A laugh-out-loud parody of overwraught and serious historical drama, a carbon copy of daytime soap, BRASS is full of laughs, wordplay, one-liners and silliness. Totally straightfaced and never letting its mask slip, it destroys the pompous self-importance of DH Lawrence and so many other classics.
Timothy West and Caroline Blakiston as the Hardacres, Barbara Ewing and Geoffrey Hinsliff and the Fairchilds: all perfectly cast. These four lead from the front, with perfect characterisation and totally deadpan delivery of ludicrous dialogue and wildly overblown plots. Red Agnes Fairchild, so proud that she irons her clothes before washing them, sits at her kitchen table with bosom heaving as she sombrely inflates balloons and puts peas into pods for a few pennies a day. Lady Patience Hardacre, confined to her wheelchair since that horrible tambourine accident, genteelly applies spoons of gin to her breakfast, with her hair immaculately coiffeured on one side and totally flat on the other. Humble, cap-wringing George Fairchild worships the ground that hardhearted Bradley Hardacre tramples him into.
Silent But Deadly explosives; plots to destroy the cottage hospital (the former village workhouse, as well you know); a horse called Brass Beauty; patented Truss Flanges; Matt the beautiful-but-dim poet; Isobel with her raging libido; Morris with his teddybear and varsity friends ... every cliché is grabbed, turned around and recycled. It's all so wildly over the top, and played with utter straightness. Agnes's hysterical outbursts of Biblical melodrama never fail to amuse.
There was no need for a third series, though. Returning after more than five years and appearing on a different TV station, with a couple of changes in the cast (Geoffrey Hutchings is a poor replacement for Geoffrey Hinsliff and is actually quite badly miscast), series three is a let down. It feels as if the producers really didn't know what to do with the characters. The spontaneity and oomph has gone, and there are several scenes that have no laughs at all. The joke is beginning to wear a little thin towards the end of series two: series three is quite poor, and there isn't even a proper ending.
BRASS is so gloriously daft, it still remains fresh after thirty years. Definitely worth getting the DVDs.
... as you well know.
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