BBC — HETTY WAINTHROPP — COMPLETE SERIES ONE TO FOUR — 1996
This is a detective sitcom. It has all the charm of small criminal cases that deal with no murders or crimes of that type, but only with small crimes in local neighborhoods in Lancashire and from time to time a little bit in Yorkshire.
The main interest is the family background of the characters. Hetty and Robert Wainthropp are two older citizens who have reached retirement age but would find it difficult to go on living in good conditions on their two pensions. So they look for extra-activities. They start a private detective business and lead us into some squalid, sordid or simply sorry situations of hatred and jealousy, envy and rivalry, small demeanors and traffic. Though they do not do drugs. Later on, Robert Wainthropp will manage to get a regular column in the tabloid.
But the producers wanted to change the situation from what it was in the previous fabulously popular series with the same main actress, “Keeping Up Appearances.” In both cases, the son of the married couple (forty years of marriage) was away from the family home and a younger man and eventually a young couple were needed to open them up to the younger generations and their problems.
So Hetty Wainthropp selects a hardly of age young man who is more or less unemployed and trying to get away from his possessive mother who seems to be an alcoholic or something of the sort. Hetty and her husband Robert will make him an associate, a partner in the business soon after.
And then this young man who is as virginal as a lily will soon get in touch with a female mechanic who will sell him a second-hand car when he finally gets his license. And with some ups and downs, they will slowly move into a relationship, one apartment, and a future common life.
The criminal cases are there to show how disrupted the English society is up north. We are twenty years ago and you will then understand why they voted for Brexit. Closed upon their communities that are very small, with a lot of underground black market economy that is half criminal and half illegal. It is well known they could not accept European regulations that became little by little so hefty that people more or less thought they could not take a shower without paying an extra-tax and having to use no more than a gallon of water.
Not to speak of all sorts of marginals, gypsies or not, who are roaming around. And the police are just helpless most of the time, to the point of employing now and then Hetty Wainthropp to penetrate and infiltrate some dubious circles to get some information from the inside.
And they stopped the series marvelously after four years when the agency is in full bloom, Jeffrey, the younger partner, and his girlfriend are moving slowly towards some kind of an official relationship and after Robert has reestablished normal relations with his own brother. The family circle is slightly larger, though it looks a lot like a recomposed family. Parents in their older age are led to choosing the younger people who will be their side-kick children, and these younger people find in an older couple some sidekick or substitute parents of a new sort: mental parents and not blood relatives.
Frankly, who gives the slightest straw about blood!
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU