This one is more or less brand new on my DVD shelf. I didn’t even know of its existence a couple of weeks ago. And although calling this show a “gem” would be stretching it a bit, I simply love new discoveries like this – keeps things sort of fresh…..
The Piglet Files is a British comedy series consisting of 3 seasons in a rather traditional British format (30 minutes per episode; 7 episodes per season). Running from 1990 to 1992, this rather cheaply produced ITV series stars Nicholas Lyndhurst as a technology teacher who is coerced into joining MI-5 because they need his expertise. Amongst the high level bureaucrats and the hapless low-level foot-soldiers he is like a fish out of water.
Whoever has seen After You’ve Gone knows that Nicholas Lyndhurst is perfectly cast as the “between-all-chairs” honest lad, and that for his comedic acting he is not only able to draw on a great sense of timing, but also employs facial expressions, body language, and pitch of voice to great effect. Not all actors in sitcoms can be bothered to fully inhabit their characters in such a way these days….
The only two other actors that stand out, albeit with rather limited screen time, are Serena Evans as the protagonist’s wife, and Clive Francis, who relishes in playing the nasty, weasely, scheming superior.
The rest of the cast is solid, as are (most of) the plots. The writing is good as far as the characters of Lyndhurst, Francis, and Evans are concerned, but I wish the writers had tried to put more “finesse” into developing some of the supporting roles into three-dimensional characters as well. Most supporting characters are one-note, restricting the scope of the humour and limiting the amount of possible punch lines the writers can provide them with. That inevitably leads to many “I-could-see-that-one-coming-from-a-mile-off” moments.
One other, unfortunate problem with the writing is that Serena Evans’s character seems to have a varying degree of knowledge about her husband’s work, changing every other episode, as the plot requires.
In addition, the writers seem to have struggled to decide whether they wanted to create a Cold-War or a post-Cold-War show. Airing an episode concerning “East German spies” on Sept. 21st 1990 seems just a little bit out of touch. Yet there are many references to the changes of ’89/’90 and what they mean for MI-5. In this regard, the writing seems to be all over the place. Maybe they were caught by these political changes by surprise in pre-production and never managed to solve this issue entirely?
All-in-all, The Piglet Files is a show with a great premise, and while – with all its flaws – it will probably never make anyone’s top ten list of British comedy, it is a solid and highly entertaining show, especially when you like “bungling spy” comedies, like I do.
So, as I said in the intro, not really a “gem”, but still a show that I would call “undeservedly unknown today”. The acting of Lyndhurst and Francis makes this show worth checking out.
Seasons 2 and 3 offer “much of the same”, so it would be best to start with season 1 and see if you like it, instead of rushing off and buying all three seasons at once.
Region 2 DVDs are available for under 10.- Pounds per season, while Region 1 DVDs are inexplicably much more expensive. Personally, I regard the 7.- Pounds I paid for season 1 as adequate and would not regard any price higher than 10.- Pounds as acceptable.