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Classic British Drama

DVD Boxset Gift Ideas

This selection of retro DVD titles will jog your memory about the brilliant TV dramas we all used to watch back in the golden age of TV.

There are many forgotten classics here, so why not treat yourself to a DVD and have a cosy night in watching your favourite series from years gone by, or a series you never got around to watching but always wanted to!

 

 

A Family At War DVD boxset
A Family At War
This gripping early 70s period drama followed the struggles of a Liverpool family during the second world war. The moving and powerful storylines dealt with subjects such as the fear of luftwaffe air raids and evacuation of the family's children.
Angels BBC Student Nurse Drama Series 1975-1983
Angels (1975-1983)
Before Casualty came on the scene there was Angels. This drama soap series ran for 220 episodes and followed the lives of student nurses, and my Mum couldn't get enough of it back in the 1970s! The programme started off as a seasonal drama before airing as a twice weekly seasonal soap from 1979 until 1983.
A Very Peculiar Practice
This highly amusing BBC comedy drama aired between 1986 and 1988. It followed young doctor Stephen Daker (Peter Davison) who joins a team of misfits at a University medical centre. A sequel called A Very Polish Practice (1992) is also included with the five DVD set.
The Beiderbecke Trilogy starring James Bolan, Barbara Flynn
The Beiderbecke Trilogy
Includes The Beiderbecke Affair (1984), The Beiderbecke Tapes (1987) and The Beiderbecke Connection (1988). Starring James Bolan and Barbara Flynn.
Bergerac The Complete Collection
Bergerac
There were nine series of the popular detective series which starred John Nettles as the uncoventional Jersey detective Sgt. Jim Bergerac, whose irregular investigation work often upset his boss.

Boys From The Blackstuff

This gritty drama dealt with the struggles and pain of living in a bleak, recession-hit Liverpool during the early 80s. This series truly captured the essence of what it was like to be working class living under the Thatcher government.

The best-remembered character was Yosser Hughes (brilliantly played by Bernard Hughes), whose poignant catchphrases "Give us a job" and "I can do that" were, somehow, both humourous and very sad at the same time.
Brideshead Revisited
Brideshead Revisited
Based on the classic novel by Evelyn Waugh, this TV adaptation followed disenchanted army captain Charles Ryder (played by Jeremy Irons) who reflects on his listless days at Brideshead Castle, home of the aritocratic Merchmain family. Haunting music scores and impressive locations can only have helped this series win 17 international awards including two Golden Globes and seven Bafta, with an Emmy for Lawrence Olivier as Lord Merchmain.
Bulman

In this follow-up to the ITV Strangers series (see further down the page) the scruffy (and now retired) gravelly-voiced cop George Bulman (Don Henderson) should have been mending clocks in his antiques shop. However, he couldn't resist teaming up with a university drop-out Lucy McGinty (Siobhan Redmond) who is addicted to criminology, to form a private detective agency. This is certainly one of those quality eighties TV series that you rarely see these days.

Callan DVD Colour Years - Edward Woodward
Callan
Any series starring Edward Woodward is almost guaranteed to be a winner, and he is on superb form as professional killer David Callan in this popular espionage TV series which aired for four series on ITV between 1967 and 1972.
Edward & Mrs Simpson The Complete Series
Edward & Mrs Simpson (The Complete Series)
A BAFTA and Emmy winning production by Thames Television which first aired in 1981 and coincided with the Royal Wedding between Charles and Diana. Edward Fox starred as Edward VIII, the man who abdicated for love. The story begins with Edward meeting American divorcee Mrs Wallis Simpson in 1930. Upon Edward succeeding to the throne in 1936, the crisis of the pair's romance was heightened and Edward was forced to step down, making his farewell broadcast to the nation in December of that year.
Howard's Way Boxset
Howards' Way
This was the British answer to Dynasty and Dallas and the 78 episodes followed a yacht-dealing family in the fictional town of Tarrant. This was a very eighties series indeed, featuring everything you would expect from the era, greed, excess, outlandish clothes and smarmy, YUPPIE-like business men. The lead character is Tom Howard, an ex-aircraft designer who decides to enter the world of yacht dealing. The cast is brilliant and there is much maritime fun to be had in this unmissable 80s series.
Juliet Bravo Fifth Series
Juliet Bravo

I certainly remember watching this series with my parents back in the day. This was set in a time when a female taking the role of a senior policewoman was still a very rare sight. Set in a Lancashire police station, Inspector Darblay (first played by Stephanie Turner) not only had to fight crime, but also prejudice by the other officers. In series 4, Darblay was replaced by Inspector Kate Longton who was played by Anna Carteret.

