Thursday, January 16, 2014
'In Loving Memory' DVD: 'Six Feet Under' Britcom Style
BFS Entertainment provides a glimpse into a possible inspiration for the HBO drama "Six Feet Under" by offering a DVD set of the 1979 first series (my people call them seasons) of the classic Britcom "In Loving Memory."
The similarities include "Memory" revolving around the death of undertaker Jeremiah Unsworth in the first episode further tying the nephew that Jeremiah and his wife Ivy have raised to the family undertaking/monumental masonry business. There is also a touch of the same dark humor that makes "Under" so special.
Aside from being a much kinder and gentler program than "Under," "Memory" differs from that show in that is more of a traditional sitcom.
Much of the humor relates to the adorkable 28 year-old Billy Henshaw being largely unsuited for work as an undertaker and his related desire to live a fuller life than practicing that profession in a small English town in 1929 provides. Christopher Beeny, who also starred in the uber-classic original "Upstairs Downstairs" and a latter season of the recently reviewed Britcom "The Last of the Summer Wine" does a brilliant job playing Billy's simultaneous timidity, awkwardness, and frustration.
Thora Hind, who also appeared in "Wine" and is well-known for her role in the hilarious Britcom "Hallelujah," does equally well as Billy's Aunt Ivy who devotes roughly equal time to helping with the family business and mothering her favorite man-child.
Setting "Memory" in 1929 gives the program a nice nostalgic vibe that is consistent with the mostly low-key humor in the episodes. It also allows deriving some humor related to using the privy (my people call them outhouses).
The second episode gets the premise of Ivy and Billy working and living together off to a grand start by having them take in a difficult elderly relative as a condition regarding their inheritance from Jeremiah. A "touched by an angel" moment and the resulting mayhem in this episode truly is must-see TV.
Many of the other episodes revolve around challenges related to the undertaking business. Hilarious moments include a runaway coffin, cleverly turning the tables on an unscrupulous competitor, and napping in the back of the hearse ala Herman Munster in the ghoulish '60s fantasycom "The Munsters."
One of the best story lines regarding Billy's quests for independence and happiness relates to his lying to girls about his profession in an episode that also has a very aggressive neighbor pursuing him. Anyone who is familiar with the episodes in "Three's Company" that have the cougarish Lana gets the picture.
The 1929 element comes into play in this episode in a hilarious scene that has the object of Billy's affection and the object of the neighbor's lust interrupting Billy's bath in the home of the living room that he and Ivy share. These events also shows Beeny's willingness to do a nude scene if the story calls for it.
The first series also ends on a great note that combines every element of "Memory." A death at the beginning of the episode presents a logistical problem that prompts Billy to assert his independence. The fact that Billy's plans go awry is expected; the manner in which that occurs is not.
The eulogy regarding "Memory" is that Ivy gives Ruth Fisher of "Under" a run for her money regarding how she faces the challenge of running the family funeral business in the wake (of course pun intended) of her husband's sudden death (yeah, another pun). In fact, an early "Under" offering that requires sacrificing a leg of lamb easily could have been a "Memory" episode.
Billy also matches Nate Fisher of "Under" regarding his sense of being trapped in said business and living under the roof of his maternal figure.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Memory" is welcome to email me; connecting on Twitter via @tvdvdguy is also an option.