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"The Broker's Man" Series 1 DVD Review

The Broker's Man: Series 1 DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com The Broker's Man: Series One (1997)
Series & DVD Details

Writers/Devisers: Al Hunter Ashton, Tim O'Mara / Directors: Roger Gartland, Bob Blagden

Producer: Adrian Bate / Executive Producers: Jo Wright, Brian True-May

Regular Cast: Kevin Whately (Jimmy Griffin), Al Hunter Ashton (Vinny Stanley), Sarah-Jane Potts (Harriet Potter), Annette Ekblom (Sally Grififn), Holly Davidson (Jodie Griffin), Danny Worters (Dominic Griffin), Michelle Fairley (Gabby Rodwell)

Recurring Characters: Peter Firth (Alex "Godzilla" Turnbull), Jill Baker (Claudette Monro-Foster)

Notable Guest Stars: Robin Ellis (Adam Jarvis), Michael Thomas (Inspector Brian Halliwell), Andre van Noord (Johan de Groot), Johanna ter Steege (Angelika Broeder), Trevor Byfield (Frank Mortimer), Shirley Stelfox (Joyce Shawcross), Alan Cooke (Stuart Clifton), Fay Ripley (D.S. Wendy Atkins), Bruce Byron (Terry Hearne), Robert Blythe (Harry Forest), James Vaughan (Maurice Wallis), Max Beesley (Joe Goodwin), Ania Sowinski (Yvette Monro-Foster), Ross McCall (Pete), Grant Masters (William Addison), David Robb (Major Frank Russell), Terence Harvey (Superintendent Miller), Andy Rashleigh (Sgt. Hastings), Fraser James (Sgt. Clive Adders), Michael Cochrane (Cecil Addison), Graham Pountey (Major Sutton), Ian Burfield (Alex Clements), Linda Quinn (Pippa Clements), Moray Hunter (Nobby), Jimmy Chisholm (Lofty)

Running Time: 288 Minutes (3 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated

1.55:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired; Extra Subtitled; Not Closed Captioned
Originally Aired in UK June 17 - July 22, 1997
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99 / DVD Release Date: February 4, 2014
Two single-sided discs (1 DVD-9 & 1 DVD-5) / Black Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover

Buy The Broker's Man: Series 1 on DVD at Amazon.com

While it would seem like any retired TV show able to be released on DVD already has and ideally closer to the center of the mid-Noughties TV-on-DVD boom, a few elusive series continue to trickle out, whether by manufactured on demand programs or in general retail. Taking the latter route, "The Broker's Man" is such a series,
reaching Region 1 DVD today some seventeen years after premiering on British television.

In its native England, the entire two-season run reached DVD in February 2008, where it continues to flounder with an epic sales rank. Six years later to the day, the same distributor, Acorn Media, has finally come around to releasing this drama for American audiences. Their Series 1 North American DVD is a two-disc set holding the first three feature-length episodes of this late 1990s show.

There does not seem to have been much clamor for Americans to discover this program that doesn't appear to have been all that popular in the UK, where it aired on BBC One. Lacking a Wikipedia page, this crime drama has only accrued ten votes, zero user reviews, and a single message board post in all its years listed on IMDb.

Unrelated to the Charles Dickens short story of the same name, "The Broker's Man" stars Kevin Whately as protagonist Jimmy Griffin. Not remarkably funny, especially handsome, dramatically gifted, or physically commanding, Whately has nonetheless enjoyed a long and active career in British television. His credits include "Inspector Morse" and its spin-off series "Lewis" ("Inspector Lewis" in the US and Canada) as well as a number of series that have not really made it over to America, like the long-running comedy "Auf Wiedersehen, Pet" and the medical drama "Peak Practice." At best, "Broker's Man" belongs to the latter class. Apart from arriving last fall in the subscription streaming service Acorn TV, I see no evidence of it having ever reached the US, which helps explain its most unusual obscurity.

Kevin Whately is Jimmy Griffin, a.k.a. The Broker's Man. Secondary staff members Harriet (Sarah-Jane Potts) and Vinny (series co-writer Al Hunter Ashton) occasionally function as comic relief.

A former police detective, Jimmy Griffin now dabbles in insurance claim investigations.
The product of a fresh divorce, Jimmy hasn't given up on trying to work things out with his ex-wife Sally (Annette Ekblom). They share custody of their two children, 14-year-old daughter Jodie (Holly Davidson) and pre-teen son Dominic (Danny Worters).

Sally is leery of Jimmy, for he has had an affair with Gabby Rodwell (Michelle Fairley), a work colleague. Though he describes the indiscretion as one mistake in fifteen years, Sally suspects it is continuing. She's not entirely wrong either, as mutual attraction defines Jimmy and Gabby's ongoing collaborations. She's not Jimmy's only potential love interest either. He seems to work exclusively with pretty single females on his varied case work.

Though I wouldn't go as far as to say that "The Broker's Man" deserves its anonymity, its lack of fans two decades after airing is no mystery. This is a second-rate drama. Neither its characters nor its stories carry weight or captivate. It's watchable enough, but most television is and in the annals of scripted programming, it's rare to find something so unremarkably mediocre and instantly forgettable. I have no doubt that every specific from this series will escape me soon after watching five hours of it in a single 24-hour period. Apart from the reconcilable differences, the most forced yet distinctive angle, this series will undoubtedly blend in my mind with other average British TV series that I have reviewed.

