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The Cult of .... 'Emmerdale Farm'

Title: Emmerdale Farm Volume Two
Emmerdale Farm - DVD cover
Original transmission dates : Twice weekly from 22nd January 1973 to 17th April 1973
Run time: 650 mins (26 episodes of 25 minutes)
Produced: Yorkshire TV for syndication via ITV regions throughout the UK.
Picture: Colour Sound: Mono
DVD Release Date: 10th August 2009
Format: DVD (4 disc set)
Classification: 12
Barcode ref: 5027626320348
Availability: DVD released by network label








Emmerdale Farm - Volume 2 DVD review

It is an oft-repeated allegation that early Emmerdale Farm was little more than a re-reading of the current cattle feed prices. This obviously flippant remark does this ongoing drama series (notice I do not call it a soap opera - it's superior in every way to a soap) a complete disservice. I will concede that one of the storylines that runs the entire 26 length episode of the series concerns whether Matt and his wife Peggy will buy a new wardrobe or just a good quality second hand one, but even that storyline adds a nice element of "real-time" realism to the series. All joking aside, watching these vintage 1973 episodes is a complete joy from start to finish and, the quality of the drama on show here will no doubt surprise many unfamiliar with the show's early years.

What sets Emmerdale Farm apart from it's contemporaries such as Crossroads, and to a much lesser extent Coronation Street, is the series' deft ability in allowing the storylines to develop organically in as realistic manner as possible within the context of a drama serial. One of the series' major storylines concerns a teenage girl who goes missing at the start of the series. Throughout the run we are unaware whether she has run away from home or whether something more sinister has happened to her. We do not find this out until the very final episode, but whereas most modern drama serials would hold your suspense over the run by leading you to expect the worse but with the possibility of a welcome outcome, here the storyline leads you to expect the best with only a possibility of the worst possible outcome. TV drama has obviously moved on so much from those days, but it would be a refreshing change for a drama would have similar courage not to exploit a storyline to the nth degree.

There are two other areas where Emmerdale Farm, at this stage anyway, could rightly claim to overshadow its traditional competition of Coronation Street and Crossroads. The first is production values, only a couple of wobbly sets on show here, and some fine camera work and location shooting. Also, the cast is, virtually to a man, flawless, obviously the same can't be said for Crossroads, but the strength of the ensemble cast here trumps even the reliable Corrie cast. For all the world it looks like the production is allowed the time to craft, rather than churn-out, the episodes, and this truly pays dividends.

There is very little of the Emmerdale (don't mention the farm)of today to recognise in these yesteryear episodes. Jack Sugden is the only recent character in the show and even then he is a considerably different character to the one we now know, at this stage he is a lauded writer of racy novels, and also an angry young man with a relaxed moral outlook. The village is completely different from the one we know today (not surprising as the set has relocated twice since these episodes were made). The Woolpack Inn still features heavily in these early episodes, and it is a complete joy to see the pub set - a dank, shabby interior of a traditional village pub, that is made to look as if it hasn't changed majorly since the 1930's.

So ignore the cattle feed jibes, the perceived wisdom that the Emmerdale post-aircrash disaster is superior to the "up to to your n*ts in mud" Emmerdale Farm, and check out a unique piece of our televisual heritage, where the drama is allowed to take a long breath of the fresh country air.

The first series of Emmerdale Farm is also available from Network DVD, so here's to the next 26 - please, pretty please.

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