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    On the Buses - Series 1

    Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 171 mins . PG . PAL


    If there’s one thing the Brits do better than most, it is comedy. Literally hundreds of half hour comedy shows have been churned out over the decades and while some are utter garbage, there are equally as many good ones and a number of gems. On the Buses may not be a ‘gem’, but it is still well worth a look, even after more than 30 years.

    Like so many successful comedies, the story revolves around a handful of characters, with one being slightly more central than the others. In this case the central character is Stan Butler (Reg Varney), a bus driver with the Luxton and District Bus Company. The action is filmed mostly in the studio, the two main sets being the bus depot and Stan’s home.

    At the station you’ll meet Stan’s conductor mate, Jack (Bob Grant), Inspector Blake (Stephen Lewis), and a handful of other ‘clippies’ (female clippers), conductors and fellow drivers. At home, you’ll meet Stan’s Mum, (Cecile Courtneidge), his sister, Olive (Anna Karen), her husband, the ever-bludging Arthur (Michael Robbins), and the most docile TV cat ever, Rusty the Russian Blue.

    Each episode is self-contained, and a combination of very mild sexual innuendo, insinuation, subtle one-liners, some sight gags, and a central problem of some kind, be it poor canteen food, Stan on a date, Stan’s promotion to Inspector, Olive and Mum staffing the canteen, Stan’s medical, or the big darts match.

    The humour is quite adult, with the writers occasionally throwing in a bawdy line or two - but not as cheap as, say, Are You Being Served? - and while there is some slapstick and a few sight gags, it’s not quite Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em. There are no out-and-out belly laughs, but enough amusing moments to make it worthwhile. The characters are easy to warm to as they battle to get through every day the best they can, much like the rest of us.

    There are a number of well known faces that seem to pop up in numerous other sitcoms, and it’s good fun playing, “Oh yeah, what was he/she also in?” There are also plenty of fluffed lines that must have been deemed unworthy of a re-shoot, infrequent problems with focus, cameras being a little behind the action, and the odd wobble as cameras physically glide in to create zoom shots and bump into sets and props.

    In all, it’s good fun, with identifiable characters that are quite amusing without being smutty or gross. There are numerous sexist comments, of the “Get my tea, woman!” variety, plenty of ‘fags’ being smoked, plenty of chips for tea, and some jokes that have dated a little. However, there is more good than bad here, and if you are familiar with On the Buses you should enjoy the nostalgia trip.


    Hey it’s old, and it was taped/filmed for television, okay? It’s going to have problems and you should expect that. It is however, provided to you on two DVDs so there are no real compression issues. Naturally it is a full frame picture and therefore not 16:9 enhanced. Colours are not an issue for the first two series' are in black and white. There is good contrast and only some mild flaring and ‘negative’ flashes such as when Stan lights matches. There is generally a good contrast between black and white, and blacks look fine. The studio footage on videotape looks much better than the footage filmed outdoors. All episodes, however, are marked with various artefacts such as dirt, dust, vertical lines, the occasional ‘blob’, numerous analogue tape glitches and missing frames that cause the image to jump, especially episode six.

    There is also shimmer on some objects, mostly clothing such as coats, and the outdoor-filmed scenes have noticeable grain, and really poor shadow detail. The studio scenes, filmed in front of a live audience, look a lot better.

    There is no layer change on either disc.


    The only audio option is a Dolby Digital 1.0 that sounds surprisingly good. There are no problems with volume, clarity or audio synch, but occasionally the strong accents will probably catch out some viewers. There is no work for anything other than the central speaker, and naturally there is no panning, separation of sound, and no real depth to any sound, though it is not really missed.

    There is some mild distortion when raised voices become shouts, and some flat spots where audio clarity drops ever so briefly. There are also some lines that seem very soft and suddenly kick in, and this can be attributed to the boom mic operator and not any fault with the transfer.


    Although the seven episodes are spread over two discs, there are no extras of any kind.


    On the Buses ran from 1969 to 1974 and there are a total of 74 episodes. The first seven that comprise Series 1 are now available to buy, and while they are quite a good laugh and are fondly remembered by many, it is unlikely to win many new fans. Good, but not brilliant.

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      And I quote...
    "A little dated, sure, but this ‘70s comedy should still provide a few laughs…"
    - Terry Kemp
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