Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mapp & Lucia: Series One Part 2

Generally speaking when I write an article for this blog, it is about 50 minutes of content viewed that makes up 1 article. That is either 2 25 minute episodes or 1 50 minute episodes. When I pick something that spans over multiple weeks I am still only looking at maybe 100 minutes of content. Because Mapp & Lucia has an odd 5 episode season instead of 6 it means that instead of 3 articles of 2 episodes, I have decided on 1 article of 2 and 1 article of 3. It’s a lot of stuffed crammed into this little article. Of course to make matters worse, it has been very busy so I am getting started on this much later than I planned. Of course if that is all I had to complain about in life, I would be a happy man.  Unlike Lucia and Georgie who have very little to worry about. Remember them? We left them off last week fuming because they did not get into the Tilling Art Show despite knowing the three members of the hanging community really, really well….
Click here to read about Mapp & Lucia: Series One Part 1
The Italian Connection TX: 28/04/85

Kind of like Battle Stations, The Italian Connection starts off with another spectacle on stage. All in all for a good cause, Lucia opens up Mapp’s back garden to allow a small fete. Of course when Mapp shows up to visit, she is stopped at her own front gate because she needs to pay to get in. One can imagine how unhappy Mapp was to have to pay to get into her own house. I am a little unclear what the point of the fete was connected to what was happening on stage. Of course Major Benjy was hugely drunk during all of it and passed out on stage. Georgie was a nervous wreck and messed up his bit. It was Lucia who was the star and everything she did was perfect. What’s new?
After the party and what turned out to be part of Lucia’s plan, revenge was starting to formulate. Lucia hung her rejected painting on the wall for everyone to see. When Mr. and Mrs. Wyse come in to visit with Lucia, Mapp also stops in. Mr. and Mrs. Wyse notice the painting in Mapp’s present and comments on how great it looks. They even go as far as suggesting Lucia enters it into the show. This is where Lucia really has Mapp and Georgie thinks she has her too. What Lucia does next seems very puzzling to Georgie. Lucia does not let out a peep about getting a rejection letter for the painting. All she says is that the painting was returned. Mapp jumps in and hastily explains that there must have been some mix up and Lucia’s and Georgie’s painting must have accidentally been returned to them instead of being hung in the gallery. Georgie is perplexed that Lucia didn’t let Mapp have it but Lucia knows it is good that only Mapp, Lucia and Georgie are the only ones who know the truth. In fact this turns out to be the least of Georgie and Lucia’s worries.

In Battle Stations as Georgie is looking at the house he eventually rents from the Wyse’s, he comments on a picture hanging on the wall. Mr. Wyse says it is a picture of Mrs. Wyse’s sister who is now the Contessa Di Faraglione. She speaks perfect Italian. She was going to come and visit Tilling but then those plans changed. Of course the Wyse’s assumed Lucia and Georgie would be so sad to hear this but in fact they are elated. Why? Simply because Lucia and Georgie speak Italian to each other the all the time but they don’t know a word of the language. It is their own little joke between them and although everyone is impressed that they know this beautiful language, Lucia & Georgie are in fact making it up. What is unfortunate is that the Contessa’s plans changed again and now she is going to visit Tilling.
This time it is Mapp who is elated. She knows very well that Lucia doesn’t know any Italian. Lucia had been inviting the select few friends over for piano recitals that go on for hours. The next one happens to be scheduled when the Contessa is supposed to visit. Georgie and Lucia are frantic. They know they are frauds when it comes to knowing the language. Drastic action needs to be taken. Georgie needs to leave town for a quick get a way while Lucia will have to be too sick to see anyone.  This should cover up their language fraud!
Many people stop by Lucia’s house over the week to visit but they are all sent away because Lucia is too sick. Mapp is pretty smart. She knows that Lucia is faking it and also knows (because Lucia is living in Mapp’s house) that she can spy on her house’s back garden by being at the top of the church tower. She climbs all the stairs to see that Lucia is actually in the garden exercising. Mapp has got her this time! As luck would have it, in the resort that Georgie is staying at on his exile, he meets a mother and daughter. The mother is Italian who speaks the language fluently while the daughter is learning by translating stuff to Italian and showing her mother. Georgie has an inspired idea. He writes a letter that would be for the Contessa and gives it to this daughter to translate into Italian. The mother checks it to make sure it is perfect Italian. Georgie sends the letter to Lucia who instructs her to write it out in her own handwriting. Lucia does this. On the day the Contessa is over at the Wyse’s there is a reception for her. Everyone is there including Mapp but excluding Lucia who is still too “sick”.  As they are about to eat Mapp tries to explain seeing Lucia from the tower. As she is trying to get this information out, Lucia’s maid Grosvenor shows up with a letter from Lucia for the Contessa. It is a letter in perfect Italian apologizing for not being able to be there to meet the Contessa. Everyone is suitably impressed except Mapp.

