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Cherry Pop

'Cracker: The Complete Collection'
(Robbie Coltrane, Christopher Eccleston, Geraldine Somerville, Ricky Tomlinson, et al / 10-Disc DVD / NR / 2009 / Acorn Media)

Overview: The first complete collection of the groundbreaking British crime series starring Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid in the Harry Potter films) in the role that made him famous. The 10-disc collector’s edition includes all three seasons (1993-1995), two stand-alone movies (1996, 2006), and a 45-minute behind-the-scenes retrospective documentary.

DVD Verdict: For the first time on US soil, the entire run of the British criminal psychologist, with severe addictions to gambling (one episode he wins 1000 pounds, but gets mugged viciously by an orange traffic cone outside the club; another he wins 3000 pounds but loses it all the next day on a horse that stumbles coming out of the gate!) and drinking (whiskey, via three bottles a day!), has finally been released by Acorn Media. Featuring the ever larger-than-life Hagrid himself, character actor Robbie Coltrane first takes us back to those dreary, yet crime-ridden UK times of circa 1993.

As criminal psychologist Dr. Edward "Fitz" Fitzgerald, Jimmy McGovern's 'Cracker' was a UK hit from the off, having millions tune in every night an episode was screened for its three year run. Some episodes were halved into two parts, others into three. Either way, save perhaps for the rather annoyingly open-ended third episode 'One Day A Lemming Will Fly,' "Fitz" was beloved by all come the ratings wars.

Watching as the opening credits of the very first episode plays out, you are instantly transported back to the early ninties; mainly due to the crappy title effects and the huge Dolby Surround logo that embeds itself in the bottom corner! And sure the UK venue of Manchester they used throughout the series has changed, or gone completely due to the new face of evolution, but the feel for the collar is just as rough now as it was then.

Indeed, 'Cracker' was one of those shows that didn't pull any punches from the off. For the most part, you know what’s happened in the first two minutes. Then, for the most part, you know that somebody has murdered somebody, and you might well even know (or heavily suspect) who it is. Either way us, as the ever-willing audience always got a tremendous insight into how the human mind worked.

In these 11 'Cracker' episodes, "Fitz" is a wonderful character to watch unfold and begin to work. Essentially he’s not socially structured but moreover intellectually structured. He doesn’t go to work to say the right things, but he's not there to purposely piss people off either. He speaks before he thinks, but it's usually unadulterated truth that pours out; whether the intended 'target' likes it or not. He lives entirely on his talents, his instincts are truly honed for the psychological battle, and "Fitz" seems also to be a man devoid of society's weight, due to his bravado of flying be the skin of his bare social morals.

Add to that his will-it-ever-happen / should-it-ever-happen romantic dalience with DS Jane 'Panhandle' Penhaligon (another Harry Potter-player in Geraldine Somerville), a turbulent partnership with DCI David Bilborough (the 9th Dr. Who, Christopher Eccleston) who hires him for cases they can't get their police heads around, and add in his already-strained relationship at home with his on-again / off-again / suddenly pregnant wife (played always sheepishly by the lovely Barbara Flynn), and we instantly see from the very first episode that whatever confusion it is most people leave at the office, that "Fitz" is happy to bring home; to meet and greet all that wish to shake its hand!

Episodes that include such storylines as the death of two main characters, way before we're but a third of the way through the series, are harsh tales to watch unfold - and in the case of the first unexpected; the latter a timebomb seemingly already delayed in going off. The appearance of a very young Samantha Morton ('Elizabeth: The Golden Age') - albeit in one of the most tediously overdrawn story - is a real pleasure to watch. She may have taken the cinematic quiet route forward since, but man she certainly showed very early her skilled acting chops.

This complete 'Cracker' 10-disc box set (containing 11 shows) contains all three series that ran from 1993-95. The feature-length episodes are: "The Mad Woman in the Attic", "Say I Love You", "One Day a Lemming Will Fly" (Series 1); "Be a Somebody", "The Big Crunch", "Men Should Weep" (Series 2); "Brotherly Love", "Best Boys", "True Romance" (Series 3); "White Ghost" (a 1996 TV special set in Hong Kong, and featuring no family members!); with the 10th disc housing the 2006 new TV movie, "A New Terror" (where we get to see all the main "Fitz" family cast older, wiser and (especially in Coltrane's case) grayer; along with the Behind-the-Scenes Featurette. These are all Full Screen Presentations (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

Cracker: Behind the Scenes (45 mins.)