Sadly, no boxset is available, but it's well worth buying the first series, at least, if only to take a nostalgic look back at how very different policing used to be in the early 1980s. Oh, and the acting is top notch, too.

Lillie Complete Series DVD starring Francesca Annis, Dennis Lill and Anton Rogers
Lillie
This period drama series first aired on ITV in 1978 and starred BAFTA winner Francesca Annis as the daughter of the Dean of Jersey, Lillie Langtry. The series chronicles her life in London's high society, where she uses her beauty to attract such characters as the Prince of Wales, Oscar Wilde and Prince Louis of Bettenberg. Featuring both splendid settings and acting, this Granada TV Series is first rate.
Minder - George Cole, Dennis Waterman
Minder
Originally starring George Cole and Dennis Waterman, this award-winning ITV series was always a joy to watch and went on to become one of the biggest TV hits of the eighties. It followed the exploits of shady wholesaler/importer/exporter Arthur Daley (who was always chasing a "nice little earner") and his bodyguard (minder) Terry McCann. The theme tune I Could Be So Good For You was sung by Dennis Waterman and reached #3 in the British singles chart in November 1980. There were ten series between 1979 and 1994 and every episode is included on The Complete Collection DVD, including the feature Murder On The Orient Express.
Poldark
This fabulous series was based on the novels of Sinston Graham and was first shown on BBC1 between 1975 and 1977. The highly-successful, romantic period drama followed the adventures of British Officer Ross Poldark who escaped as a prisoner of war to Cornwall.
Shoestring - Trevor Eve - series one BBC DVD
Shoestring
Trevor Eve took the lead role as the unlikely private detective Eddie Shoestring who had his own radio show on Radio West. His unkempt clothing and rather untidy hair style proved to be good camouflage for solving crimes. I never missed an episode of this series which first aired in 1979. The scripts were always lively and the investigations were both amusing and dangerous, and often packed with many twists. Unfortunately, only series one is available on DVD, but let's hope the second series is released soon.
Strangers police series starring Don Henderson
Strangers
This engaging, now iconic police drama series ran for 32 episodes on ITV between 1978 and 1982, starting as a spin-off from The XYY Man. It followed the investigations of the un-PC Detective Sergeant George Bulman (Don Henderson) and his sidekick Detective Constable Derek Willis (Dennis Blanch). They are part of unit 23, a special squad (in the north of England) designed to tackle the cases that normal units just can't handle. OKay, this is a little dated but
The Duchess Of Duke Street
This delightful BBC period drama was set in the early 1900s and followed the progress of Louisa Leyton/Trotter from servant to queen of cooks. It originally aired for two seasons from 1976-77. This was definitely one of the best series of the 70s with wonderful costumes, characters and acting.
The Equalizer
Starring Edward Woodward
If you're in trouble then who ya gonna call? Well, forget Ghostbusters, The Equalizer was No.1 in my book! This very 80s series included an amazing variety of stars including Adam Ant, Meat Loaf, Telly Savalas, Christian Slater and even MaCauley Culken (whatever happened to him?). This was a terrific show with a script that only the eighties could produce, and, of course, Edward Woodward was the perfect choice for playing the lead vigilante role. The 24 disc boxset includes all 88 episodes.
The Forsyte Saga Original 60s series DVD boxset
The Forsyte Saga
The original Forsyte Saga TV series was originally shown in 1967 on BBC2, but a repeat airing on BBC1 in 1968 led to around 18 million viewers tuning in by the end of the series in 1968. It went on to become a worldwide success and it's not hard to see why. This late 60s series is a flawless masterpiece that towers above the many period dramas that followed, and the acting is so convincing that you become convinced that the characters are actually real people. A true golden oldie and you can enjoy the entire seven series on DVD for £15.25 (as I write) which is an absolute steal.
The Onedin Line Complete Series Boxset (1971-1980)
The Onedin Line
This is one of those programmes that, when the theme music played, the entire household rushed into the room to watch. This classic maritime yarn (set in the 19th century) featured aspiring men, explosive women and stormy seas! Despite being written almost 45 years ago now this series has stood the test of time, and comes from an era when the license fee was worth more than the asking price. A classic BBC drama that deserves to be seen again.
The Professionals DVD Series 1
The Professionals
Firstly, I want to mention that the restoration work for the Blu-ray releases is incredible and even the DVD versions are far superior to the original video tapes. I spent many an hour watching Lewis Collins and Martin Shaw as Bodie and Doyle, and it's thoroughly enjoyable seeing all those old 70s cars again - mainly Fords, Rovers and Triumphs. You can read more info about the series on our Professionals page.
Threads

