Pie in the Sky Series 4

Pie in the Sky Series 4 (DVD Cover)

Recurring character(s): Detective Inspector Henry Crabbe (Richard Griffiths), Margaret Crabbe (Maggie Steed), Assistant Chief Constable Freddy Fisher (Malcolm Smith), Detective Sergeant Sophia Cambridge (Bella Enahoro), Gary Palmer (Nicholas Lamont), Nicola (Samantha Womack), Henderson (Nick Raggett)

Director: Various

Original air date(s): 09/15/1996 to 10/13/1996
DVD Date: 01/25/2011

Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 296 minutes

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Pie in the Sky Series 4

Review: This set of 6 episodes (5 actually, since one is a two-parter) comprises the fourth season of Pie in the Sky, a series that originally aired on BBC during the Fall of 1996. Each episode runs about 50 minutes.

The cast remains unchanged from the previous season, and includes Detective Inspector Henry Crabbe, his wife Margaret, his boss ACC Freddy Fisher, and the restaurant staff Nicola, Gary, and Henderson. In previous seasons, the episodes I have enjoyed the most are those that are centered on the restaurant, and that is generally true with this set as well. When Crabbe goes off to do police work elsewhere, the charm that makes this series so enjoyable is diminished, if ever so slightly.

New viewers to the series may well wonder how Crabbe can find the time to be both a policeman, a DI no less, and the head chef at his restaurant. To be fair, the subject isn't addressed in this season, the producers probably assuming that anyone watching is already familiar with the premise. In previous seasons, Crabbe was all set to retire when ACC Fisher "blackmailed" him into staying on to handle some of his more difficult criminal investigations. Last season, the blackmail plot thread was resolved, only to have Crabbe's need for a higher pension become the reason for him staying. (See my reviews of Pie in the Sky Series 2 and Pie in the Sky Series 3 for more information about these seasons' plots.) Now, we're just to assume that Crabbe gets involved in police matters when he's needed -- though the final scenes in the last episode of this set suggest something new ahead.

This season opens with a 2-part episode titled "Devils on Horseback": A day at the races for the Crabbes turns sour when a stable boy is found dead. The murder investigation focuses on Larkhill Stables, run by the ill-tempered Tony Bishop, and Bishop’s Cider, run by his brother, Bob. A second tragedy spurs on the race to catch the killer, and Margaret finds herself in the thick of it.

This is one of the relatively rare episodes in which a murder takes place. Margaret, who is an accountant, has been brought in to audit the books when Bishop's Cider receives a takeover offer. Brother Tony wants to sell his half of the company, and put the proceeds into the stables. Brother Bob doesn't want to sell, reluctant to see the family business taken over by an impersonal conglomerate. Crabbe does his usual job in coaxing the truth out of the suspects after the first murder victim is found, but the plot here isn't as crisply developed as it could be.

"Chinese Whispers": A series of attacks on a local Chinese restaurant seems like a case of racial prejudice, but Crabbe suspects other forces are at play. Meanwhile, Pie in the Sky enters the Great British Grub Competition.

This is an odd episode, and the only one on this set that I really didn't care for. The acts of violence committed are suspicious (and may not even be crimes), thus Crabbe here is involved on a personal, not professional basis. The competition is a fun diversion to the darker primary plot, but there's a lot of moralizing going on and in the end, not a very enjoyable episode.

"New Leaf": Crabbe must guard a key witness until she can testify against her crime-boss husband in court. By taking on the assignment, however, the inspector makes an enemy of the police officer who had been running the case.

In stark contrast to the previous episode, this one shines. The plot isn't overly complicated, yet includes a number of twists that keep it interesting. Crabbe knows he's being set up, but with ACC Fisher being unusually mysterious about his reasons for assigning him to the case, he can only do his job the best -- and only -- way he knows how. Food plays a secondary, though rather important, role here and it's a pleasure to see how it's integrated into the story.

"Breaking Bread": To Crabbe’s dismay, a new catering company wins the franchise for the police canteen. But someone hates the caterer even more than he does—and is sabotaging its operations to put it out of business.

Both ACC Fisher and Margaret are on cost-cutting campaigns, and Crabbe's palate is adversely affected by both. The center of their attention is The Happy Ploughman, a company that mass manufactures prepared foods for distribution. Fisher has brought them in to replace the catering service previously used by the police department, and Margaret has been hired to be their accountant. But Crabbe is having none of it. For about two-thirds of the episode, it isn't clear how the various plot threads are related, but they are quickly sewn up by the end. A solid episode indeed.

"Gary's Cake": After armed robbers raid Pie in the Sky, the investigating detective suspects an inside job. ACC Fisher seeks to head off any potentially embarrassing press coverage, while Crabbe decides to carry out his own investigation.

This fine episode is nicely plotted, has a good "whodunit" element to it, and a touch of romance. The DS from CID is a bit of a buffoon, but intentionally so. Still, it's always a tad disappointing when the police are portrayed as incompetent. Mashed potatoes aside, not much of a food episode, tut what's most intriguing about it is how it ends, with something a mystery when ACC Fisher tells Crabbe he's in for a change. We're not privy to what that change is, and must wait for the fifth season to find out.

In any series set, it's highly unlikely that every episode will be to one's liking. I found just one episode of Pie in the Sky Series 4 to be sub-par, a pretty good score overall. Definitely recommended for fans and newcomers alike.


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