As the Jerome Kern-Dorothy Fields standard goes, this is A Fine Romance, a smart and low-key 1981 British series starring Oscar-winning Judi Dench and her real-life husband, Michael Williams, as a mismatched couple. This t... more »hree-volume boxed set contains the first nine episodes, in which a comedy of errors keeps linguist Laura (currently translating a German textbook on urinary infections) and struggling landscape gardener Michael from hooking up romantically. It is, to again quote the song, a fine romance with no kisses (at least not until episode 6). Like Glenda Jackson, Dench excels at portraying prickly women of fierce intelligence who possess a quick wit and a sharp tongue, and who do not suffer fools. "I don't have any small talk," she complains to her matchmaking sister at a party. "Or any medium talk." Williams has a rumpled Dudley Moore quality as sad-sack Michael, "the odd single chap for the odd single girl." He is, as one character notes, "second division": quiet, nervous, short, and shy. His desperate attempts to find common ground with Laura--witness their ill-fated excursion to an ethnic mask museum exhibit in episode 2--make up much of the humor of these initial episodes. As one observer notes, "I like you two; you're odd." It is a pleasure to watch Laura and Michael's "mutual apathy" blossom into, well, you know the song. --Donald Liebenson« less
"Those who are familiar with As Time Goes By will already be familiar with the writing of Bob Larbey, who also wrote A Fine Romance, and those who've enjoyed As Time Goes By will almost certainly enjoy 1980's A Fine Romance. Though not so well known, this light romantic comedy about two mismatched 40-something lonely hearts bears all the hallmarks of Larbey's classic and engaging style of writing.Briefly, Dame Judi Dench (As Time Goes By's Jean Pargetter) stars as Laura Dalton, a highly competent albeit somewhat shy, nervous and highly-strung translator with a tall, pretty, charming and very happily married younger sister named Helen, who only wants to see Laura as happy as she is. Helen and her husband Phil decide to team Laura up with Phil's friend Mike Selway, but it's a match made more out of desperation than a belief that the pair would be suitable companions. Mike (the late Michael Williams, Dame Judi's real-life husband of 30 years who died of cancer in 2001), is a shy, laid-back but very nervous, unkempt, disorganised, and socially-inept landscape gardener. He also has very little in common with Laura with respect to their likes and dislikes. The humour in the series is gentle, and it gets its "spark" from the tension engendered by the pairing of this seemingly unlikely couple.This is the first of three series. The boxed set contains three videos, and each video consists of three 25-minute episodes for a total of nine episodes. This is truly a sweet, charming, relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable series. If you've enjoyed As Time Goes By, I strongly recommend getting this first boxed set. If you enjoy it (and I really do think you will), then go ahead and get sets two and three, for they are just as enjoyable as this one. Personally, although I did have a slight preference for As Time Goes By when I first saw A Fine Romance, I have found that following a second viewing of the latter series, I now enjoy it every bit as much as As Time Goes By. Both are absolutely delightful series that are a joy to curl up watch time and time again."
If You Love "As Time Goes By" You'll Love This
Tiggah | 02/10/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have seen non-professional copies of this series, and I am looking forward to the clearer, professional tapes this month. The characters of Laura and Mike, played by Judi Dench and her husband Michael Williams, are lovable and bumbling. The surprise for me was the level of physical comedy--on a par with the best of "I Love Lucy." The "lost contact" episode is wonderful, but the best is probably the "visit to the dentist." If you love Judi Dench from "As Time Goes By" or "Mrs. Brown" or "Shakespeare in Love" you must buy "A Fine Romance.""
Top notch human comedy (or nearly)
F. Behrens | Keene, NH USA | 01/08/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Recently Acorn Media released the first two seasons of a comedy called "No, Honestly" with husband-wife team John Alderton and Priscilla Collins. Now we have another Britcom with a husband-wife team of a slightly up-market nature: Michael Williams and Judi Dench. Taped in 1981, this series precedes the more familiar "As Time Goes By" with Dame Judi and Geoffrey Palmer, seen so often on PBS. "A Fine Romance" shows a somewhat more comedic Judi as Laura (a translator) and spouse as Mike (a landscape gardener), who meet at a party given by her younger sister Helen (Susan Penhaligon) and her husband Phil (Richard Warwick). There is that instant dislike that leads grudgingly to not only liking but to living together on terms that can best be described as an uneasy truce. You have never seen Judi in quite a role as this: terrified of dentists, prone to hide in closets when all is not well, giving those priceless "I'll kill you later" looks when Mike does not behave up to her standards. Mike (whom you might recall from "Educating Rita" and the more recent "Henry V") is forever rumpled, unsure of him self, really committed to Laura but never brave enough to take that final step. In fact, the 18th and last episode, the only one with a high degree of seriousness, ends ambiguously with Laura wanting a child and Mike perhaps ready to go all the way. All in all, this is a charming series and much funnier than "No, Honestly" because the characters are simply more believable. See both series, by all means, and you will see that where Alderton and Collins elicit plenty of belly laughs, Williams and Dench make us see ourselves a bit more clearly and we laugh at what we see. As an added bonus, you can hear Dame Judi herself singing with broad British A's the Kern song from which the title of this series is drawn. Fred and Ginger did it no better on a larger screen."
An event that can be viewed with the entire family
Tami Jeanne Fetter | Mill Valley, California | 03/20/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you've seen As Time Goes By check out theses videos. It is a lovely series with humor, inuendos (no bare skin!) and a wonderful cast. Dame Judy Dench is wonderful of course, as is her "real life" husband Michael Willams. You will also love the actors portraying the sister and brother-in-law. The character actors will have you rolling in the aisles and you can do it all even if your kids and grandma are watching with you. Make it a Saturday night treat. The only problem is that there aren't enough episodes for atleast six months!"
"A Fine Romance is a brilliantly conceived and performed British comedy about two middle-aged misfits falling in love. Laura (Judi Dench) is a brainy, emotionally inept translator. Mike (Michael Williams) is a shy, lonely landscape gardener. These two colorful characters are thrown together by Laura's matchmaking sister and brother-in-law. Laura's prickly independence and Mike's awkward bumblings are altogether touching as we see their relationship stumble along from mishap to misadventure, misunderstanding to mutual appreciation. First aired over British television in the 1980s, this Acorn Media three volume, 225 minute, full color boxed set presents the first nine episodes of one of Britain's most engaging and entertaining offerings of wit, wisdom, and heart-warming humor. A Fine Romance is highly recommended for personal and community library video entertainment collections."