The Casual Vacancy (Blu-ray Review)

Casual VacancyThe Casual Vacancy centers on Pagford, a seemingly idyllic English village with a cobbled market square and ancient abbey. Behind the pretty facade, however, is a town at war: rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils. The story begins with the death of beloved Parish Councillor Barry Fairbrother, leaving a seat on the council vacant. Those running for a place soon find their darkest secrets revealed on the Parish Council online forum, ruining their campaign and leaving the election in turmoil.

Casual Vacancy

The Series

Once J.K. Rowling wrapped up her Harry Potter duties she ventured into adult fiction, with her novel The Casual Vacancy. A couple of years later we now have it being adapted to the small screen by HBO/Warner Bros. The story focuses on Pagford, a lovely English village, with a rich history, and lovely aesthetics to boot. The bulk of the story centers on “The Sweetlove House,” a run down Community Theater for at risk youth and a methadone clinic for recovering addicts.

Howard Mollison (Michael Gambon) and his wife Shirley (Julie McKenzie) lead the village council and want to tear down the center and erect a fancy health spa for the rich elite. Make no mistake; Pagford is a very divided town. You have the rich, the poor, young, old, etc., all at war with each other. Things go crazy when one of the major speakers of the council suddenly dies – as Mollison makes a desperate effort to have the now vacant seat replaced as soon as possible by a like-minded individual.

The Casual Vacancy looks great and I especially like Gambon’s performance – a far cry from his days as a wizard – but the fact that there is 24 main characters involved took me for a loop. It’s a very slow burn of a show but it’s nevertheless “slow.” For a minute there I forgot that it was only a mini-series spread out to just 3 episodes. I know sometimes I say that certain shows need more episodes to breath and whatnot but I don’t think that would have benefited this one, because 90% of the main characters are just so unlikable. Yes, even those that try to do a bit of good come off terribly, but the smugness of some of the rich elite really throws a monkey wrench into the whole thing. I was really counting down the clock.

I should point out that I have not read the book nor do I intend to. Yes, since I’ve watched the Blu-ray I would be able to put a face to the name now but I have a feeling that the same distaste I had for certain characters would most likely be transferred over. I should also point out that what few instances of hope are presented they’re quickly extinguished – just like that. There are many “buzz kill” moments that don’t do the show any favors. I was severely disappointed by The Vacancy– here’s hoping they do a better job adapting Rowling’s other novels into better films/mini-series.


Casual Vacancy


Encoding: AVC/MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: I may have not been a fan of the series but I can certainly say that the video transfer is absolutely epic. A very nice layer of grain is present at all times giving the look of the show a nice film like appearance. Contrast and sharpness levels are steady and I did not see any signs of postproduction meddling.

Depth: It’s as if you were there, which is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you keep to yourself while perusing the quaint little village.

Black Levels: Black levels are deep and inky and free of crush.

Color Reproduction: Taste the rainbow, indeed. The Casual Vacancy’s color palette looks exquisite. A rainbow must have sat on Pagford’s head.

Flesh Tones: Everyone looks healthy as can be, with exception to one of our character whose face is orange and does not match up with the rest of her body due to her being a horrible make-up artist.

Noise/Artifacts: What noise?


Casual Vacancy


Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: The impressive sound design compliments the reference quality video presentation. The series is a more dialogue driven affair but the lossless soundtrack gives it an extra bit of “oomph,” if you will. The sound presentation for The Casual Vacancy will give any mini-series a run for their money on Blu-ray, with its robust soundtrack.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE kicked in only when it was required, which wasn’t very often.

Surround Sound Presentation: The rear channels provided some great ambience that didn’t blend in with the front sound stage.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue was clear and crisp.


Casual Vacancy


There are three featurettes focusing on the making of the series, the adaptation of the book into film, etc. Everyone seemed to have had a great time even though it was really hard to adapt due to there being 24 main characters. The featurettes combined run under 30-minutes and are presented in high definition. There should have been more bonus features included.

An Introduction to The Casual Vacancy (HD) – An overview of the series, including a brief introduction to the main characters, plot and locations.

Adapting The Casual Vacancy (HD) – How the book was brought to the screen; the production team reveals its vision.

Casting The Casual Vacancy (HD) – An in-depth featurette highlighting the ensemble cast.



Casual Vacancy


J.K. Rowling made her segue into adult and didn’t necessarily set the adult literary world on fire with it. I’m sorry to say that neither did the mini-series. There are way too many unlikable characters that populate the series that I honestly could not wait until it was over. The Blu-ray looks and sounds terrific but the special features are relatively thin. If you must see the show then I would say wait for Netflix, because I cannot recommend a purchase.



The Casual Vacancy is released on Blu-ray & DVD August 4!




 Casual Vacancy


Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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