Martin Clunes, one half of the hit British sitcom, Men Behaving Badly, and currently seen in the popular Doc Martin, stars in this wickedly black comedy, winner of an International Emmy for best drama in 2001. In Dirty Tricks, Clunes is cast as Edward, an underachieving English tutor who is charming and ruthless in his quest to climb to the top of the social ladder. When we meet Edward, he’s attending a dinner party, the guest of Dennis (Neil Dudgeon), a bumbling, wine guzzling accountant. Dennis and Edward met through the school where the latter teaches and Dennis is impressed with Edward’s vast knowledge of fine wine. But it’s a sham, you see, as Edward doesn’t know diddly about wine. He steals glances of the wine labels while Dennis’ head is turned and regurgitated the information found on the bottle. Dennis is usually too drunk to realize he’s being fooled.
Edward is out of his social class, as exemplified by his rumpled attire and mode of transportation, a broken down ten speed. However, he feels that his superior brain lifts him above the rich elite. Yeah, he’s one of those jackasses who thinks they know it all and look down their nose at anyone who’s earned their lot in life. Almost immediately, Dennis’ bored wife, Karen (Julie Graham) is intrigued by the unusual and confident Edward. She flirts with him under the table and lifts her skirt for Edward behind her husband’s back. They begin an affair, but one with certain criteria: Karen only gets off when there’s a chance they may get caught by Dennis. It’s twisted, perverted and very funny. Alas, Dennis is too dim to even realize that his wife is cheating on him.
A gondola accident causes Dennis to drown and suddenly, Edward and Karen are free to be open about their love affair. They get married. Guess what, Karen proves to be somewhat of a bore to Edward and he can’t quite get it up now that there isn’t any risk involved. So what does he do? He begins searching for the next available, attractive woman to fulfill his needs. That woman turns out to be Alison (Lindsay Duncan), a wealthy widow. Just as they are falling in love, Karen meets her own untimely demise and Edward is the number one suspect in her death. Suddenly the man who knows it all is not only trying to lie his way into Alison’s arms, but stay one step ahead of the diligent police detective (James Bolam) who wants to put Edward in jail.
Clunes is a delight as he narrates the proceedings, both in voice over and directly to camera, keeping the viewer on his side for the duration of the entire two part series. In truth, Edward is a despicable lout. However, Clunes makes him laughable, somewhat adorable, and a winning character. The supporting cast is superb, especially Graham ad Duncan, who both offer strong, sexy characters with distinctly different personalities. Dudgeon is a hoot to watch as the drunkard, befuddled Dennis. He plays the perfect sounding board to Edward’s dry, sarcastic remarks.
Dirty Tricks was directed by Paul Seed and written by Nigel Williams, adapting the book by author Michael Dibdin. The series moves along at a quick clip, allowing just enough time for the thrilling moments to sink in and the humor to be fully laughed at. Fans of Martin Clunes will not be disappointed with this DVD, as he commands nearly every scene in the series. Acorn Media, the company that delivers some of the highest quality of British Entertainment on DVD, have still put together a nice package for Dirty Tricks, with excellent picture quality and sound, despite DVD features being at a bare minimum. Still, fans of British television and humor will not be disappointed with this one.