Quaint Irene was there and was so happy that Lucia was once again able to put Mapp in her place runs over to Lucia’s place and basically forces her way in to tell Lucia how the whole thing went down. But as usual it is Lucia who has the surprising news as she tells Quaint Irene that she does not plan on staying in Tilling for 2 months but wants to make Tilling her home permanently.
Lobster Pots TX: 05/05/85
This episode picks up virtually where The Italian Connection leaves off. Quaint Irene and Lucia are checking out a house at the edge of Tilling. The house is called Grebe and Lucia loves it! None of the houses I lived in ever had any names. I could name my current house but I would probably call it something stupid like BBC St. Michael. After Lucia makes the decision to buy the house she still hasn’t broken the news to Georgie. He still had not returned from being away during the Italian Contessa incident of the last episode.
When Georgie does return, he is very upset that Lucia had decided to stay in Tilling. It makes matters more difficult for Georgie because his house maid Foljambe is set to marry Lucia’s chauffer Cadman.  As Georgie sadly returns to his house (that doesn’t have a name either), he runs into Quaint Irene who shows an interest in Georgie’s paintings and laments the fact the he won’t be staying like Lucia.  This gets Georgie to re-think his position and inquires about buying the Wyse’s house which is where he is currently staying. Although the house is unavailable for purchase, he does get a 5 year lease and ends up selling his home in Riseholme.

To celebrate Lucia’s new home she invites everyone over to Grebe for dinner. There she serves her famous recipe Lobster a la Riseholme. Everyone loves it but Mapp wants the recipe badly. After repeated requests for the recipe denied, she takes matters in her own hands. On a day she knows that the staff is going to be out and that Lucia unavailable, Mapp goes into Grebe, finds the recipe and writes it down for herself. A massive storm comes in just as Lucia gets home. She finds Mapp in her kitchen but there is no time for any explanations, a flood has over taken the kitchen and both Mapp & Lucia or whisked off to sea. We just see an image of Mapp & Lucia on an upside down kitchen table floating in the sea!
Months go by and there is no sign of the two women. We find out the Georgie is willed Lucia’s house as well as £80,000 and Major Benjy was willed from Mapp her home and £10,000. How will they both handle their new found inheritance and is this really the end for Mapp & Lucia?

The Owl and the Pussycat TX: 12/05/85
With the apparent demise of Mapp & Lucia from being washed out to sea, it is very understandable that the recipients of either ladies wealth would be handled with delicacy and dignity. Of course, not if you are Major Benjy! The Major not only spent money on buying a new car which was a huge luxury in 1930 but he had moved into Mallards and has taken everything over. He can’t even drive his car without trying to run someone over!  Georgie is much more responsible. Not only does he refuse to move into Grebe until Lucia is legally pronounced as dead, he has been keeping the house open and paying the staff’s wages out of his own money. In fact, he has decided to erect a stone in Mapp & Lucia’s honour.
Unfortunately, the stone does not go quite as planned. Mapp’s name is significantly smaller than Lucia’s. It is very noticeable and everyone notices it at the ceremony in the churchyard. Luckily for George, that passes quickly as the Major makes an ass of himself and invites everyone over to his new home (Mapp’s home) for dinner.  The Major has no idea how crass he comes across and how his new found wealth will end very soon….

Mapp & Lucia return to the Tilling after months of being on an Italian fishing boat.  Things have changed a bit since they were last in Tilling but mostly for Mapp. Major Benjy is in her house now and when she gets home to find him there she is furious. Upon her return, Lucia wants to write about her journey and hold a live reading of it in the town hall. She says it should only take two or two and a half hours to tell her story!
Mapp plans on doing the same thing but in the smaller venue of her own home. What changes this for her is her sudden reconciliation to the Major and their wedding! Yes Mapp & Major Benjy got married! Why? Mapp believes this will elevate her higher in the social community than her widowed friend Lucia. At the wedding reception held at Mallards, everyone sits down for dinner and they are served…….Lobster a la Riseholme. The recipe Mapp stole from Lucia’s home. The room is deathly silent and all eyes are on Lucia to see her reaction. It is actually a really intense scene as Mapp is looking at Lucia knowingly seemingly winning the day.

Lucia has other plans though. Plans that will get her more influence in Tilling which will take her possibly to public office…..but that is something more for Series 2. As Georgie says at the end of the episode, “One thing is certain. Lobster a la Risholme will never be served again by either Mapp or Lucia!"
It is criminal to write this article with so many episodes at one time for this series. If you have never seen Mapp & Lucia, I implore you to seek it out. Literally every scene, nay, every line has comedic significance.  Nuances are picked up in the episodes that simply cannot be conveyed in these episodes synopsis’s. For example, it is evident how much Quaint Irene adores Lucia. She has a huge crush on her and it is obvious. The way she looks at Lucia and the things she says. It’s cute and shows how loyal Quaint Irene is to Lucia. On the other end of the spectrum, how Major Benjy doesn’t know what to make Georgie who may be a little effeminate. Its how the Major acts around Georgie. Then there is Mapp & Lucia. In every scene their words don’t match their meaning. They are rivals. Every sentence is dripping with sarcasm. One of the best scenes is in The Owl and the Pussycat as Lucia is trying to talk Mapp out of marrying the Major. For once, Lucia is actually being serious about the mistake Mapp could be making but Mapp sees it as Lucia trying to stop Mapp from taking the upper hand. The way Mapp treats Lucia is masterful and borderline cruel yet once again it has great humour to it. If you can, find this series!

