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Thursday, July 11, 2013

HONEST -- DVD review by porfle

Fans of Amanda Redman (D.S. Sandra Pullman of the delightfully quirky cop series "New Tricks") will probably derive a good bit of fun watching her wrestle the 2008 single-season British TV series HONEST (now a 2-disc DVD set from Acorn Media) into submission with her brassy, no-nonsense acting style.  Others, however, may have to slog their way through a distinctly unlikable episode or two before the show, and especially some of these characters, start to grow on them.

The marvelous Danny Webb, for example, plays crooked dad Mack Carter, who's perfectly happy to raise his kids to be scummy lowlifes like him.  At least until he ends up in prison--for several years this time instead of the usual short term--which means that his harried wife Lindsay (Redman) must now run the household and pay the bills while keeping all of the Carter family's budding young felons in line.  But what makes this really difficult is her decision to do all of this without resorting to crime.

How Lindsay and her criminal charges make the painful transition from larceny to honesty drives this raucous mix of comedy and drama with wildly varying results.  At first, characters such as teenaged dork Vic Carter (Matthew McNulty) and his butthead pal Reza (Amit Shah) provide little mirth as they engage in burglary and other crimes in bumbling fashion.  It isn't until they get caught redhanded by aging Triad boss Mr. Hong (venerable Burt Kwouk of the PINK PANTHER series), who forces Vic to atone by being his virtual slave, that we begin to warm up to Vic as he gradually gains a tentative sense of responsibility. 

The fact that Mr. Hong's granddaughter Vicky (Maye Choo) is a knockout who enjoying tormenting Vic during his labors by parading around in a bikini helps make the series more watchable at times.  And when she finally decides to "do the nasty" with Vic, it helps that she's actually doing it with Vic's twin brother Taylor (also McNulty), filling in for Vic in more ways than one.  Taylor, it turns out, is a lawyer and is thus the family's biggest success story,  although this hardly means he's above some occasional dishonesty himself. 

Kacie Carter (Laura Haddock), a dumb blonde obsessed with becoming a model, is a virtual clone of Kelly Bundy of "Married With Children."  Her character doesn't really become interesting until late in the season when she gets hooked  up with a lecherous TV personality and starts using him to get her face (and other body parts) splashed all over the tabloids.  Sister Lianna (Eleanor Wyld), one of the show's less annoying characters, is the smart one who has enough savvy to be a success in whatever she pursues but still finds herself doing a balancing act between right and wrong.  Michael Byrne (INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, BRAVEHEART) plays Grandpa Carter,  a crusty old reprobate who isn't as senile as he lets on.

Amanda Redman, of course, easily dominates the proceedings by virtue of her sheer presence and robust acting talents, and HONEST is pretty much first-rate whenever she's on the screen.  Besides the aforementioned Danny Webb (a favorite of mine since ALIEN 3), another oasis of "good" is the always fine Sean Pertwee (SOLDIER, THE MUTANT CHRONICLES) as D.S. Ed Bain, a world-weary cop who likes Lindsay even though he's forced to spend most of his time arresting members of her family.  Their tentative relationship will provide some nice moments throughout the show's six episodes.

The series gets off to a shaky start as the first episode or two are a cacophony of  empty freneticism and bad one-liners, rushing from one gag situation to the next before we can reflect on how unfunny it all is.  Again, the Carters and their fellow felons initially come off not as charming rogues or scoundrels, but simply low-lifes whom I found wholly unlikable.  It doesn't help that the incessantly cutesy musical score prods us to find it all amusing.

Gradually, though, I began to build up a tolerance and finally a measure of affection for the Carters and their silly antics, along with occasional moments of actual funniness as when Lindsay and D.S. Bain catch Constable Harrison ( Thomas Nelstrop) gratifying himself in his car to a picture of aspiring model Kacie, whom he happens to be stalking.  Outstanding dramatic moments include an attempt on Lindsay's life after she's accused of being a "grass" (snitch) and her continuing struggle to keep her marriage to Mack from falling apart as her feelings for D.S. Bain grow harder to deny.  Lindsay's misadventures in the work force, including clashes with some  of her supposedly "honest" employers, also provide some of the show's most riveting situations.

The 2-disc DVD set from Acorn Media is in 16:9 widescreen with Dolby Digital sound and English subtitles.  Extras consist of a photo gallery, text interviews with some of the lead actors, and production notes.

If you find yourself watching HONEST and not liking what you see at first,  you might want to hang in there and give it a chance.  By the third episode or so, I found myself actually getting into it and, dare I say, caring about these characters and their foolish yet earnest attempts to go straight.  Even the unfunny parts began to seem kind of funny, which is a sure sign that a TV series has managed to tweak my "likability" nerve. 

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