyond being palatable to being extraordinarily entertaining.

Clarke and May have terrific instincts regarding how far to push the odd couple aspect of the show; further, their good-natured bantering and the smiles that they bestow on each other demonstrate that much of the bickering is an act.

"Britain" begins in Yorkshire with a look at the ingredients that go into beer; this lead to traveling to breweries large and miniscule and a very lengthy pub crawl that leads to amusing misadventures but no fleeing from body snatchers or other "cornetto" elements.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, is of the beginning of the "crawl" segment. It lays out the details and provides a brilliant sense both of Clarke's wonderful enthusiasm and May's terrific sarcasm.
The third "Britain" episode is a wonderful and educational look at the whiskey industry in Scotland. A scene in which May uses a highly potent version of that distilled liquid for an unconventional use is one of the most amusing of the series.

The fourth episode is set in Ireland and arguably is the best of times and the worst of times. This offering mines a great deal of awesome humor from our hosts valiantly trying to adhere to a BBC regulation that requires avoiding mentioning the largest brewery in Ireland by name. This leads to establishing a form of swear jar, and May dearly paying for mocking Clarke.

May additionally provides great humor by ranting about Americans and English folks alike adopting a stereotypically phony folksy "top o' the mornin' to you" Irish style persona. This relates to his annoyance regarding a practice of drawing a shamrock in the trademark creamy head of the drink that shall not be named.

The "worst" element relates to Clarke and May adding an annoyingly strong reality show concept to this episode. This involves a scene in an Irish pub in which our heroes judge a contest that has owners of smaller Irish pubs making brief presentations regarding why their product best represents Ireland. The factors include the "blarney" element.

The fortunate aspects of this contest are that it lacks any trace of the painfully prolonged "suspense" and drama of similar fare in the US, and the segment only lasts a few minutes.

The pair's other UK adventures include tending bar at a pub, sampling Welsh vodka, and seeing how wine from Sussex measures up to France's best.

The terrific elements of this always amusing (and often hilarious) series show that the lesson from this "Oz" experience is that our heroes learn that there is no place like home when it comes to brewing beer and making whiskey.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding any of the "Oz and James" series is encouraged to email me; you are also welcome to contact me on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.