Nuclear paranoia was at its height when this shocking docu-drama was aired on the BBC in 1984. Threads is a powerful, thought-provoking TV film that deals with the after-math of a nuclear attack by Russia on the UK.

This is a chilling drama that certainly packs a punch, and doesn't hold back on showing us what could so easily have been a sickening reality at the time.
The Sandbaggers TV Spy Series
The Sandbaggers
This cold war spy series was fascinating to watch and is a real treasure from the late 1970s. It depicts the real, harsh realities of espionage and comes from a time when people were more aware of the real world and didn't have their heads buried in mobile phones and computers. If you want flashy gadgets and people jumping from helicopters then watch a James Bond movie, but if you prefer something rather more realistic then this series is for you. Oh, and Roy Marsden was on fine form as the lead character, protagonist Neil D. Burnside.
The Singing Detective

This flawless drama is based in three decades, the 1980s, 30s and 40s. The story deals with the troubles of writer Philip Marlow, and both the script and production can only be described as fantastic! The old cliche "they don't make 'em like this anymore" certainly rings true - a Dennis Potter masterpiece!
The Sweeney Movies DVD
The Sweeney
Forget the newer Sweeney movie, and watch the original series if you missed it the first time around. This gritty police drama was groundbreaking in the 70s and had a grubbiness that the glossy Ameircan cop shows couldn't provide. John Thaw and Dennis Waterman starred as the no-nonsense British cops who served for Scotland Yard's flying squad. Action-packed tight plots, strong characters and cool 70s cars - what more could you want? Get the DVD boxset and enjoy!
Upstairs Downstairs original 1970s series
Upstairs Downstairs
There were five series of this award-winning costume drama by LWT which first aired between 1971 and 1975. The storyline followed the lives of both masters and servants at 165 Eaton House, a large Edwardian townhouse in upmarket Belgravia, London. The series also documented social and technological changes during the first three decades of the 20th century. The series won numerous awards including two BAFTAs and eight Emmys.
Villains starring Bob Hoskins and Martin Shaw
Villains
Bob Hoskins and Martin Shaw were the main stars in this 13 episode series by LWT which was first shown in 1972. The story dealt with nine bankrobbers who escaped from custody, following the fate of each one in turn. It's wonderful to see this long-forgotten series finally released onto DVD, and if you're into 70s crime drama the this will not disappoint.
We'll Meet Again DVD Box Set
We'll Meet Again
There's trouble in store when the cocksure American pilots and aircrew from a recently established Flying Fortress bomber base try to mix with the sedate and suspicious locals of a small English village in East Anglia. The main plot involves a love affair between local Doctor Helen Dereham (Susannah York) and U.S. commanding officer Major Jim Kiley (Michael J. Shannon). The WWII drama aired in 1982 and the acting and script is first rate and accurately depicts British life at this time. 
When The Boat Comes In starring James Bolam
When The Boat Comes In
This excellent 1976-1981 series starred James Bolam as ex-sergeant Jack Ford who returns from wartime France to find a job in his home town of Gallowshields in Tyneside. Sadly for him there's a recession on and the series followed his huge challenge to find work, as well as his love fopr Jessie Seaton. What I really like about many of these gritty 1970s series is that there is no moody "background" music which always seems to be far too loud these days. All that was needed was a decent script and quality acting, and this series accurately illustrated the harsh realities of being working class.