April 10, 2009

Justify My Netflix: Ballykissangel, season 1

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Ballykissangel, season 1

Today's movie: Ballykissangel, season 1, 1996 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix)

Why I added it to my queue: Because I've been catching random episodes of this 1990s BBC small-town dramedy for years on my local PBS station, so thought I'd use Netflix's recent digitization of the show into "instant" format as an excuse to finally watch the entire first three seasons in order. (And why only the first three seasons of this six-season show? Because the two main characters left at the end of season 3, with the show rapidly declining in quality afterwards according to nearly any fan you talk to.) Because since it's the BBC, it only takes the watching of six episodes to get caught up with each season, instead of 24 episodes like in the US. Because it's a gentle yet witty look at daily rural life among the backroads of Northern Ireland, actually shot on location in that region, and I'm a sucker for gentle BBC comedy-dramas about small-town life actually shot on location.

The reality: So why I am always so charmed with such gentle small-town shows when they come from the UK (with my favorite of them all without a doubt being BBCScotland's Monarch of the Glen), but can barely stand the same style of show when it's made and set in the US? Is it the relatively exotic nature of all those location shots? Simply that the British versions are better-written? My mild case of Anglophilia? The fact that because of their respective national histories, the UK tends to use this gentle small-town milieu to preach liberal messages, while the US uses such shows to mainly preach conservative ones? Whatever the case, I have to say that I really love Ballykissangel, no matter how much that's making CCLaP's British and Irish readers roll their eyes right now (and believe me, I can hear the sound of your collective groans all the way from here). What a wonderful treat to have Netflix so busy digitizing all these old television shows into online streaming format (and by the way, they just added the entire run of South Park last week); it gives you just such an easy excuse to sit down and watch an episode a day, every single day, each time you suddenly find yourself with exactly 45 minutes of free time from one obligation to the next, without having to clutter up your DVD queue with all those endless box-set discs.

If I had watched it when it first came out: I would've said, "Oh, it's the British Andy Griffith Show. I get it."

Strangest piece of trivia: The fictional town where this show is set was inspired by the real Northern Ireland village of Ballykissanne, where the show's creator used to holiday as a child. Its name is an Anglicized form of the original "Baile Coisc Aingeal," which means "town of the fallen angel," also the name of one of season 1's best episodes.

Worth your time? If you're a fellow Netflix customer with access to the digitized versions, without a doubt. In fact, I don't know about anyone else, but this is rapidly how the DVD/instant-movie balancing act is starting to come down for me (with Netflix even splitting them into two different queue lists at your account now): I'm tending to use the instant-movie option a lot more for old television shows, character-based dramas, and other projects where the visuals aren't that important, saving the physical DVDs now just for eye-candy films, especially now that I own a high-def television. This might in fact turn out to be the greatest boon of all out of Netflix's entire instant-delivery service, all these hundreds of hours of old television episodes, and I think it's smart of them to be digitizing these days as many old shows as they can get their hands on.

Filed by Jason Pettus at 10:19 AM, April 10, 2009. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |