As viewers, we sometimes relish and wildly enjoy things on screen that we would absolutely detest in person. Action sequences with cars exploding left and right, people being shredded by hails of gunfire, nightmares coming to life wielding insane looking claw-gloves, just to name a few (if you didn’t get the last reference, you really need to get out more.) Maybe it’s our escapist need to experience things far outside our normal lives, or maybe these TV shows and movies allow us to imagine these situations without the responsibility or consequences or living them out. Whatever the case, there are few things more terrifying, frightening and downright anxiety provoking than the theme of this British hit TV show, the snobbish, uppity, full-of-herself, oblivious, insufferable neighbor!
Keeping Up Appearances stars Patricia Routledge as Hyacinth Bucket (who routinely reminds everyone that it is pronounced “bouquet”.) She is a narcissistic social climber with a passion for putting on theatrical efforts to display her upper-class social standing, even though her life is decidedly middle class and her immediate family is hilariously lower class. Everyone, from her husband Richard to the local mailman, has created methods of dealing with her: from suffering quietly to taking cover with the quickness and skill of a ninja (I wouldn’t have thought the British had ninjas, but I stand corrected.) No matter how obvious her painful attitude is to everyone around her, Hyacinth exists in her own rose-colored world, supplied with hand painted china and a masterful slimline telephone with auto-dial.
From the very first moment she speaks on screen, you know right away this is a character that you will either love to hate or just hate. The show is a crisp, dry and near-perfect example of British social-class humor from the early-to-mid ’90s. There are slapstick moments and routine bouts of physical comedy, but much of the laughter streams from Hyacinth driving everyone around her insane on a routine basis.
During its run the show earned Routledge two BAFTA nominations for her performance and years later, after the show had been off the air for almost a decade, it still managed to rank at number twelve on the list of Britain’s Best Sitcoms. For American audiences, the show feels like The Jeffersons meets Sanford and Son, with a little bit of Diff’rent Strokes tossed on top.
The Collector’s Edition Series Box Set is a cleverly developed presentation of the show, coming in a 10-disc container fit inside of a small gardening bag. It comes with three seed packets (with actual seeds) labeled for some of the main characters.
For fans of British comedy that skewers their own class-based society, you can do far, far worse than Routledge and her magnificent performance as Hyacinth Bucket, I mean, “Bouquet”.
[Post originally appeared as DVD Review: 'Keeping Up Appearances' - Collector's Edition at Blogcritics]