Family Dysfunction, British-Style

Did you know that when you’re in the mood for a good view, your library also has you covered!  And if you need help finding something new and interesting to watch, I am here to help . . . at least once a month when I review a TV show or movie on this blog.

One of the great joys in watching television shows about dysfunctional families is enjoying their antics without personally having to deal with the repercussions. They’re fun to hang out with for a few hours at a time, but there is also something immensely reassuring in knowing that you don’t have to deal with these characters in real life.

And that is exactly the appeal of two British imports I recently watched and enjoyed–The Durrells in Corfu and Blandings. Both are about zany British families in 1920s/1930s, and both are delightfully charming and hilarious. Thanks so much to Julie for adding them both to the library collection!

The Durrells in Corfu is something I discovered quite by accident. It was on before something else I watched on PBS last fall, and I ended up looking forward to the Durrell family antics far more than anything else I was watching at the time. They were real people, with the oldest son and the youngest son of the family both becoming published authors. The show is loosely based on the memoirs of the youngest son about the time the family spent in the 1930s living on the Greek island of Corfu. The family was miserable in England, and their widowed mother’s response was to pack up and move her sons–literary snob Larry, hapless Leslie, and animal-obsessed Gerry–and flighty daughter Margo to Corfu. Shenanigans ensue.

What I really enjoyed about the Durrells is that it is such a great ensemble cast, none of whom I was especially familiar with before watching the show. Truthfully, all the characters can be kind of awful but in a recognizably authentic way, so they don’t come off like the tired stereotypes in so many sitcoms. And they still manage to be likable. The family is quirky but without seeming like they are trying too hard to be quirky, the scenery in Corfu (where the show is filmed) is gorgeous, and the Durrells’ Greek friends and associates are just as well-developed and engaging as the family is.

Blandings, meanwhile, is loosely based on P.G. Wodehouse’s Blandings stories. They are set in the 1920s and focus on Lord Emsworth, a hapless British aristocrat who really just wants to be left alone to tend to his beloved pig and his garden while he lives in his massive family castle in rural England. But his martinet sister and endearingly daft son and their never-ending schemes and guests and his own heated battles with his stubborn Scottish gardener ensure that life is never quite so simple.  . . .

Blandings‘ main appeal is also its cast, though it’s a much more recognizable cast (at least for me) than that of the Durrells. Timothy Spall plays the earl, and after long associating him with weaselly characters in movies, it was nice to see him in such a different role. Jennifer Saunders (of Saunders and French fame), Jack Farthing (Poldark), and Mark Williams (Father Brown) round out the cast, though there are also frequent guest stars, many of them you’re sure to recognize, from David Bamber (Rome) to Rose Leslie (Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones).

Overall, I loved both shows and was sad when I finished them, though at least with the Durrells, we can look forward to a third season sometime later this year. (Blandings, sadly, is over for good.) Blandings has a sillier sensibility, blending very highbrow and very lowbrow humor, while the Durrells is more realistic, but both are a delightful way to spend a few hours.

Please follow this link to our online library catalog to learn more about each series and to place a hold.

Do you prefer the Durrells or Blandings? What’s your favorite British comedy? Who’s your favorite fictional dysfunctional family? Tell us in the comments!

Author: berryvillelibrary

"Our library, our future"

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