The sole problem with DVD reviewing is that sometimes we can’t write the review we wish to write. It’s not a matter of editorial oversight, but of time. We have to watch either the feature film or documentary and any accompanying extras to the point that we feel we have enough for a review and the same with a TV series on DVD: Enough episodes to gain a one-way-or-the-other-or-in-the-middle impression. I tried watching an entire season for a review I wrote of King of the Hill: The Complete First Season for another website when I was in my early 20s. Extras too, including audio commentaries. Took me two weeks.

Oh how I wanted to do the same for Pie in the Sky: Complete Collection, despite a 32 and ½ hour running time! Surely I can go back to the remaining episodes after I’ve submitted what you’re now reading, but what about conveying fully the sheer pleasure of watching, briefly, an omelette being made in “The Truth Will Out,” the second episode of the series, with the camera so close to the pan and the egg yolk spread out, bubbling? What about the golden crust of that steak-and-kidney pie that makes me want to reach through the TV for it? If I had hours and hours to watch the entire five-series run for this review, I would have described the running twin plots in a cursory manner before describing in detail every dish that’s shown being made, or at least the beginnings of them. Not to mention the dishes themselves, which are all tempting.

The reason for all this food is Henry Crabbe (the ever-wonderful Richard Griffiths), who wants to retire from the police force as a Detective Inspector and focus full-time on his dream of running a restaurant called Pie in the Sky, obviously referencing the steak-and-kidney pie that so many rave about. However, after being shot in the leg by a high-profile thief (Michael Kitchen, one of the most subtle British actors in the history of acting over there who can look earnest, concerned, and be slightly unpleasant all at one go), and being set up by him to look like he was taking a bribe, his boss, Assistant Chief Constable Fisher (Malcolm Sinclair) will not let him go. There’s some concern about Henry’s conduct in the botching of that case. If Henry quits, Fisher will go to the top with what he knows about Henry in this case, which is nothing. Henry is innocent. But Fisher doesn’t care. Henry can open his restaurant, but when Fisher needs him for a case, he must be ready no matter what’s going on in his kitchen.

The real suspense of this series would seem to be when Henry will finally be able to quit the force, if there are any circumstances that pave the way. But that’s a minor factor compared to that of Henry’s wife, Margaret (Maggie Steed), an accountant who does not share Henry’s enthusiasm for food and would like the restaurant to be run in as efficient a manner as possible without such concern as to how the food is. She’s not the cold type; she just believes more in food as fuel to keep a body going. Nothing more. Henry vows to find that one recipe that will convert her, and there is always that hope that he will. The mysteries featured in each episode are themselves not so great compared to that hope, though they are equally well-written.

The smart thing creator Andrew Payne does throughout the run of the series is not to change the core characters in any way. They do change as life changes for them, but their beliefs remain solid as the cast members around them change. For example, there is the pleasant visage of Samantha Womack as Nicola from the second series up to the fifth series, the final batch of episodes. From there, Marsha Thomason plays Sally, the new waitress. I first saw Thomason, one of Britain’s finest exports to America, in the early episodes of the TV series Las Vegas, and have always been curious about her other work since. Here she is, just as much a beauty as today, and a reminder that I should try White Collar again just for her.

No matter how many cast changes there are, the same high quality writing and locations are always evident. Pie in the Sky always feels pleasant, made so by its consistently elegant cinematography and crimes that are never too violent, lest they get in the way of the big heart of the show, that of Henry’s devotion to his wife and to Pie in the Sky. What other man would you find on television who has Mozart playing on a radio in the hen house for a regular supply of eggs?

No detail is ever too insignificant. Every single actor is well-cast, especially in the mysteries. It’s as if their characters have been living their lives long before the camera came to them. And the actors that are cast as potential suspects are occasionally unpleasant-looking, and make such a sizable impact that you wonder if you can see them on another program perhaps available on DVD. There are a fair number of interesting-looking actors here in the States, but Britain still maintains its monopoly. It’s hard to think of an actress here who is just like the late Helena McCarthy, who plays Hilary Smallwood, an author hero of Henry’s. She’s quick with a quip, but not to distinguish herself. It’s just who she is and she will not let perceived fools clutter her life.

The only major extra in this collection is an interview with Margaret Steed on the last disc of the first series, in which she reveals that 10 episodes took 6 months to film, with 2 and ½ weeks for each episode. The story about her and her accountant is amusing, since she admits that even though she played an accountant, she cannot do what they do. It’s an informative, warm interview that contributes to the good nature of Pie in the Sky. The other extras are a biography of Richard Griffiths and filmographies of the cast on the series 2 DVD set, and later sets have on-screen synopses of the episodes.

If you’ve only known Richard Griffiths as Uncle Vernon in the Harry Potter movies, expand your exposure. There’s such delight to be found in watching Henry and the workings of his dream restaurant, and such delight in this series entirely. Try it, and you might find yourself happily indulging in all 32 and ½ hours.