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Series / Root into Europe

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Root into Europe was a 1992 tragicomic British mini-series produced by ITV. Based on The Henry Root Letters by William Donaldson it featured a British couple, Henry Root (George Cole) and his wife Muriel (Pat Heywood), making a trip throughout Continental Europe. Mr. Root is an Eurosceptic British man who doesn't like the idea of United Kingdom being part of The European Union and tries to impose British values on other countries. This, of course, leads to hilarious situations as he often comes across as a twit himself, especially because his stereotypical ideas are often proven wrong. Throughout the series the couple visits France, Spain, Italy, Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium.

Only five episodes were made and despite some good reviews, even in the rest of Europe, the series has only seen a VHS release so far, but has not been made available on DVD and thus faded away in obscurity somewhat. So Keep Circulating the Tapes.

Root into Europe provides examples of:

  • British Brevity: Even according to British series' norms, Root into Europe is very short. Only five episodes!
  • British Stuffiness: Mr. and Mr. Root are frequently embarrassed when confronted with sexual innuendo.
  • Celebrity Cameo: In Italy porn actress La Cicciolina has a cameo.
  • Covers Always Lie: Despite the title Mr. and Mrs. Root don't visit all the countries of the European Union.
  • Dub Name Change: In Flanders, Belgium the series was named "Waar ligt Maastricht?" ("Whither Maastricht?")
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: The couple travels to Paris, where, you guessed it, the Eiffel Tower is, of course in view. It's even visible on the VHS cover.
  • Freestate Amsterdam: Mr. Root meets with a Dutch police chief to discuss the dangers of drug abuse, only to discover that he'd inadvertently eaten a number of magic brownies from a dessert cart moments before.
  • French Jerk: Mr. Root assumes all Frenchmen are arrogant.
  • Funny Foreigner: Mr. and Mrs. Root often encounter funny archetypes from different parts of Europe.
  • Germanic Depressives: Mr. Root assumes that all Germans have no sense of humor. He is proven wrong immediately while entering a German bar. As he bumps into a glass door all Germans inside immediately laugh at him.
  • Lazy Bum: Mr. Root is of the opinion that all Spaniards are lazy.
  • Lost in Translation: A lot of comedy occurs because Mr. and Mr. Root only speak English and thus are unable to understand what the foreigners they meet mean or say. For instance, in Brussels, they meet someone from Antwerp who doesn't understand what they are saying. Afterwards Mr. Root assumes he is "probably a Walloon". note 
  • Minimalist Cast: Mr. and Mrs. Root are the only main characters who appear in every episode.
  • My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: Despite poking fun at other European countries the show also mocks British tourism. Mr. Root feels that all other countries should be just like the UK, but many of his ideas about European countries are very stereotypical. Thus he frequently makes a fool of himself in the process. In an interview, the writer said that originally the idea was that the two lead actors would be going around Europe bothering unsuspecting members of the public (in the same way as the original book comprised letters Donaldson had genuinely sent under Root's name and their replies). However it was decided that this placed the joke too far at the expense of the other countries, rather than the Roots.
  • National Stereotypes:
  • Once per Episode: Each episode begins with Mr. Root putting on appropriate music on his car cassette player when entering a certain country.
  • Scenery Porn: As to expect from a series involving travel the scenes in European cities are often gorgeous to look at.
  • Sequel Hook: The final episode has Mr. and Mrs. Root consider going on vacation to the United States next, but this hint to a sequel never came about.
  • Standard Snippet: Mr. and Mr. Root play "The Impossible Dream" when driving around in Spain, because they assume the local people will like it when a song from Man of La Mancha is playing.
  • Time Marches On: The series is set in 1992, when the Treaty of Maastricht was signed. Thus a lot of references are made to this event.
  • Vacation Episode: Each episode is set in another country.
  • Women Are Wiser: Mrs. Root is far more sympathethic and clever than Mr. Root, though she too can be a bit bewildered at times.