A Family At War - Series 1 [DVD]

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A Family At War - Series 1 [DVD]

A Family At War - Series 1 [DVD]

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Shetland was an important naval port, and as many as 70 per cent of those serving from Shetland were at sea, either in the navy or merchant navy. I have a suspicion that those of you who are coming back to this series having enjoyed it first time around might be a touch disappointed now. So there are three episodes in a row which essentially could have been done simultaneously by three different director plus film units … the scenes with Sefton and Edwin in Liverpool from Episode 4 could have been filmed with episode 2 or episode 5 (or elsewhere altogether). The furniture was rudimentary, the props were laughable but by Thursday of that week the director and the cast were ready to show the lighting director, technical supervisor and senior cameraman what they would have to shoot on the following Tuesday. Viewers certainly thought so at the time of its original transmission, keeping at the top of the ratings throughout its long run.

I remember these films from the early 1970's and was elated to have found them available only to be disappointed. And yet despite their obvious differences in genre and approach, the two series inadvertently have a lot in common, both being epic in length and driven by a desire to provide as comprehensive a chronicle of the war as possible but one achieving that end through microcosm and the other by macrocosm.

May 1941: Tony Briggs (Trevor Bowen) and girlfriend Jenny (Wanda Ventham), though the Morgan 3-wheeler is the star. To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. I only know that the budget was very tight and the administration of it an endless agony for the heroic producer, Richard Doubleday. Fifty two episodes, of which eight were black and white due to an ITV technicians’ strike when they refused to operate colour equipment. This was primary work for the medium, the first of the television novels and one on a Dickensian scale.

Our studio would have been used for another programme on that Friday – those sets were struck on Friday night and our sets put in their place. One of the themes of the series is conflict, not only the huge conflict of the Second World War, but those within the family. Because it was revived in 2017 on one of those many channels the TV keeps asking to add, we happened to read a review. The war it refers to is both external force, the global struggle that defines the historical moment the Ashtons inhabit, and an internal schism, their own private combat zone which is affected by but by no means entirely due to the exigencies of that larger conflict.As a totally engrossing television chronicle of the Second World War through the fortunes of a single divided family, Granada’s A Family at War deserves to take its rightful place as a seminal piece of British television drama: a series ‘capable of magnificence’ (Sunday Telegraph, 21 March 1971). Time has not diminished the artistry of all the actors and except for a few scenes where the quality is not perfect by today's standards, the overall quality of the production is top notch. This entry was posted in Drama, Reviews and tagged a family at war (tv series), adrienne corri, barbara flynn, catherine schell, colin campbell, colin douglas, coral atkins, david bradley, david dixon, diana davies, ian thompson, john mckelvey, john nettles, keith drinkel, kenneth cranham, lesley nunnerley, margery mason, patrick troughton, richard easton, shelagh fraser, t. As the series creator John Finch later observed: ‘I have often had to try to shrug off descriptions of my work as “dour” or “glum” – inevitable I suppose since most of my writing has been about poverty or war. The producer, the series planner and the designer needed all this knowledge in advance to organise their work.

Life at the Medical Hall was busy, filled with social events, concerts, fundraisers and the whirlwind of visitors, high days and holidays that you would expect from an influential and well-connected family in any Edwardian town. In fact the pressure of transmission and the need to have more than half the episodes ‘in hand’ before starting a run, dictated another economy. Over 100 years have passed since the guns of the First World War fell silent over the battlefields of Europe. FAW iprovides an excellent insight into civilian experiences during this period of time in our history, the acting is excellent and the story lines thought provoking and compelling.Coral Atkins, who played Sheila (terrified of her kids being evacuated in the series) was an unhappy evacuee herself in the war. You could say ‘A Family At War’ was the equivalent of a ‘EastEnders’ soap opera drama during war-time. Being able to watch the whole of A Family at War had only been made possible because of its release on DVD box-set by Acorn Media UK, bringing another previously unobtainable television text back into the public domain. The series is about the Ashton family who live through the Second World War and struggle with the harsh realities that go on around it. All episodes of A Family at War are available on DVD in the UK, distributed by Acorn Media UK, but with several of the episodes edited from their original running times.

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