Acorn Media // 1997 // 392 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart // July 14th, 2011
Henry Crabbe: "These lunchtimes are getting ridiculous."
Gary: "We must be doing something right."
Henry: "I think we ought to put a stop to it immediately."
After five series of doing something right in TV detection, Pie in the Sky: Series Five brings the adventures of Henry Crabbe (Richard Griffiths, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), the kindly cop and chef who runs Pie in the Sky restaurant, to a close.
At Pie in the Sky, waitress Nicola is gone, replaced by Sally (Marsha Thomason, White Collar). On the Barstock police force, PC Cambridge has left, replaced by constables Morton (Mary Woodvine, Space Precinct) and Guthrie (Derren Litten, The Catherine Tate Show). A police policy of hiring out cops for security details puts Crabbe in even more conflict than usual with ACC Freddy Fisher (Malcolm Sinclair, Casino Royale), his careerist boss.
Pie in the Sky: Series 5 features eight episodes on three discs:
* "Squashed Tomatoes"
Henry's happy about Scotland yellow tomatoes and sad about a security gig at a construction site. Somehow, the tomatoes are related to the case, which means Henry's on parking detail next.
* "Ugly Customers"
Henry's guarding a jury in an investment fraud case that involves the police retirement fund, for which Fisher was a trustee. Meanwhile, Sally deals with a rude customer at Pie in the Sky.
* "Pork Pies"
Henry's told to keep an eye on protesters at a sausage plant, but he's more suspicious of the sausages. Meanwhile, Margaret Crabbe (Maggie Steed, 32 Brinkburn Street) regrets fixing up her widowed friend with a shady pilot.
* "Cutting the Mustard"
A top cop's son is being bullied in boarding school, which puts pressure on both Fisher and Crabbe, especially with a possible drug ring involved. Meanwhile, Gary gets an offer for his mustard recipe.
* "Return Match"
Henry wants to know how a security firm got to the scene of a lorry hijacking so fast, but Fisher's more interested in getting an ex-footballer on the police payroll sobered up in time for a big match -- against the security firm.
* "The Apprentice"
Youths are involved in a off-license holdup that leaves a man badly injured. Naturally, Henry has just taken on one of the gang as his apprentice at Pie in the Sky.
* "In the Smoke"
Margaret thinks there's a mystery when she and Henry flatsit for an old friend in London. Eventually, Henry agrees, sending him in search of one of his least favorite meals to investigate.
* "Smelling of Roses"
Henry's losing his sense of taste and smell after a bad cold. Meanwhile, Fisher isn't very helpful as he sends Henry to investigate a tire dealer.
Henry Crabbe's adventures come to an actual close in the final episode, written by series creator Andrew Payne. Even though it's one that lets viewers know that Henry Crabbe will still be making steak-and-kidney pies, it's a wrap-up anyone who's invested in the first four series will want to see.
The final batch of Pie in the Sky has four entrees, er, episodes, worthy of note:
"Cutting the Mustard" takes a look at public school bullying, and also at Freddy Fisher, Henry's boss. Henry learns that Fisher was bullied as a schoolboy and, surprisingly, befriended one of the cooks at the school, becoming a kitchen fixture. It also gives Fisher a moment to show his sympathetic side, sharing his experiences with the bullied boy to persuade him to speak with the police. Since Fisher is especially obnoxious in this final series, it's a good change-up.
"The Apprentice" gives the fussy Henry a chance to show his softer side as he counsels a young suspect. There's an especially strong conclusion, as the young apprentice tries his hand at Henry's style of moral persuasion to defuse a tense situation that's come home to Pie in the Sky.
"In the Smoke" starts out looking like it's going to be another comic episode, but takes on an unexpected dramatic turn.
Lastly, "Smelling of Roses" deals with Henry's depression over his increasingly frustrating job and the toll it's taking on his life -- even impacting his greatest joy, Pie in the Sky.
Through it all, the conflicts with Fisher grow; the security jobs mean that Henry's sharp police instincts aren't generally wanted. This conflict provides a thread running through the last season -- sometimes absurd, as in "Squashed Tomatoes" and "Pork Pies," but more often dramatic. It gives Richard Griffiths one last chance to show that his food-loving character isn't a one-note joke. The one disappointment is that you don't get to see the same level of character development in the supporting cast, particularly Gary (Nicholas Lamont), whose alcoholism has been dealt with in previous seasons.
The picture and sound are decent for a '90s British TV series.
Just an aside: I'm still wondering whether Jones' undercover ID as a baker in a recent White Collar was a Pie in the Sky reference, given Marsha Thomason's role here.
The entire fifth series feels like it's Henry Crabbe's last, with a bit more character growth for the detective than expected. Series creator Andrew Payne left a little wiggle room for a sixth series or a TV movie, but those things never turned up. If you wanted Crabbe, the Barstock police force, and Pie in the Sky to stay the same forever, you might want to skip it and rewatch earlier adventures. This set, naturally, is also a bad place for newcomers to start.
There are no extras. Chances are more people know where Richard Griffiths is now than knew where he was then, but it would still be nice to hear him and other cast members look back on Pie in the Sky in a commentary or other feature.
Somewhere in here, there's a musical change noted, probably with "In the Smoke," which takes the Crabbes to a jazz club.
Between Richard Griffiths' role in the Harry Potter films and the increased interest in foodie personalities such as Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain, Pie in the Sky has probably drawn a few new fans on DVD. While hardly unique (Marsha Thomason didn't land in that different a show with White Collar), it is a solid show that could grow on viewers.
Review content copyright © 2011 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 392 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Not Rated