“Taking the Flak”: DVD Review

Disclaimer: I’m not moonlighting as cheapjack movie critic here, I just really think your money will be spent on a good product. We all have bills to pay and a life to manage; £11.48 (through Amazon) is a lot of money for many of us, so I feel decent information before you buy is nothing but fair. If I thought otherwise, I wouldn’t recommend the DVD, no matter who’s on the show.

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Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Martin Jarvis, Joanna Brookes, Doon Mackichan and Damian O'Hare in "Taking the Flak".

Don’t judge this DVD by its cover! If you like your DVD to come with printed information of any kind, then you’ll be disappointed. I’d at least expected a list of the episodes and their titles. All you get is a blurb which once again mentions “irritably-bowelled” Margaret, an “aspect” of the character that only turned up in the pilot, was annoying to the ninth and luckily got dropped for all future episodes. Jane is described as hard-nosed, which is rubbish and gives a wrong impression of the character. The way this DVD looks, it will be difficult for anybody to tell the difference between the real thing and a pirated copy…

But it’s the content that counts, and here, the “Taking the Flak” DVD is definitely not on the cheap side.

EPISODES

On two DVDs, you will find all seven episodes of the series, including the one-hour pilot. Due to the unrests that broke out in Kenya after production of the first episode, the work on the series was interrupted for many months and production was moved to Tanzania. It shows; not only does the 30 minute format suit the series better than the 60 minutes it was waltzed out to for the pilot, the first episode also suffers from some  awkward scenes and jokes which are simply not funny. The series improved from episode to episode, and those who gave it a chance after the pilot were not disappointed.

  • S01E01: Bigfooting
    A small African war suddenly becomes global news and a team of BBC journalists arrives in the country of Karibu, ready to cover the conflict for ‘the Ten’ back home. But football-mad boy soldiers, corrupt car dealers, intestinal discomfort, landmines, old flames and colossal egos all get in the way. There is definitely a story to tell, but who will get to tell it?
  • S01E02: Black Gold, Code Red
    Sitcom with Martin Jarvis and Doon Mackichan. In London, new desk jockey Alex sparks a panic among the BBC team in war-torn Karibu by declaring a Code Red. Are the Americans on their way? Chief Foreign Editor David thinks so, and is terrified that they may park their tanks on his lawn. Stringer Harry tries to find a story he can sell to London, but like the team’s new hotel, he is suffering an energy crisis.
  • S01E03: Cursed Is The Country
    There’s more conflict in the African country of Karibu as junior journalist Harry meets his girlfriend’s father for the first time. Senior correspondent David and new cameraman Rory clash over the uses of root ginger, and producer Jane loses her patience after David’s passport comes to a sticky end at the hands of the local militia – who soon want much more than a bribe.

     

    There’s good news as charity worker Samantha organises a summer fete in aid of boy soldiers, but will Fiona Bruce be forced to witness the BBC’s Chief Foreign Editor terminated live on air?

  • S01E04: The Past Is A Different Colony
    The civil war in Karibu seems far away as the team look for a human interest story in an old colonial house. They find themselves in a much older, scarier Africa – where ancient traditions live on, ancestors pop round for tea, and death and dancing are the only constants. David and Jane find it difficult to separate fantasy and reality, and Harry and Margaret are trapped in a world they do not understand.
  • S01E05: Unfriendly Fire
    A trip to a school out in the bush takes a turn for the lethal when the team finds itself caught in the crossfire between government and rebel forces, and a driving lesson ends in a near-death experience as Harry and Grace go off road. If the team survives, everything will seem different in the morning.
  • S01E06: Big Beasts
    BBC Brussels correspondent and media darling Jeremy Morrison is parachuted into Karibu to report on the ceasefire, much to David’s disgust. As the world changes around him, he fears for his future, while producer Jane must try and keep both her ‘big beasts’ happy with just one cameraman between them. Elsewhere, Margaret is recording the sound of a zebra’s breath, and Harry is teaching local reporter William how to be a famous TV journalist – until a humanitarian crisis brings them all together.
  • S01E07: Enter the Lion
    It’s a new democratic dawn for a war-torn country as the exiled ‘Lion Queen of Karibu’ returns to a heroine’s welcome, a rally and an election. The war is over, and the world news spotlight is about to move on, but what does that mean for Harry, Grace, and Samantha? What does the future hold for them and for the country? There’s good news and bad as hopeless Harry finally hits his stride but loses his phone, his friends, and maybe his future. Meanwhile, David’s lack of action in the sack starts to affect his work and his colleagues.

