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The Bretts
The Bretts
Actors: Norman Rodway, Barbara Murray, Belinda Lang, George Winter, Tim Wylton
Director: Baz Taylor
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Television
NR     2003     1hr 0min

In London's West End, the 1920s are one long and glittering post-war celebration. Nightlife fills society restaurants and the theatre business is booming. The spirit of the age creates stars whose social escapades see...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Norman Rodway, Barbara Murray, Belinda Lang, George Winter, Tim Wylton
Director: Baz Taylor
Creators: Frank Marshall, Rosemary Anne Sisson
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Television
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Television
Studio: Bfs Entertainment
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 04/29/2003
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 0min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 5
SwapaDVD Credits: 5
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
Edition: Box set
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A soap opera with panache
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Like other reviewers, I was not impressed with the first or even the second episode. However, the wonderful acting of all the characters made me move from episode to episode eagerly. I watched it all in a week. You learned to care about all of them, which is interesting, since some of them are very selfish. But they managed to show enough of the insecure human being behind the mask that I was intrigued. Also, like other reviewers, I was disappointed with the abrupt removal of characters. Whatever happened to Jean? Why did Patrick, a definite addition to the below-stairs staff (well I won't say what happened since you haven't watched it). I don't think people who put on these shows realize that we in the audience care about these (grantedly unreal) characters. And as for Martha's lovers!! Who can believe it? We need more lead-time when a character is going to disappear. I think that's the price you pay when different writers write different episodes.But the actors marched bravely on, ignoring the impossibilities in the script and giving us laughs and tears along the way. I haven't enjoyed something like this in a long time, so I highly recommend you rent it. (Netflix has it). As for buy? I haven't made up my mind. If the characters haunt me, as I think they will, I will probably break down and buy it."
Glad to see this fun show available!
Delamaine | Seattle Eastside | 05/04/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I saw the original Masterpiece Theatre broadcast in the late '80s and liked the snarky characters so much that I sought out a copy of the book Sisson wrote (based on the screenplays). Since it was out of print, it took a while to find, and when I got one, the book wasn't quite the same as the show. Parts of the show were missing (Lydia's American income tax) and there were things in the book that weren't in the show. After trying to reconcile my show memories with the book I am finally able to rewatch the shows (plus some bonus footage) and figure out where the discrepancies lie. So far I've only watched Episodes 1 & 2 but they have still made me laugh as much as they originally did. I've spent some time looking up the various cast members on the IMDB and some (particularly Thomas, my favorite, played by George Winter) appear to have dropped off the screen altogether shortly thereafter, which is disappointing. I'd like to see some of their more recent works.Do buy the DVD - it's promising to be hours and hours of amusememt!"
Sparkling like champagne
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 01/31/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Who says Masterpiece Theatre is boring? One of their most entertaining series has been "The Bretts," a sparkling soap opera set in the roaring 20s. It suffers from some random plot twists (and character departures), but is entertainingly soapy fun.

Charles and Lydia Brett (Norman Rodway, Barbara Murray) were the stars of the 1890s stage, with his costume dramas and their shared romantic comedies. Now they live with three of their kids: party-girl actress Martha (Belinda Lang), not-so-successful actor Edwin (David Yelland) and blooming socialist playwright Thomas (George Winter).

The series opens rather weakly, when Charles and Lydia briefly break up over Charles hiring a sexy secretary, and his new swashbuckler almost bombs. But things stabilize as the main problems arise -- stages are being replaced with silver screens. Soon Edwin has become a hot Hollywood star, with the movie adaptation of his dad's latest play.

Charles is determined to keep the London stages from being overtaken, and refuses to have anything to do with the movies (though he's willing to vacation at Edwin's villa). But the biggest drama is BEHIND the scenes: secret pregnancies, drug addictions, scam artists, rape, murder, heart attacks, trips to decadent Berlin, lawsuits, illegitimate children, the IRA, fatal illnesses, shattered engagements, illicit affairs, and much more.

Basically, "The Bretts" is about packing as much drama as possible into a matter of episodes. And it's even more entertaining, since it's set in the sparkling era between world wars, with plenty of flappers, spangled clothing, communism, and glamorous homes in the South of France.

And the tragedies and drama -- Martha partying to forget her lost loves, Edwin's suspended contract -- are tempered by comedy (the near-disastrous Cinderella play). And just when you think things are going to calm down, some dirty secret or problem arises, and the Bretts are back to slinging witty repartee at one another.

One of the biggest storylines is the elder Bretts resisting the movies, as their kids accept that this is the way of the future. You want Charles to succeed, yet know that ultimately he's going to fail -- or else accept that movies are here to stay, and that he better get involved.

But it's not perfect. The writers seem to have made it up as they went along, causing a previously unknown sister (the rather flat Perdita) to pop up in one episode, when she had never been mentioned before. Two supporting characters vanish with little explanation and are never referred to again, and one adorable character dies for... no reason, really. He just does.

Rodway and Murray are the stars here. Charles and Lydia are strong-willed actors both, which leads to some arguments, and yet Rodway and Murray bring across how much they love and depend on each other -- even due to past transgressions, such as an affair that produced a child.

The supporting actors vary in strength: Lang is languidly brilliant as the sardonic, talented Martha, but Yelland is stiff, and Winter's Thomas is just a naively twerpy Communist. The servant actors are excellent, though, and so are Charles' ancient-but-still feisty parents.

"The Bretts" has a lot of dangly threads and awkwardly dropped characters, but this sprawling soapy drama is loads of fun. Long live the stage!"
"Everyone's a darling!"
N. Thomas | 04/25/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Well, I cannot say this delightful, hyper-dramatic mini-series isn't without flaw (some rather glaring), but Norman Rodway and Barbara Murray really do scintillate as Charles and Lydia Brett.

Their avante-garde lives, scandals, and tantrums (it's almost too diffcult to keep up with which of the duo throws more tantrums) are fabulous fodder for theatre-philes.

Their children, I found, were more tiresome. Martha, bratty, waspy, and fey -- Edwin, who looks like a mummy -- and, worst of all, TOM. The younger son is simply a huge bore -- pretentious, whiny, and, later, Communistic. Nell Caldwell, the only married offspring of the Brett parents, is seldom seen (and even less frequently given lines). However, I approved of her the most -- steady, relible, and obviously underappreciated (one simply cannot help feeling sorry for her, she's so clearly an afterthought to every member of her family), poor Nell has a husband [John, an accountant] who's more important to the Bretts than she is the daughter herself.

The sad weakness of this series is that plot points fizzle out rather awkwardly -- or, sometimes, begin in the same manner. Perdita Brett, apparently, is the VERY youngest of the Brett offspring. Unfortunately, she is so carelessly thrown into the story (well after the halfway point of the series --- and, what's worse, her existence was never even HINTED at before she "arrives"), and in such a manner that it's obvious the writers were simply looking for way to create storylines, one truly forgets she IS a Brett.

Particularly memorable are Charles' parents, George and Maeve Brett, classically trained thespians whose oddities and absurdities make them even more loveable than the central married couple.

Yes, the series does start out rather painfully -- one wonders how to get a grasp on what this lunatic family is all about, "everyone's a DARLING!", as the family members constantly refer to one another, vicious verbiage notwithstanding -- but I stuck it out and I found it amusing enough to advise the reader of this review "Give them a chance"!"