Play for Today: A Fishing Party
R2 - United Kingdom - Simply Media
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (24th October 2018).
The Show

First shown in BBC One's renowned Play for Today series in 1972, Peter Terson s sparkling comedy of class and manners stars Brian Glover, Ray Morto and Douglas Livingstone.

Derbyshire miners Art (Glover), Ern (Mort) and Abe (Livingstone) head north to Whitby for a boys-only escape and a spot of sea fishing.

Checking into a shabby B&B run by haughty landlady Audrey (Jane Freeman) and her henpecked hubby, the trio are bamboozled into paying a high price for their rooms.

They board their chartered boat piloted by a taciturn ex-fisherman, who stares grimly ahead while offering stern warnings about mixing chips and brown ale on a swelling sea. But the boys are half-cut before they've left the harbour, and as they reach the cod grounds they're decidedly off-colour.

With his unshakeable poise, fervour for self-improvement and back-of-the-sauce-bottle learning, Art is the well-meaning group leader who anchors the action as they head for deep water.

The Play for Today series showcased some of the best of British acting talent and most prolific writers from 1970 - 1984. Some of the most iconic films to come out of the series included Abigail's Party and Boys from the Blackstuff.


The fondly remembered BBC anthology series' Play for Today and Play for the Week were broadcast from 1970 to 1984 to much acclaim. Simply Media have put these all-film 16 mm productions out on DVD and so finally fans can have versions to call their own. The plays here are amongst the most highly regarded and fondly remembered of the run.

In this era UK TV was made largely on either 625 line PAL high-band broadcast standard one or two inch video tape or on 16 mm film; and mixtures thereof (see Doctor Who 1980-1989). Prestige productions tended to be made entirely in film, although 35 mm was considered too expensive on TV budgets to was rarely used. The three plays seen here have most likely been taken from vintage broadcast masters created at the time of production and are sourced from videotape. Consequently the image is soft, lacking in detail with a fair amount of black crush in evidence. Contrast has been carefully controlled to sharpen the image slightly but there doesn't appear to be any signs of DNR.

Vintage television fans who own Network's Blu-rays of The Sweeney (Series 1) and The Professionals (1977-81) know how good modern techniques can make 16 mm productions look. This makes it doubly disappointing that the BBC and Simply haven't gone to the expense and trouble of remastering this series for HD; future-proofing it for broadcast, download or streaming.

In the final analysis we have relatively dull, low contrast images that are serviceable and probably represent the image quality on first broadcast but today they just look acceptable and lacking in punch. This could be massively improved upon with a new 2K / 4K scan of the OCNs and a Blu-ray release.
PAL / 1.33:1 / The Fishing Party (57:10)


English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: English HoH

Nothing remarkable but it gets the job done; nice clear dialogue, and robust for what it is: a vintage mono soundtrack sent to the front left and right speakers. I didn't detect any distortions or dropouts or sibilant issues. The score sounds clear and never overshadows dialogue. This is likely to only be improved upon by an HD or UHD release with lossless sound; which is to say extremely unlikely outside of the US or German markets which seem big enough to support such releases. The soundtrack is more impressive than the visuals and could only be improved with the lossless treatment.


Nothing. A shame because it's likely that there would've been material in the BBC archives to support these, whether that'd be pure contextual material on the class system (The Fishing Party), teaching (for Our Day Out) or Bletchley Park and Alan Turing (The Imitation Game).


Solid, bare bones releases of some highly regarded installments of the Play for Today and Play for the Week strand from the BBC. Image and sound quality is off the shelf and unrestored but the masters are essentially in good condition.

The Show: A+ Video: B- Audio: B- Extras: F Overall: C+


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