'Pie in the Sky: Series 1'
(Richard Griffiths, Maggie Steed, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / (1994) 2009 / Acorn Media)
Overview: After 25 years in the force, Detective Inspector Henry Crabbe has lost his appetite for the job. After taking a bullet in the line of duty, he plans to take early retirement and open his dream restaurant, Pie in the Sky. But his accountant wife, Margaret, doesn’t think the numbers add up. And his former boss, ACC Fisher (Malcolm Sinclair, Casino Royale), connives to keep Crabbe on the force to cover up for his own incompetence.
DVD Verdict: 'Pie in the Sky' debuted on BBC1 in the U.K. in March 1994 and aired for five series. But, quite how it managed such a feat is beyond me! I mean, from the off (and by the 'off' I mean the first four episodes, at least) we get no muurders, no mysteries, no shinanegans in the slightest! Indeed, save for some cooking tips and some kitchen etiquette, well it might as well be a cooking show!
That said, 'Pie In The Sky' features the brilliant character-driven actor Richard Griffiths ('Harry Potter') as the taciturn former policeman, Henry Crabbe. Now, the basic set up behind this working for the police but still semi-retired malarkey is that at the end of the first episode, DI Crabbe is shot in the leg in a botched capture (by blink-and-you'll-miss-it guest star, Michael Kitchen - Foyle’s War), and thus is accused of something a little more devious; in the manner that allowed his man to go free.
So, and with just 7 weeks left before a full retirement, the force put a hold on that, allowing him semi-retirement from the police to set up his own restaurant, Pie In The Sky. And, while he would much rather be left to his own devices in the kitchen, he is brought back each episode to solve some form of police annoyance for them - which is their end of the deal, whilst things concerning his full retirement are "looked into."
The first four episodes are, as noted above, nothing short of mystery boredom, and there is not one lover of British mysteries or thrillers that will take this to their hearts, sorry. I mean, I was watching the entire opening three seasons of 'Wire In The Blood' the other day and they get you knee deep in the thick of murder within one minute! Even 'Midsomer Murders' get you a little sticky in blood before the 20 minute mark. But this, being classified as a "Detective Series" on its front cover, ... er ... no!
The first episode, 'The Best of Both Worlds' is a set up for his situation; the second 'The Truth Will Out' is even slower, meandering in its so-called plot of having Crabbe try to locate a missing policeman. Nobody does anything much here, but we do get to see the revealing of the finished Pie In The Sky restaurant that Crabbe has invested all his money into - which doesn't seem big enough to swing a dead cat in, to be honest.
Whereas episode three, 'An Innocent Man' shows us some nice countryside and railway scenes, but not much else as Crabbe runs an investigation into one of his regular customers; and then, finally, in episode four 'Once A Copper' we get a little mystery that involves visiting Japanese dignitaries - with a nice, moral ending toboot! Ahhhhh, but then come episode five, 'A Shot In The Dark' we finally get a little murder/mystery to delve into when a pilot in a small import business is shot dead. And although it wasn't exactly deep in its plot, the ending was satisfying for us mystery fans.
Episode six, 'Undesirable Elements' sends what Crabbe initially believes to be on a wild goose chase, but quickly turns out to harbor a hidden agenda, set in motion by Freddy Fisher. A few red herrings and some silly flashbacks and the ending is seen coming, but enjoyable nonetheless. Episode seven, 'Passion Fruit Fool' sees Fisher on vacation, but Crabbe still knee deep in anything that sways him from working on his menus. Indeed, albeit for the introduction of a very young Andy Serkis ('Lord of the Rings' trilogy as "Gollum") as a thief friend of young chef Steve's, the entire episode goes nowhere fast. Save for the joke of "Gollum" starting of in Middleton before heading for Middle Earth, of course!
Episode eight, 'A Matter Of Taste' has Crabbe investigating a smash and grab at an upmarket wine store. Again showing Margaret out of the cramped surrounds of the restaurant, it is the lovely Maggie Steed that runs this show. A quick appearance from Pete Postlethwaite ('Brassed Off') as a City Inspector of Residential Buildings is brilliant, but the rest is just lite-caper fare. Episode nine, 'Who Only Stand and Wait,' centers around the discovery of the remains of a young French woman murdered some 18 years earlier. A good tale with a 'Primal Fear'-esque nod at its end, it certainly shows that there can be mystery found within these episodes after all.
The final episode, 'Endangered Species' tells the sage old tale of conversation activists on the rampage against the building of a new motorway through some age old woods. But things take a nasty turn for the worse when mysterious hooded thugs start to intimidate the activists; whose lead, The Fox actually went on to star in 'Wire In The Blood' as a young DI!!
It's doubtful we will ever see the likes of 'Pie In The Sky' again, except in repeats as there are not any shows these days that you could sit down with the whole family - regardless of age - and tune in to witness some, good clean (albeit some of them boring as tasteless pancakes) family episodes of mystery. These are all Full Screen Presentations (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:
Interview with star Maggie Steed
'Steak & Kidney Pie' - Complete Recipe
Biography of Richard Griffiths