Posted: 02/04/2008


Rosemary and Thyme: The Complete Collection


by Jef Burnham

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The three series of this British mystery originated on the BBC and later aired on public television in the States. The show’s admittedly silly premise is two sleuthhound gardeners, Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme, snoop and spy their way to the bottom of an endless string of gardening-related murders the police either cannot solve or brush off as accidents. Rosemary and Thyme has become one of my most guilty pleasures.

Rosemary and Laura, played respectively by Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris, meet in the first episode and by the second have formed their own gardening business. Rosemary is a former professor of horticulture and self-proclaimed free spirit, and Laura is a recently seperated house-wife and mother of two, who was once a police officer. We aren’t given much else in regards to their personal lives, aside form the occasional romantic flirtation with a guest star or a bit of history during the restoration of a friend’s garden.

The formulaic nature of the show rivals that of House, M.D., and suspension of disbelief is mandatory. Each episode features a center-piece garden which they are in some way restoring, and winds up completed and the cause of celebration by the episode’s end. The show is primarily about the murders they investigate, but the gardens often play a major role in the case, but are on occasion, no more than peripherally involved. Though you may only be watching it for the mystery and the humor, you’ll find yourself inadvertently learning about horticulture as they restore the gardens. For instance, I now know that soil from a rose garden cannot be used to grow another rose garden without poisoning the new plants.

It’s amazing how often these two sassy women, both in their mid-fifties, break into houses and hotel rooms, survive attempts on their lives, confront someone with a gun, withhold vital evidence from the authorities, and generally do things to make you as an audience member cringe. But their insatiable urge to undermine the authorities and their often complete lack of tact in the face of danger make the show incredibly amusing.

In the second series, Rosemary and Laura travel to France and Italy and twice to Spain in the third. Each episode is packed with guest stars of British stage and dramatic television, since the only recurring characters are Rosemary, Laura and Laura’s kids Matthew (who appeared in only five episodes) and Helena (two episodes). My personal favorite guest star is Michael Siberry, who played the hopeless romantic, Bingo Little, on the British comedy series Jeeves and Wooster, based on the stories of P.G. Wodehouse.

The complete collection, which has been previously released in three separate volumes, featuring all 22 episodes including the 2005 Christmas Special will be released on February 5 in one comprehensive, nine disc DVD box set. Special features include an interview with Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris, production and location notes, photo galleries, cast filmographies and a trivia quiz.

Jef Burnham is a writer and film critic living in Chicago.

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