MAN ABOUT THE HOUSE
Review by Ed Nguyen
Stars: Richard O'Sullivan,
Paula Wilcox, Sally Thomsett, Yootha Joyce, Brian Murphy
Directors: Peter Frazer-Jones
Video: Color, full-screen
Studio: Freemantle Media
Length: 312 minutes
Release Date: August 21, 2007
"Is the bed big enough for three?"
Episodes *** ½
Long before Three's Company, there was Man About the House. Both 1970's sitcoms shared the same premise - a single guy living in the same apartment with two single girls. While the British comedy was the inspiration for its more successful and longer-running American counterpart, Man About the House was by no means an inferior show. In fact, with its saucier dialogue filled with double entendres aplenty, Man About the House was the more ground-breaking, daring, and wickedly amusing of the two shows.
The show has enjoyed popular success in British syndication over the years, and while American audiences may not be familiar with this delightful programme, perhaps the availability of this new Man About the House: Complete Series 1 and 2 two-disc set will give them an opportunity to discover this well-kept British secret!
This DVD set contains all thirteen episodes from series one and two of Man About the House. The episodes vary in length but average roughly twenty-four minutes length apiece. The show's characters will be instantly familiar to anyone who has seen episodes of Three's Company. At the show's core is Robin Tripp (Richard O'Sullivan), a student at the local technical college who is studying to become a chef. His flatmates are blonde cutie Jo (Sally Thomsett), a bubble-headed lousy cook against whom food doesn't stand much of a chance, and sassy brunette Chrissy (Paula Wilcox, who bears a striking resemblance to the Joyce DeWitt character "Janet" on Three's Company). The tenement's landlord is lazy George Roper (Brian Murphy), who is ever-wary of the continued sexual advances of his over-heated wife, Mildred (Yootha Joyce).
The show's numerous English pop culture references may be lost on some audiences, but such minor details are irrelevant, as in the end, laughter is universal! Read on below for quick synopses of the thirteen episodes in this set!
1) Three's a Crowd
"Any messing about and we take you straight round to the vet!"
Two English girls, Chrissy and Jo, throw a farewell party for departing flatmate Eleanor. Now, Chrissy and Jo need a third girl to share their London flat. The answer presents itself rather quickly the following morning when the girls find a strange fellow, Robin Tripp, asleep in their bathtub. Robin has passed out after sampling a foul punch the previous night, but as an aspiring chef, perhaps he can offer a remedy not only to the girls' cooking woes but also to their flatmate dilemma.
The awkward detail of Robin's decidedly male gender presents a delicate situation that is readily resolved once Chrissy convinces prickly landlord, Mr. Roper, that Robin is a poof!
This episode is the basis for the Three's Company pilot, A Man About the House.
2) And Mother Makes Four
"My French loaf's gone limp!"
Robin moves in, and now the girls need no longer endure their own wretched cooking. However, when Chrissy's old-fashioned mother pays a surprise visit, the girls have to think quickly to explain Robin's presence and to convince Chrissy's mother that there is no hanky-panky involved in the living arrangements.
This episode marks the first appearance of the Mucky Duck, the local pub, and is also the basis for the Three's Company Season One episode of the same name, sharing similar situations and dialogue.
3) Some Enchanted Evening
"You have a very delicious bottom."
Jo is afraid that she is losing her sex appeal and asks her two flatmates for advice. More to the point, she decides to impress her latest date by cooking a romantic dinner for him (or rather, by having Robin secretly cook the dinner for her!). While Chrissy and Robin join the Ropers downstairs in a game of French Monopoly, Jo has the apartment discreetly to herself for what turns out to be a disastrous date.
This episode is similar to the Three's Company Season Two episode Cyrano de Tripper.
4) And Then There were Two
"I'm going to be here all night alone with him and he's out there measuring his virility!"
Chrissy believes that Robin fancies her. When Jo unexpectedly leaves for a few days to visit her sister, Chrissy finds herself uncomfortably alone for the evening with Robin.
Robin's randy chum Larry makes his first series appearance in this episode, which is similar to the Three's Company Season Two episode Alone Together.
5) It's Only Money
"I've only got one thing worth selling, and I was hoping to keep that until I got married!"
Eighty quids are missing, and the three poor flatmates fear that they will not be able to pay the monthly rent. In a bind, they evade the Ropers while frantically scheming up ways to raise the money quickly before Mr. Roper discovers the truth and evicts them!
