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Thursday, May 28, 2015

'Don't Wait Up' S1 & S2 DVD: BBC Britcom of Father-Son Doctors/Roomies Practicing Patience

[Editor's Note: This Australian DVD set is coded for Region 4, which prevents playing the discs in a standard U.S. DVD player. You need a highly-recommended region-free player to watch it.]

The Australian-based DVD producer/distributor Madman Entertainment complete series of the witty BBC britcom "Don't Wait Up" is a terrific example of (primarily) Australian and U.K. Madman fare that has never been released in the U.S. The two series (my people call them seasons) in this "Wait" collection first ran on the BBC in 1983 and 1984 but does not look very dated beyond the earth tones. the cars, and the rotary telephones. The plots and dialogue would be just as effective in 2015 as they were in the '80s.

One can only hope that he future plans of Madman includes releases the remaining four seasons of "Wait."

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of a hilarious scene from the first episode of "Wait" shows how series creator/writer  (and accomplished actor) George Layton mines wonderful humor from common sitcom techniques.

"Wait" stars a very endearing Niger Havers, whom Unreal TV readers met in the post on the later Havers britcom "Sleepers," as 30-something recently divorced National Health Service General Practitioner Dr. Tom Latimer. The catalyst for the "sits" that provide the "com" in the seven S1 and six S2 episodes occurs when Tom's father Toby announces in the first episode both that he is divorcing Tom's mother and is moving into the one-bedroom apartment, which is a typical abode of a recently divorced man with a burdensome alimony duty, in which Tom resides.

The highly prolific and versatile Tony Britton is well-cast as the elder Dr. Latimer, who is a posh Harley Street dermatologist. He further is a very vocal advocate for the finer things in life and the attitudes that accompany those pursuits.

Although aptly promoted as a "The Odd Couple" style sitcom, that element (which includes determining whether two divorced men can share an apartment without driving each other crazy), is not particularly strong in "Wait." It seems to be more about a father and son in the same profession struggling to come to terms with being peers. A related aspect is the humor associated with Toby treating Tom as his domestic servant in the same manner that he treated his wife. This is particularly true in S2.

The most distinguishable aspect of "Wait" evokes wonderful memories of the 2005-06 Henry Winkler sitcom "Out of Practice" in that it derives laughs from the extreme contrasts between the medical practices of the father and son leads. Tom accurately comments that his father spends his afternoons playing golf and bridge, and Toby criticizes socialized medicine.

At the same time, a second season episode that has a nervous Toby going into a rough neighborhood to treat a patient of Tom's practice shows that the former is a dedicated physician. A more hilarious episode later that season further focuses on issues related to the two healthcare systems.

"Wait" also merits comparison to "Seinfeld" in that it it mines absurd humor from "nothing" and masterfully blends verbal and physical humor. The arguably most predictable (but equally arguably the most amusing) episode is an S1 offering that has a clumsy Toby accidentally staining Tom's cricket uniform Kramer style. This leads to Toby having to visit bitter ex-wife Helen to get his back-up uniform only to learn the fate of his entire wardrobe.

It is equally predictable that the cricket ball that Tom sends sailing crashes through the windshield of the Rolls Royce that Toby just purchased. Further hilarity ensues regarding wacky misunderstandings related to stolen cars. This culminates in yet another highly predictable but still hilarious mishap at the end of the episode.

The very "Seinfeld"esque S1 finale has a very George-like Toby promising his wife a romantic weekend away only to have hilarity ensue on the way to the hotel and for the warm feelings to evaporate within hours. In true "Seinfeld" fashion, this turn-of-events involves Tom.

The liner notes for the first season set in this collection share that the cliffhanger related to that derailed weekend prompted a large audience for the premiere episode in the second season.

Well-crafted elements of "Three's Company" enter in other episodes regarding things such as unintentionally odd bed fellows, unwarranted presumptions regarding potentially dangerous liaisons, and a scheme by Tom to get his father out of the apartment so that he can enjoy a romantic evening with his girlfriend. Great "Company" style physical humor includes injury-inducing repeated opening and closing of a door and an argument over closet space taking its toll.

This "Company" vibe may be partially attributable to Layton and Britton having previously worked together on the Britcom "Robin's Nest," which is a spin-off of "Company" inspiration "Man About the House." For that matter, "Nest" inspired the "Company" spin-off "Three's A Crowd."

S2 ends with a cliffhanger that is a hilarious variation of the end of S1. This one involves Toby and his wife set to take a reconciliation cruise only to have things go comically awry in a manner that leads to potential actual "cabin fever."

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