“The Darling Buds of May” (1991-1993)
Created by: H.E. Bates
Featuring: David Jason, Pam Ferris, Philip Franks and Catherine Zeta-Jones
Sidney Charles ‘Pop’ Larkin: “This calls for a cocktail!”
Once again recently released on DVD is the now constant favorite David Jason starring “The Darling Buds of May” (1991-1993), a relatively short lived television show that is now quite famous for being the first major mainstream series or movie featuring Catherine Zeta-Jones who is a standout and would of course go on to Oscar winning success as well as a high international profile. One of the main element sof the show that I believe still makes it a success as well as it being re-released on DVD every few years is not only its timely setting, that is, it is a period piece that is of extremely high quality but also the stories themselves which are never dark, but enjoyable and full of hope, no matter what happens, it is difficult not to smile when reaching the end of each installment.
“The Darling Buds of May” concerns the Larkin family who live on a farm in rural England. Sidney (“Pop”) and his common law wife Florence (“Ma”) have six children, eldest daughter Mariette, followed by their only son Montgomery, and other daughters Primrose, twins Zinnia and Petunia, and Victoria. Ma is a housewife while Pop supplements his farm income with various other not entirely legitimate enterprises. Tax collector Cedric (“Charley”) visits to audit Pop, but falls in love with Mariette and quits his job to live the rural life. Pop and Ma’s relationship is depicted as loving and affectionate throughout, although Pop is flirtatious and subject to numerous advances, most of which Ma is aware of and evidently unconcerned by. Proud of all his children, Pop’s schemes evidently provide well for the family, although he is just as motivated by doing good and helping others as making a profit. From here the adventures of the entire family come into play with no real tension but that is made up by alot of good natured storytelling which has never really gone out of date. This makes sense as it was produced possibly as an antidote or reaction to not only the UK politics of the time but also to the International feeling at the the time.
To say the series was a success is an understatement, it was and remains a fan favorite which is down to quite a few factors that coalesced around the show. Of course the star of the show was David Jason who was becoming the television legend he is today, this would mark his first real starring role in what was a drama with humor something he would follow up with in the years to come. However there were the actors Pam Ferris and Catherine Zeta Jones who would also come to the fore playing women who whilst they were secondary characters has some very real agency, they were knowing of the men and made sure they always came out on top.
This was a series where the natural environs played a part, they were a character as well in that the locales served a purpose, the land was something that all the characters not only inhabited but relied on as well for their lives and their livelhood. “The Darling Buds of May” was filmed on location with many interiors of course on soundstage, but the look of the series was as authentic as could be, something seen mostly seen in movies, but when one thinks of modern dramas the locations pay huge parts, they offer an individuality that sets them apart much like this show did when it was screened and something it was ahead of.
“The Darling Buds of May” remains very much one of the English television series that many not only remember but are able to re-watch which explains why it is always available on DVD or in the UK on streaming services. It is a credit to the taste and power of David Jason that ever since he first appeared on television screens he has been a constant presence in great high quality viewing and this is no different. It does mean that he can taken for granted and that he is one sort of genre but in fact he spans genre easily and this show proves it. This is also a show that while Jason is the lead he is at ease sharing the screen with others, even those actors who are untested, something he would have learned from one of the greats in Ronnie Barker. I highly recommend this series, for like all those years ago this is a time when we all need a laugh and some reminder that there was a time when people just got along.
The Darling Buds of May: Cedric Charlton, the tax inspector, arrives on Home Farm to help the Larkins fill in their tax form. He is distracted by their beautiful daughter, Mariette. The Larkins distract him further by attempting to teach him crib and getting him drunk. He wakes with a hangover, and is unfit to return home. Eventually, he forgets life in the office.
When the Green Woods Laugh: The day of Charley and Mariette’s wedding is looming. Pop sells a country mansion to an aristocratic couple. When Pop rejects the advances of Corrine Perrigo (Celia Imrie), she gets her revenge by persuading the woman to charge him with assault, when all he attempted was stop her from falling. The Brigadier is best man for the wedding. Eventually, Pop is found innocent and the wedding goes ahead.
A Breath of French Air: The Larkins go on holiday to Brittany. The weather is appalling, the food revolting, the receptionist unfriendly. The weather improves, and a mechanic sees the crest on the doors of Mr Larkin’s car and thinks him a lord. As a result, he is treated better, even by the receptionist, Molet. The hotel patronne, Mademoiselle Dupont, gives Pop and Ma her room. Primrose falls in love with a local boy named Marc – Antoine Gammelin and wants to stay in France.
Christmas is Coming!: As Christmas approaches, Charley and Mariette go to view a house to rent, unaware that Tommy Mason, an escaped convict is hiding there. Pop later discovers him in the Larkins’ hen-house where Victoria is taking food to him. He explains that, since his imprisonment, his wife has severed all ties with him but he is anxious to see his children.
Oh! To Be in England!: Mam’selle Dupont comes to stay with the Larkins, and discovers the truth – Mr. Larkin is not a lord. She is disappointed but comes to terms with it, and enjoys her stay. Pop saves an old woman from being cheated, and buys a fair from his friend, Fruity Pears, who is unable to run it after being attacked by thugs. Primrose’s relationship with the French boy has fizzled out; back in the UK she falls for Mr Candy, the young vicar in charge of christening the young Larkins … and a newly arrived Charlton.
Stranger at the Gates: A young man named Pieter who says he is Danish arrives on the farm, and starts doing odd jobs for the people in the village. Everyone, including Mariette, thinks he’s the bee’s knees, much to the resentment of Charley. Meanwhile, Montgomery is being bullied by local boys, and Primrose is attempting to win Mr. Candy’s heart. She mistakes his sister for a girlfriend, and angrily leaves him. Charley discovers that Pieter is German and has been hiding his identity because of the anti-German sentiment in post-World War II Britain.
A Season of Heavenly Gifts: Pop Larkin unwittingly becomes involved in smuggling when he receives gifts from a grateful pilot he helped after a crash-landing. Meanwhile, an evil Polish man named Mr. Cope attempts to prevent Charley and Mariette from buying Mrs Kinthley’s hopgarden. The pilot invites the family to a party at his club, which they greatly enjoy. Montgomery Larkin is unhappy at Naval College, where he is training to be a sailor in the merchant navy.
Le Grand Weekend: Pop and Ma’s proposed weekend in Paris is disrupted by a storm, and they spend the time in a country house.
The Happiest Days of Your Life: The twins go to boarding school, while Charley starts doing the books as a part-time job for the brewery to which he wishes to sell his hops. Charley and Mariette decide to buy the brewery. The whole family repairs the twins’ boarding school, which was otherwise going to be forced to close by the bank for not keeping up with the repairs.
Cast Not Your Pearls Before Swine: Pop builds a swimming-pool, and buys two hundred pigs from George Harran, a confidence trickster who is also cheating Edith, who has fallen in love with him. Meanwhile, Primrose has a new love interest—a member of the swimming pool building crew, from Liverpool. Pop prepares a trick against George to put all to rights without hurting Edith.
Climb the Greasy Pole: Pop runs for rural councillor while Charley and Mariette struggle at the brewery and have problems in their relationship. Gypsies get involved in Pop’s campaign for rural councillor. Charley and Mariette have to work on their marriage as Mariette is attracted to Tom Sargent, after which they at last finalise the deal to buy Bristow’s brewery.