SPECIAL FEATURES

Deleted Scenes

  • S01Eo1: Mental Games
    Margaret tells Harry about the “mental games” she sometimes plays with herself.
  • S01E01: Numa Numa
    David does Numa Numa, extended version.
  • S01E02: Hairy String
    Margaret, sisal and white privilege.
  • S01E02: The Oil of its Day
    Margaret tries to sell her sisal story to Alexander.
  • S01E03: Carbon Neutral
    Margaret on the history of sisal, background music by Joyful.
  • S01E03: The Blockbuster
    There’s nobody who can stop David Bradburn (or so he thinks!)
  • S01E03: Frontline Junkie
    David explains his book-selling strategies to Rory.
  • S01E03: A Dollar a Piece
    Samantha being her usual selfless self.
  • S01E04: London Calling
    Alexander exhausts Jane’s patience with his stunning lack of knowledge in geography.
  • S01E05: Drawing Pins
    Jane and the dangers of outdoor toilets.
  • S01E06: Jethro Tull
    Harry once interviewed a very important man…
  • S01E06: Gold
    Jeremy Morrison’s rising confusion and David’s “golden” news.
  • S01E07: Sons without Guns
    Samantha teaches Grace and the EU commissary a thing or two about the capitalistic aspects of gun decommission.
  • S01E07: Boyfriend
    Grace’s boyfriend woes.
  • S01E07: Tats
    Rory explains the origins of his various tattoos to Jane when…

All deleted scenes are great fun, but with exception of “London Calling”, they wouldn’t have added much. “London Calling”, however, is a hilarious Jane-Alexander scene which should have made the cut. “Tats” is great as well, but as it might give away a future storyline in a possibly happening second season, I can see why it wasn’t included. No, I’m not telling. But I’m pretty certain that the regulars of this website will enjoy that scene!

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Damian O'Hare as Rory Wallace and Doon Mackichan as Jane Thomason in a deleted scene of "Taking the Flak".

Outtakes

1:47 minutes of things that went wrong.

Dancing Sequence

What a hoot! Booty-shaking-time at the local disco. Margaret and Jack are doing the boogie, Dave finally finds the perfect partner, Jack  stuns with his breakdance skills and Jane likes to move-it-move-it. Brilliant!

Alternative Title Sequence

The rejected title sequence. The cast is introduced on individual murals. Interesting idea, a pity it was dropped.

Comedy Extra Featurettes

Harry Chambers (Bruce Mackinnon) presents 32:49 minutes of “red button” specials, which were originally aired right after the individual episodes. Very funny, and some of these extras also offer a glimpse of the enormous efforts behind both the fake news in Taking the Flak and the real one on the BBC. Real cameramen are natural born actors!

  • Who is David Bradburn?
    “Colleagues” talk about the BBC news legend
  • Candida Colter
    Run and hide, the Americans are coming!
  • And then, there’s Samantha
    The charity babe for Daughters without Ponies Sons without Guns
  • Strictly Come Tribal Dancing
    “Witch Doctor” dance auditions
  • Animal Actors
    Tortoises and cobras and goats, oh my!
  • Cameramen and War
    Includes interviews with professional cameramen and Damian O’Hare
  • World Service
    The perils of Margaret Hollis
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Damian O'Hare is talking about his role as cameraman Rory Wallace on "Taking the Flak".

To sum it up: this DVD is worth its price. It offers the chance to catch some of the great punchlines that might have slipped your attention the first time round and gives a humorous insight into the work “behind the flak”, which is presented in tune with the tone of the series.

My personal tip: if you haven’t seen “Taking the Flak” yet, watch episodes 2 – 7 first and then the pilot. It’s easier to get into the series.

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE “TAKING THE FLAK”

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