This episode provides the blueprint for the Three's Company Season One episode of the same name, even sharing similar situations and dialogue.
6) Match of the Day
"I'll get you better, even if it kills you."
Avid football fan Robin is excited about participating in an upcoming football match. Unfortunately, he catches an untimely cold, so the girls must nurse their ailing flatmate back to health in time for the game.
7) No Children, No Dogs
"Do you like dogs?"
Larry pawns a pitiful puppy onto pal Robin. However, the Ropers have a "No Pets" policy, so Robin has to find a way to get rid of the lovable pooch.
This episode is the basis for the Three's Company Season One episode of the same name, sharing similar situations and dialogue.
1) While the Cat's Away
"We can do anything we like and no one can hear your screams of anguish."
The second series begins with a boring evening in the apartment, as Robin, Chrissy, and Jo have positively nothing planned for the weekend. However, when the Ropers go away for a few days, the flatmates decide to disperse the ennui with a swingin' party.
Some intriguing chemistry develops between Robin and Chrissy in this episode. This flirtation would become an on-going theme for later episodes of Man About the House.
2) Colour Me Yellow
"You realize you're threatening a white belt?"
Tired of wallpapering and re-decorating the flat, Chrissy, Jo, and Robin retire to the Mucky Duck for some relaxation. However, when a big bully muscles past Robin to flirt with the girls, Robin suffers a mighty blow to his ego and self-respect. The next evening, he wants a second chance to redeem himself and to prove that he is not a coward!
This hilarious episode provides the premise for the Three's Company Season One episode Jack the Giant Killer, sharing similar situations and dialogue.
3) In Praise of Older Men
"If you want anything, we'll be just outside the keyhole."
Chrissy has a new beau several years her senior. Jealous Robin doesn't like the new chap and trusts him even less when he discovers that Chrissy's beau is actually a married man!
Meanwhile, Mr. Roper is trying to get rid of his old junker. His car, that is.
Elements of this episode can be found in the Three's Company Season Two episodes Chrissy's Date and Roper's Car.
4) Did You Ever Meet Rommel?
"What's the one thing that Mr. Roper cannot stand?"
The Ropers' twentieth wedding anniversary is just around the corner. Benevolent Chrissy decides to invite the landlords for a special dinner prepared by Robin. Unfortunately, Robin's meals have a tendency to end in disaster, and true to form, the evening soon develops all the earmarks of a Hindenburg disaster in the making!
5) Two Foot Two, Eyes of Blue
"I think you finally bored him to sleep."
Robin and Chrissy are hoodwinked into substituting for Jo's babysitting job. However, when the child's parents are unexpectedly detained, exasperated Robin and Chrissy are stuck the entire evening and early morning babysitting a tenaciously tearful tyke.
This episode provides the premise for the Three's Company Season Two episode The Baby Sitters.
6) Carry Me Back to Old Southampton
"So you're going back to sponge off your dad, then?"
Robin fails his exams and contemplates moving back to Southampton. Amid the tearful good-byes between the flatmates, sleazy Larry senses an opportunity to capitalize on his chum's misfortunes by offering to become the new replacement!
While this DVD release contains two series for Man About the House, the show would actually continue for four further series until 1976. The show eventually encompassed thirty-nine episodes and also spawned two very successful spin-off shows, George and Mildred (about the Ropers) and Robin's Nest (following Robin's marriage and opening of his new restaurant). One can but hope that Freemantle Media might soon release further episodes of Man About the House and its spin-offs on DVD for appreciative audiences!
Video ** ½
Man About the House was photographed on videotape for in-studio scenes and on film for outdoor scenes, as is normal with British television programming. The transfer to DVD varies somewhat in quality with a somewhat faded and soft image. There are some technical glitches, such as image bleeding, inherent to the original videotape recordings; otherwise these episodes are imminently watchable.
Audio ** ½
The monaural audio is par for British television. However, the frequent colloquial dialogue, delivered with heavy British accents, may leave some audiences adrift. A pity there are no subtitles!
On a side note, the soundtrack for Did You Ever Meet Rommel? is mixed somewhat softly.
Features None (zero stars)
This two-disc set provides over five hours of comedy, served up British-style. A package insert provides a list of the episodes with brief plot synopses. Otherwise, there are no bonus features.
Fans of the popular American sitcom Three's Company will absolutely delight in its original British inspiration, Man About the House. The thirteen episodes in this set are as enjoyable as any Three's Company episode!