As discussed in the first article of the series, the series is based on the novels by E.F. Benson. In fact, since I wrote the first article, I acquired some audio books of Mapp & Lucia from this author and I plan on listening to them as soon as I can. As far as the series is concerned, it is dramatized by Gerald Savory.  Once again, using the term dramatized really blurs the line of what type of series this is. Obviously, it is not an all-out sitcom.  It is certainly not a drama either but I think it would be impossible for this to be a drama. All the characters are caricatures of rich people from the 1930s. All the characters are larger than life and this even includes the situations in their lives. Mapp & Lucia only survived the seas on a kitchen table. Obviously, that is impossible yet it fits perfectly in this world that E.F. Benson created. Savory did a fantastic job on this series. Born in 1909, he had a distinguished career in television.  In the 1970s he was at the BBC as Head of Serial and then Head of Plays.  One of my favourite things he written was the 1977 adaptation of Count Dracula he had written starring Louis Jourdan.  Another series that if you have not seen, seek it out!

Heading up Mapp & Lucia is Geraldine McEwan as Lucia. I have never seen her in the role of Miss Marple but as I pointed out last week, I adored her in Mulberry. Prunella Scales plays Mapp to perfection. Prunella has an amazing career playing Sybil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers, After Henry and also playing Hilda Rumpole in some audio stories in 2003 which is something she shares with Marion Mathie who plays Mrs. Wyse. Of course there is Nigel Hawthorne playing Georgie which is a significantly different role than that he was playing around the same time as Sir Humphry Applebee. Major Benjy is played by my favourite character actor, Denis Lill. I don’t see him starring in too many series but he plays big roles in a lot of productions. When he is on screen, he takes over the scene. He has appeared in Survivors, Doctor Who, Black Adder, Red Dwarf, Rumpole of The Bailey, Only Fools and Horses and so, so many more. I make it my business to watch programs he is in.

As good as the episodes are the presentation is flawed. I watched these episodes from the Network R2 release. This is not up to the normal high quality Network release standard but I believe this has nothing to do with Network. The series interior and exterior scenes were shot on analogue 1” video tape. A couple of things are clear from this DVD set. This series was made by London Weekend Television and normally their productions have an animation that forms a LWT. This is missing. This was shown on Channel 4 which is a commercial station. There should have been ad caps but they have been removed. You will notice this as the theme music is suddenly heard and quickly fades away during a scene change throughout the course of the episodes.  I am sure Network had to use the episode masters provided to them. It is also obvious that the masters used were one generation away from the master material. Every time you dub down analogue video material, you go down one generation. Every generation you dub down the quality of the video becomes compromised. It is clear looking at these episodes that they have been dubbed to another analogue format before Network got a hold of them. It is my theory that this edit was probably done in the 1990s for the VHS release. I don’t know if these same masters were used in preparing the R1 Acorn release. There is some good news though. It you want to see this series, I would recommend picking up the R2 release only because it is far cheaper than getting the R1 Acorn release. You can get the complete series for £11.99 from This is about $19. Getting the Acorn release in the US is $28.49 for Series 1 and $26.99 for Series 2. I actually avoid Acorn where ever I can. They release really good material but their products are way too expensive and those prices never drop.

I would like to dedicate this article to the talented Marion Mathie who passed away on January 20th. Not only playing Mrs. Wyse in this series, she also played my favourite version of Hilda Rumpole in Rumpole of the Bailey. She even appears on the cover of the Rumpole of the Bailey omnibus book. She will be missed.

Finally, on a personal note, I am late getting this article out. This should have been out last week and I was planning on doing an article on the late Jenny Tomasin from Upstairs Downstairs this week but it didn’t turn out that way. Last week I had to put my wonderful cat Dave to sleep. He was a beautiful, fun, loving member of this family. It is empty without him but I am so grateful for the time I had with him. There will never be another one like him. Miss you Davey!

Next week: How about some sci-fi? Here is a series that I should have been all over for years but every time I watch it I am somewhat unimpressed. Could my views change this time? Next week I look at Blake’s 7: Orac!
Do you have feedback, article requests or want to talk about a program but not want to leave a public comment? Feel free to drop me an e-mail at

Also please subscribe to my From the Archive: British Television Blog Page for updates about new articles.

Au Reservoir!


Dave G said...

Good stuff once again - I will try to get around to picking this one up at some point.

I have to agree about Acorn - overpriced and generally not the best source material, but once in a rare while they are the only option.

So sorry to hear about Dave, He was a good catm as such things go.

Greg said...

I don't think you will be disappointed with Mapp & Lucia when you get it.

It is true about Acorn sometimes being the only option. I remember how dire their Good Neighbors R1 release was. From the Lionheart syndication prints. The only good thing about it was the Lionheart ident at the end of the episodes.

Thanks about Dave. :)

Wes said...

Sorry to hear about Dave. :(

Greg said...

Thanks Wes! I still can't believe he is gone.