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Let Them Eat Cake - The Complete Series

Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 170 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
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Let Them Eat Cake is a little gem of a show that passed almost unnoticed when it aired on Australian television last year. This is surprising, as it stars Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French, creators of Absolutely Fabulous, which proved to be immensely successful. While the two shows are very different, the French and Saunders name alone should have ensured a greater audience. I guess the lack of popularity can be put down to the fact that there is only one season of six half hour episodes in total, and Channel 8 minus 1 certainly didn't go out of their way to promote it.

Set in the Palace of Versailles in 1782, Let Them Eat Cake follows the bawdy activities in the palace of King Louis XVI. The main characters are Colombine, Comtesse de Vache (Saunders), her maid, Lisette (French), her servant Bouffant (Adrian Scarborough), her rival, Madame de Plonge (Alison Steadman), her daughter, Eveline de Plonge (Lucy Punch), and Marie Antoinette herself. I wonder if the real Marie Antionette was as dumb as this? The six episodes cover such topics as murder, phantom pregnancies, posing for portraits, prostitution, promiscuity, voyeurism and sexually transmitted diseases. The comical sides of these subjects are exploited to the hilt, and no subject is sacred. Political incorrectness, French aristocrats with British accents, and melodramatic overacting are all on offer, for those not easily offended.

It's an interesting, and amusing, show. It was created and written by Peter Learmonth, with no credited input from French or Saunders. The humour is still very much in their style however, and French and Saunders make the characters their own. There is a nice balance of visual and verbal humour, with plenty of gags about big breasts, big wigs, and big bottoms. School boy humour? A little. Toilet humour? Certainly. Jokes about bums and farts... absolutely. If you liked Are You Being Served? and 'Allo 'Allo, then you'll like Let Them Eat Cake. If you thought they were crap, well you won't find much here that'll make you laugh either.

Episode 1: The Pox. Madame de Plonge bets Colombine that she can't seduce the young, handsome Marquis de Bonvie. Lisette suspects that it's all part of a "setup" to ruin her mistress and offers to take her place. Columbine learns that her elderly husband, Honoré, has caught the pox, and turns it around to her advantage.

Episode 2: Murder. Columbine loses her fortune in a wager with the Marquise de Foufou. When the Marquise de Foufou is brutally murdered, Columbine is the prime suspect. But was it murder, or suicide? Justice will prevail, but not until Columbine has her day in court.

Episode 3: The Portrait. The finest portrait painter in France, Madame Vigeé - Lebrun, agrees to paint Columbine's portrait, but the wig must go. Columbine becomes a victim of the Marquis de Sade. Lisette returns to the streets and Bouffant is seduced, by a woman?

Episode 4: Making Voopee. Columbine swears that she has been celibate for eight years. How, then, has she managed to get pregnant? Is King Louis XVI the father? What will Marie Antionette think?

Episode 5: A Marriage of Convenience. Columbine's annual bath night is approaching and Lisette isn't looking forward to her mistress' ablutions. Columbine's sister, Cecilie, is destitute and needs help from Columbine. The only help she gets is a suggestion that she should marry the Duke D'Onan, a repulsive man who prefers men to women.

Episode 6: The Royal Command Performance Marie Antoinette intends to prove her love for her husband by having sex with him in public - twice. Columbine intends to use the event as the venue for a final showdown with Madame de Plonge, but she has been invited to the matinee session.

  Video
Contract

LetThem Eat Cake is presented in a full frame aspect ratio and therefore is not 16x9 enhanced. For a television show, this is a very good transfer. The image is clear and detailed, with excellent shadow detail. There are no artefacts on show and only some very minor aliasing. There is nothing that will detract from enjoyment.

Colours are very natural, always good to see with shows such as this with an emphasis on costumes and sets. There is no colour bleeding or cross-colouration. Skin tones are good, contrast is fine, and there is no evidence of noise.

The layer change was not detected and therefore it must be placed between episodes.

  Audio
Contract

The only audio option is Dolby Digital 2.0 and it does a creditable job. There are no problems with audio synch and the dialogue is always clear. The British accents (and the bad French ones) are very easy to understand, as is a very Austrian Marie Antoinette. There is little in the way of sound effects or incidental music, and no action from the surround speakers or subwoofer. There is the usual canned laughter, but as viewers we should be well able to ignore this after, how many years?

The only noticeable problem is an audible click at 2:30 during Episode 1. There is no obvious explanation for it, but thankfully, it only occurs once.

  Extras
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The only extra is a Still Gallery which consists of 20 photos nicely presented in an on-screen frame. They are all backstage type shots and are not particularly interesting.

  Overall  
Contract

I am yet to find another reviewer, or critic, with very much to say about Let Them Eat Cake that is either flattering or positive. I concede that it is a show that lacks sophistication, and could have easily been made in the 1960s or 1970s when British humour was generally a lot less clever. It aims to get every cheap smutty laugh it can, and it succeeds. The plot lines are never going to rival the brilliant Fawlty Towers, neither does it have extremely funny scripts, or brilliant timing and delivery as in Blackadder. It is the type of humour that will appeal to those that like it bawdy, much in the tradition of the Carry On films. It is unsophisticated comedy without a doubt, and there are more stereotypes than you can point a croissant at. From gay men to French tarts, there are no characters that step outside the expected, but it gave me many a good laugh and that's all I ask.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1535
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      And I quote...
    "Bon jour, Monsieur. French and Saunders take on pre-revolutionary France, and it's all big boobs, big wigs, and big laughs - as long as you like it on the bawdy side..."
    - Terry Kemp
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Akai
    • TV:
          TEAC CT-F803 80cm Super Flat Screen
    • Receiver:
          Pioneer VSX-D409
    • Speakers:
          Wellings
    • Centre Speaker:
          Wellings
    • Surrounds:
          Wellings
    • Subwoofer:
          Sherwood SP 210W
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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