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We first met Jean and Lionel—the appealing couple at the heart of this charming BBC series—back in 1992. They are convincingly portrayed by Dame Judi Dench (Mrs. Brown, Shakespeare in Love") and Geoffrey Palmer (Mrs. Brown, Anna and the King)." Series 2, 6 episodes; CC, 2 hours 40 min. on 2 cassettes. Web Extra: Palmer prefers to read scripts well in advance of filming, while Dench elects to learn her lines the weekend prior to shooting. Dench "firsts": She played the first female M in the James Bond films. And in 1996, she became the first person to win two Olivier awards for British theater, for two different roles—Christine in Absolute Hell" and Desiree in A Little Night Music".
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The fundamental things--engaging characters, impeccable performances, and witty, literate scripts--apply in As Time Goes By, the beloved 1992 British comedy series starring Dame Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer as Jean and Lionel, former lovers reunited after 38 years. He is a divorced ex-army officer. She is a widow who runs the Type for You secretarial agency. They had "a great romance" during the Korean War, but they lost communication ("A lost letter... as ridiculously simple as that?"). This volume contains the first four episodes of the series' second season. Lionel has written a dry memoir, My Life in Kenya, and reluctantly prepares for the book launch. Dressing up in safari gear and posing for the book's cover holding a rifle with a buxom model hugging his leg--as his "boy publisher" Alistair encourages him to do--are hilariously out of character for the dour and terse Lionel.
Meanwhile, the tentative couple, encouraged by Jean's daughter Judith, poignantly tries to navigate the difference between "There we were and here we are now." Lionel and Jean have no counterpart on American television. They are mature characters in every sense of the word. With self-deprecating wit, they acknowledge somewhat their advancing years and awkwardly grapple with the advancement of their rekindled relationship. There are priceless moments, but while Lionel does, in Alistair's words, "pull some funny cherries out of the bag sometimes," As Time Goes By does not live and die by the joke. This is character-driven human comedy that will charm viewers of almost any age. --Donald Liebenson
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