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post #1 of 6 Old 08-05-2014, 11:40 AM - Thread Starter
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Masterpiece: Breathless (Blu-ray) Official AVSForum Review

A stylish and compelling new medical drama set in London in the early 1960s Breathless follows the lives of a group of doctors and nurses working in a London hospital, a world in which everything and everyone has their place. But underneath this veneer simmers a cauldron of lies and guilty secrets, driven by love, ambition and sex. Breathless opens in 1961, a time when Britain was on the brink of the 60s revolution abortion is illegal and the contraceptive pill is only just available to married women. Set in and around a busy gynecology unit, medicine becomes the perfect stage to play out the shifting and complex moral codes of early 1960s society.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )



Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )



Studio and Year: PBS - 2013
MPAA Rating: NR
Feature running time: 360 minutes
Genre: TV Drama/Mystery

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH
Starring: Jack Davenport, Zoe Boyle, Catherine Steadman, Iain Glen, Natasha Little, Oliver Chris, Joanna Page, Shaun Dingwall
Directed by: Paul Unwin, Mark Losey, Philippa Langdale
Music by: Anne Dudley
Written by: Paul Unwin, Peter Grimsdale, Simon Tyrell
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: August 26, 2014

"The plot thickens…"

My Take:

Set in London in 1961, Breathless follows the exploits of doctors, nurses, and spouses connected with a busy obstetrics ward at a National Health Service hospital. It’s a time when gynecologists are all men and nurses aspire to a trip down the aisle with a good-looking doctor. Abortion is illegal, the Beatles are still nobodies, and society is on the cusp of profound change.

No one seems to have more going for him than Otto Powell (Davenport), a well-off gynecologist who can perform miracles in the operating room and has a trophy wife (Little) and a bright, well-mannered son (Rudi Goodman). Otto also has a wandering eye, which alights most recently on new nurse Angela Wilson (Steadman), who plays uncommonly hard-to-get.

Unknown to all, Angela is already married – although abandoned years earlier – and is the sister of another of Otto’s nurse conquests, Jean (Boyle). Jean is now engaged to Otto’s posh colleague Richard Truscott (Chris), due to failure to take contraceptive precautions. Angela and Jean hide their relationship in order to aid Jean’s climb up the social ladder.

Both sisters are mixed up in Otto’s occasional “specials” – secret abortions that he performs with anesthesiologist Charlie Enderbury (Dingwall) out of concern for the health of women in dire straits. All risk imprisonment for their deeds – a prospect that is increasingly worrying to Charlie. Meanwhile Charlie’s wife, Lily (Page), cheerily tries to cope with his strange moods, not helped by the arrival of an officious new anesthesiologist, Omprakash Mehta (Ronny Jhutti), who is suspicious of Charlie’s moonlighting.

The plot thickens considerably with the appearance of Chief Inspector Ronald Mulligan (Glen), an obsessed detective who thinks out-of-the-box. The dots he is connecting link some of the characters to events in another country and a different decade. It’s an inquiry that leaves protagonists, not to mention viewers…breathless.

Breathless is a Co-Production of ITV Studios and Masterpiece that airs on PBS’ “Masterpiece Mystery” Series. It’s a period TV Drama that features six 47 minute episodes that revolve around a continuing storyline that involves doctors and nurses from an early 1960’s obstetrics ward at a large London based hospital. I watched the entire series with my wife. Neither of us was familiar with the program prior to seeing it but were primarily drawn to it due to the presence of Jack Davenport as well as the reputation that Masterpiece has for entertainment programming.

We weren’t disappointed as the character and actor base is solid in support of the layer peeling plotline that emerges from the primary story about two doctors that assist young women by performing illegal abortions on them. There are several subplots that branch off of this and speak to thematic elements of the day in terms of morality and how women were perceived merely as housewives or striving solely to meet a man, get married and become one. Having said that there is some low level intrigue built around a minimally mysterious subplot however its integration is poor and never truly draws you in.

Additionally there is well played relationship melodrama and vexing interplay that has you rooting for some characters and thoroughly disliking others. Its narrative revolves around the subject of sexuality but never descends to language, situations or unnecessary explicitness. The balance works well as we became involved in the show and ultimately enjoyed it. It’s not as engaging as Mad Men although it has a bit of its essence. At the end of the day I would say that Breathless primarily achieves what it set out to do and makes for a fairly entertaining hour of adult television programming.

Parental Guide:

The show contains adult themes, brief language and lots of smoking.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

Audio: 80
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics:
  • Low frequency effects:
  • Surround Sound presentation:
  • Clarity/Detail:
  • Dialogue Reproduction:
  • Low frequency extension * (non-rated element): NA

Video: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity:
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
  • Color Reproduction:
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression:

Breathless comes to Blu-ray Disc from PBS Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 25 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD Stereo sound that has an average bitrate of 1.7 Mbps.

This is a reference quality high definition transfer that looks spectacular. Images are crisp with subtle refinement, resolute sharpness and exquisite dimensional perspective. Contrast is well balanced and dynamic which energizes colors and empowers whites/grays. Blacks are rich, noise free and gradational. Detail in uneven light and darkened environments reveals discerning shapes and structure in backgrounds/objects. Colors are appreciably delineated with natural rendering and punchy primaries that stand out among those within the varied range used. Fleshtones are natural with subtle description and where appropriate warm complexional highlights. I found this to be an impressive and pristine quality high definition video presentation from PBS.

The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio stereo sound is quite good. Dynamics are robust and defining without being strident or edgy. Dialogue is rendered with appreciable tonal expression and excellent room penetration through the center channel speaker. The front soundstage is diffused with notable separation and articulated detail. The series is dialogue driven and as such doesn’t necessarily require use of the surround platform although a broader mix would have been acceptable. Regardless I never felt this presentation was lacking in any way and sounded excellent.

Bonus Features:
  • There are no bonus features

Final Thoughts:

Set in early 1960’s London during a time when abortion was illegal, everyone smoked cigarettes and doctors felt comfortable chasing nurses Breathless is a fairly entertaining TV drama that features well drawn characters set to an above average script that is kept afloat by a solid cast. It comes to Blu-ray from PBS Home Entertainment featuring top notch high definition and crystal clear lossless sound. It airs on PBS on Sundays beginning on August 24th (check your local listings). I enjoyed Breathless and recommend it to genre fans.

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

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Last edited by Ralph Potts; 08-05-2014 at 03:13 PM.
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post #2 of 6 Old 08-05-2014, 02:55 PM
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When i first saw the picture i thought it was George Lazenby, 007 from On her majestys secret service.I will have to check the series out when it airs.

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post #3 of 6 Old 08-05-2014, 04:05 PM
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me too!

So is this a mini series or a full blown TV show?
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post #4 of 6 Old 08-06-2014, 05:16 AM
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Gynecology. What a MacGuffin.
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post #5 of 6 Old 08-06-2014, 08:11 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mo949 View Post
me too!

So is this a mini series or a full blown TV show?

It's a TV show from what I can tell. It leaves off with definite indications of a continuance.


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post #6 of 6 Old 08-06-2014, 10:56 AM
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Thanks for the review and the info. Definitely intrigued by this one!
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