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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Northern Lights: The Complete Collection'
(Robson Green, Mark Benton, et al / 4-Disc / Not Rated / (2008) 2012 / Acorn Media)

Overview: They've been rivals as long as they've been friends - which is to say that Brits Colin (Robson Green) and Howard (Mark Benton) have been pals determined to one-up each other for their entire lives!

DVD Verdict: Having begun their one-upmanship contests way back in school, having never grown up, nor apart, Colin and Howie's relationship is the key to this hilarious UK TV show. Tackling all manner of real life stuff such as family, friendships, employment, consequences, and eeven manic gunmen, they remain best buddies throughout this fantastic collection. We even get a couple of Christmas specials to feast on, either end of the 4-disc set!

We kick off with the feature-length TV movie (2006) that gave birth to the series, 'Christmas Lights.' It quickly establishes the what’s-to-come plot points of a) the two guys are best mates from school, b) they live next door to each other, and c) their wives are sisters! They also have a huge case of one-upmanship between them, no matter what is at stake.

As things progress we see that both are van drivers, but Howie (Benton) gets a promotion to management (a desk), and as Colin (Green) is a bit of a slacker on the road, well, soon they come head to head at work too! Come the Christmas holiday and it's who's got the best, most lights on their house all the way! Some bad medical news comes out of nowhere and leaves the ending very tearful - but not all the tears are sadness!

As we get into the series that was created after in thought the success of the TV film, 'Northern Lights' is born. Beginning the storyline some 18 months after the Christmas special, and with Howie having a different actress for a wife (Sian Reeves), Colin gets suspended at work, then Howie gets himself fired! Howie then gets his old job back, Colin becomes a cabbie for a short while, before getting his old driving job back too - with a lot of help from Howie.

A school reunion brings the boys back into the old fold, but not everyone is the same, and some hold grudges still! Polly and Howie are having relationship issues with each other since the birth of Victoria, and so Howie hooks up with an old flame at the reunion. Colin takes charge of the work football team, leading them to a cup final - and in an effort to get a work promotion! Then, Colin's dad dies, but as he was estranged from him, even when his brother comes down, Colin doesn't want to know. In the same episode, Jackie and Polly's dad suffers a heart attack and is rushed to hospital. This is yet another tearjerker.

Howie and Polly think a move away from Colin and Jackie down to Cheshire is the best step, and so to test the water both families go down there on a getaway. There Eric reveals a BIG secret to his daughters and the boys get involved in some farm yard antics! This disc comes with a Behind The Scenes featurette that is a lot of fun to watch - and is very informative about the show too!

The last two discs are called 'City Lights,' due to the boys being out shopping, having a drink (as they do) in a posh pub, and witnessing a murder right in front of their very eyes! Quickly taken aside by the police as material witnesses, the whole of the next 6 episodes revolve around both families being put into Witness Protection in London - and the hardships that befall them on, seemingly, an hourly basis!

With the bad guy's two hapless henchmen on the search for the couples, a possibly dodgy cop assigned to protect them, and children and wives not too accepting of the change in situation, they all get new names - the best being Howie who becomes Wayne Carr = "wanker" is said right!! In this episode the two guys reveal home truths about each other to each others wives! Sounds fun, yes, it's a great scene, but it doesn't end well for either of them here!

Polly is now falling for the cop, pulling away from Howie second by second, and so to keep sane the boys become traffic wardens. Howie moves out of the big house into a small bed-sit, and Colin gives a ticket to one of his Newcastle United footballing heroes, the great David Ginola. They also, Colin and Howie, enter a pub quiz night, win, but it's then that Howie realizes his marriage is definitely dead. Polly continues her affair with the cop, Howie moves back into the house, and the boys quit their jobs to become self-made Landscape Gardeners. Come the final episodes, the boys get kidnapped, beaten, somebody gets shot, and even the legendary Engelbert Humperdinck makes a cameo!

In the last feature-length TV film on this disc, 'Clash of The Santa’s' (2008) takes our two heroes to Lithuania for a Santa of the World contest! Howie is now single, living with Colin and Jackie (and their kids, plus a newborn baby!), his daughter way grown and living with his ex-wife and her French boyfriend in Manchester, and so Howie goes to represent the UK - with Colin along for the ride as an Elf! At the contest Howie undertakes Turkey Bowling, Santa's Sleigh's, Shot Pud, and much more in an effort to win for England. Of course, with Colin around, not all goes according to plan - but all turns out just perfect, as always for the two friends. These are all Full Screen Presentations (1:66.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.