There aren't even any familiar names or faces in the cast to notice. Whately apparently held a small role in the 1996 Best Picture Oscar winner The English Patient. Recurring as tea-fetching young secretary Harriet, Sarah-Jane Potts went on to star in the recently Broadway-adapted comedy Kinky Boots, a film whose other leads (Joel Edgerton and Chiwetel Ejiofor) have gone on to bigger things. Fellow supporting actor John McEnery, who plays the contractor nicknamed "Godzilla", was Mercutio in Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet (1968). Fairley is a regular on HBO's "Game of Thrones" and has appeared briefly in films like The Others, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 and current multiple Oscar nominee Philomena. But by and large you probably won't recognize anybody or be excited to discover their early, unknown work.

Jimmy Griffin (Kevin Whately) is suspicious of Angelika Broeder (Johanna ter Steege), the Dutch attorney with whom he responds to ransom demands. Jimmy (Kevin Whately) and Sally (Annette Ekblom) rekindle the spark over some seaside fish and chips.

Disc 1

1. Double Dutch (1:36:54) (Originally aired June 17-24, 1997)
A shipping container of DAT tapes is robbed off the docks of Findlay, an incident that leaves a crane driver dead. Jimmy begins collaborating with Dutch lawyer Angelika Broeder (Johanna ter Steege), whom he suspects (correctly) is involved in the heist somehow. While passions again flare up with Gabby, Jimmy's ex-wife starts dating, or so she wants him to think.

2. Dangerous Bends (1:34:37) (Originally aired July 1-8, 1997)
Jimmy teams with an attractive Detective Sergeant on assignment (Fay Ripley) to investigate how a wild country motorcyclist managed to accidentally kill a car driver. In addition, Jimmy and Sally are separately shocked to discover that 14-year-old Jodie has become sexually active (with a 17-year-old boy, no less), an old woman tries to remember where in a mall she fell, and Jimmy tries to make sense of a water source's chemical pollution for which a fired driver seems quick to take blame.

Disc 2

3. Siege (1:36:14) (Originally aired July 15-22, 1997)
The Griffins' modest family holiday plans are derailed by Jimmy's work, which sees him taken hostage by the vengeful son (Grant Masters) of a rich, retired general. Also, Jimmy and company investigate a car finance scam involving wayward youths and college students, while Harriet takes a liking to the police officer assigned to protect her. The best and most suspenseful episode of the three, this allows Series 1 to close on something resembling a high note.

"The Broker's Man" features mild profanity (infrequent utterances of the s-word you can now hear from time to time on basic cable) and a few frames of male rear nudity. Though apparently aired in one-hour installments on successive weeks, the episodes are presented complete without an intermission, recap or credits break.

Another episode, another pretty lady (Fay Ripley) to stand on Kevin Whately's left. Things get tense in "Siege", when unstable William Adison (Grant Masters) confronts the major (David Robb) who had him court-martialed for cowardice.

VIDEO and AUDIO

"The Broker's Man" sports a highly unusual presentation on DVD. It employs a non-standard aspect ratio of 1.55:1, which perhaps explains why Acorn Media has chosen to present it letterboxed
rather than enhanced for 16:9 displays. Pillarboxing with bars on the sides would have been preferable to this route, which gives it bars on all four sides when viewed on the increasingly standard widescreen TVs.

Though not dated in terms of style, the show cannot hide its age visually (and I'm not referring to the ancient cell phones). It never looks any better than average and fares much worse when camera or character movement results in a blurry image. A faint line runs down the left edge of the frame part of the time, but that's not as troubling as the shortcomings of the rest of the screen, which seem to go beyond standard definition limitations. Obviously, most '90s television lacks the clarity of today's shows, but this one is weak compared to its American contemporaries.

The Dolby 2.0 stereo soundtrack is plain but serviceable. Dialogue remains audible and reasonably crisp. Should the accents prove tough on your ears, Acorn has you covered with admirable, legible yellow English SDH subtitles.

Shot from a low angle, Kevin Whately stands tall on The Broker's Man: Series 1 DVD main menu. As usual, Acorn Media kindly supplies episode synopses in disc menus.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Unusual for Acorn Media but unsurprisingly given the subject and timing,
the DVD includes no actual bonus features.

The first disc opens with a two-minute promo for Acorn Media shows plus show-specific trailers for "Jack Irish": Set 1 and "Case Histories."

Unlike the show itself, the menus are enhanced for 16:9 displays. The main screen attaches some score to a publicity shot of Whately. As usual, Acorn kindly treats each episode to a synopsis page and scene menus.

A slipcover with the same artwork tops the plain black keepcase with swinging tray. An insert promoting the Acorn TV service and the studio's social network accounts accompanies the plainly-labeled discs.

On rare occasion, Jimmy Griffin (Kevin Whately) becomes a Broker's Man...of action!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"The Broker's Man" is definitely not a bad show, just an ordinary one that's tough to praise for simply going through the motions. Somewhere in between a procedural and a mystery series, this late-'90s drama proves unable to do anything distinctive or well, which explains why so few people seem to remember it and why it's only now come to DVD, despite star Kevin Whately's steady exposure from British television.

Acorn Media's DVD is about as unremarkable as the show it holds, its letterboxed picture, simple sound, and complete absence of bonus features all leaving some to be desired. Nonetheless, if you've been waiting for this show to reach the US this long, chances are you're willing to overlook these minor drawbacks of this release.

Buy The Broker's Man: Series 1 on DVD at Amazon.com

Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed February 4, 2014.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1997 Bentley Production, Chrysalis Company, BBC and 2014 RLJ Entertainment and Acorn Media.
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