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Case Number 18237

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The Beiderbecke Connection

Acorn Media // 1988 // 204 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // February 3rd, 2010

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge James A. Stewart got splinters just studying the theory of wood.

The Charge

"Have you and Mr. Chaplin gotten married?"
"Certainly not!"

Opening Statement

As Alan Plater's trilogy about British schoolteachers Jill Swinburne (Barbara Flynn, Cracker) and Trevor Chaplin (James Bolam, New Tricks) wraps up, the pair are raising their child together—but they haven't quite settled down, either into married life or out of getting wrapped up in silly capers that involve shady characters, police, and various other governmental agencies.

Facts of the Case

A banner—"Welcome Back, Miss"—greets Jill on her return to teaching from maternity leave. The headmaster is upset by the banner, a reminder that Jill is still a Miss (actually a Mrs. from a previous divorce) and didn't marry Trevor while on leave. Trevor's teaching "the theory of wood" because the school can't afford actual wood for his woodworking class, and Jill's making do with only three copies of Tess of the d'Urbervilles. Mr. Carter (Dudley Sutton, Lovejoy) is proud of the teachers' one hundred percent non-attendance at a staff meeting to discuss the budget crisis. Helpful students are about to solve the problem, but the solution could lead to police involvement.

Average-sized Trevor Chaplin, talking his baby for a stroll, runs into Big Al (Terence Rigby, Mona Lisa Smile) and Little Norm (Danny Schiller, Erik the Viking), who help him realize he's walking the groceries by mistake. This encounter soon leads Big Al to ask for "a big favor"—specifically, hiding Ivan (Patrick Drury, Father Ted), a refugee who doesn't seem to speak much English, and later driving him to the Lancastershire border.

DI Hobson (Dominic Jephcott, The Scarlet Pimpernel), a copper who's taken a dislike to Jill and Trevor, assigns two officers to follow the not-quite-couple in response to a neighbor's complaint.

And Mr. Swinburne turns up.

The Evidence

If you've seen either of the first two installments of the Beiderbecke trilogy, you know what to expect here. Jill's still an activist who wants to name the baby after Karl Marx, and Trevor's still wants nothing more than to listen to jazz and tell his baby bedtime stories about jazz greats like Bix Beiderbecke (Trevor's favorite, and the namesake of the series). They both are anti-authoritarian wisecrackers who don't take the messes they get into—or each other—very seriously. Familiar faces, including a gravedigger and a former bureaucrat, turn up to tie the series together. New faces include a hacker with a unique attitude toward crime and two cops who suspect a lot about Trevor and Jill but don't really want to know.

The main attractions, even more here than in previous installments, are the rapport Barbara Flynn and James Bolam share as they trade barbs with each other and everyone else—and the music. The box points out that the score won a BAFTA (a British Emmy-ish award), and you can hear why as it ably sets moods ranging from mysterious to playful and keeps you entertained while doing it.

The picture is a little better than previous releases in the series, with fewer noticeable flecks and blemishes. I'd guess that by 1988, the new markets opened up by satellite TV and VHS had inspired ITV to take better care of its shows.

The only extras are text bios.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

With a plot that's even thinner than the two previous Beiderbecke entries, The Beiderbecke Connection will mainly appeal to those who've already been immersed in the weird world of Trevor and Jill. By the third time around, Alan Plater's offbeat plot twists and satirical jabs have gotten predictable.

Closing Statement

The Beiderbecke Connection's silliness isn't quite as sharp as in the last volume, but pays off with character moments. I'd recommend going back to The Beiderbecke Tapes or The Beiderbecke Affair to get acquainted with Trevor and Jill first.

The Verdict

Not guilty, but as usual there are plenty of police inquiries.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 86
Audio: 90
Extras: 0
Acting: 95
Story: 85
Judgment: 88

Perp Profile

Studio: Acorn Media
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 204 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Comedy
• Foreign
• Mystery
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Bios


• IMDb

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