Thursday, August 21, 2008

Oh Martin, Where Art Thou?

False advertising! That's what became increasingly apparent as I watched the second and third episodes of the TV comedy/drama Cheers & Tears. The series features a group of mismatched friends and neighbors who embark on a new, but always disastrous, road trip at the beginning of each episode. The false advertising bit comes in by giving the wonderful actor Martin Clunes star billing, but he only appears in the first episode. His character is mentioned vaguely as having left the area in the second episode, and not mentioned at all in the third, although his name still features prominently on the inner sleeve of each DVD from Netflix. Oh well, the series was still enjoyable, but I might have enjoyed it more if I hadn't been scanning the screen looking for Mr. Clunes in the background!

The three episodes in the series are titled The Booze Cruise, The Treasure Hunt and The Scattering. There appeared to be some replacements of other characters as the series progressed, with at least 2 new actors taking on roles after the first episode. In The Booze Cruise, the group heads out to France, with a wagon hitched to the back of the car, in order to buy cheap alcohol in France. The Treasure Hunt involves nearly all of the same characters meeting up for the yearly treasure hunt, and The Scattering takes the group to Yorkshire to scatter the ashes of a family member. There are marital infidelities, broken engagements, car accidents, fires and other assorted escapades before everything is more or less sorted out at the end of each episode.

The characters are, for the most part, pleasant enough, except for the excessively cheap Maurice and the serial philanderer Rob. The wives are all long-suffering and work behind the scenes to make sure things continue to function while the men are getting into one scrape after another. The only thing which seemed a bit odd to me was the too-good-to-be-true character of Dave. He had a swell old time, no matter what happened. His car was totally submerged and probably ruined? No problem! After the alcohol from the French excursion caught fire and was mostly destroyed, was he distressed at having to foot the bill? Absolutely not! No matter what happened, he was cheerful, upbeat and smiling. All that benevolent happiness got on my nerves after a while. Still, he was the most likable male character by far, so I suppose his amiability was supposed to be an antidote to the sour Maurice and the slimy Rob.

Final Verdict for Cheers & Tears: Three Gherkins, for a light, enjoyable series with some lovely English scenery (except for the one where they go to France!)

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