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Friday, February 13, 2015

'Troubles' DVD: 'Hotel New Hampshire' Slant on Personal Stories of 1919 Irish Strife

Troubles DVD
Purveyor of fine British video fare on this side of the pond BFS Entertainment continues demonstrating the wide range of its catalog in releasing the 1988 two-part miniseries "Troubles" based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by J.G. Farrell.

Pairing this release about the 1919 conflict between Ireland and its sovereign with a DVD release of the potato famine themed mini-series "The Hanging Gale" is one of countless examples of the awesomeness of BFS. (Unreal TV will review "Gale" in late February 2015.)

"Troubles" nicely uses recently retired Great War veteran Major Brendan Archer as the catalyst for telling the story of highly eccentric Irish British loyalist Edward Spencer and the residents of the once-grand Majestic Hotel that Spencer owns and operates. The individual performances of Ian Charleston of "Chariots of Fire" as Archer and British acting royalty Sir Ian Richardson as Edward and the on-screen chemistry between this pair alone make "Troubles" "must-see" British TV.

Archer initially comes to the (not-so) Majestic Hotel at the invitation of his fiancee Angela, who is the daughter of Edward.  Edward soon learns that, ala the classic John Irving novel "The Hotel New Hampshire," the Cary Grant quote "insanity doesn't run in my family, it gallops" applies regarding the family that he is poised to join.

Only son Ripon Spencer is a care-free type who is not shy about sharing his opinions. Twin daughters Charity and Faith are quasi-wild children who evoke slight memories of their counterparts in the horror classic "The Shining."

Equally eccentric local Catholic girl Sarah Devlin contributes to both the drama and the humor in "Troubles." She additionally stirs up turmoil of a more personal nature than national politics.

The shabbiness of the "majestic" accommodations, the deplorable service, and the pride of primarily domesticated cats roaming all over are additional notable elements of "Troubles." The vibe of the classic Britcom "Waiting for God" that the elderly residents of the hotel bring to the mix is icing on the cake.

Like many mini-series from both sides of the pond, "Troubles" takes its time during the first half of the program establishing the characters and their stories. The Catholics v. Protestants conflict and the character-driven drama in "Troubles" then develops a faster pace in the second half and culminates in a climax that is as good (if not better) than many American mini-series from the '70s and '80s Golden Age of that genre,

Highlights from the second part include an attempt at a grand ball that becomes a party gone out of bounds. Charity and Faith overindulging in champagne and another character experimenting with cross-dressing are only a couple of factors that make the event one that no one will forget as much as he or she wishes that that was possible.

For his part, Edward becomes increasingly upset with the discontent of his Catholic neighbors to the point that he engages in manic behavior that both makes him a primary target of that group and that results in an arguably unnecessarily fatal confrontation.

On a larger level, Richardson expertly conveys the emotions associated with having everything you value deteriorate around you. Any fan of "Downton Abbey" knows that Edward is not alone regarding this in the aftermath of the Great War.

The epilogue regarding these thoughts is that "Troubles" hides the "pill" of an important history lesson in a really delectable treat.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Troubles" is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.