Hard: Series 1
Sophie (Natacha Lindinger) is happily married with two teenaged children. But then her husband dies suddenly. Sophie is in for a shock, as revealed by her mother-in-law Louise (Michèle Moretti) at the funeral. Her husband's company, Soph'X, produces porn movies, and given its money troubles, Sophie is obliged to take over the business...
Just to be clear from the outset, this 2008 French TV series may be called Hard, but what it isn't is hard, as in core. Having said that, it is still explicit enough to gain a BBFC 18 certificate. But what it really is, is soft, as of centre. While it aims to be a raunchy laugh-fest, it's really a mildly amusing piece which provokes smiles and has a strong romance element to it as well. If you can't see which way this is going by episode two, you need to watch more romantic comedies. Hard is an example of tone being at odds with subject matter.
This DVD contains all six episodes of Series One of Hard, made for the French pay channel Canal+ in 2008, broadcast in the UK by Sky Arts. Each episode is between twenty-five and twenty-eight minutes long (including the recaps at the start of episodes two to six), in other words able to fill a half-hour slot with room for trailers, handovers or commercials. At the risk of indulging in double entendres, there is something to be said for episode length. For a comedy, a half hour is ideal: long enough to deliver the requisite laughs, not so long as to exhaust. Many drama series or serials pace themselves at between forty-five to fifty minutes at a time, long enough to develop more complex plots, add light and shade, peaks and troughs. But Hard isn't really in-depth enough as a drama, nor fast-paced and funny enough as a comedy, and as a result is certainly watchable but somewhat insubstantial as well. The performances are good, with Natacha Lindinger moving from straitlaced disapproval to, well not quite embracing what the company does but certainly coming to terms with it. François Vincentelli, as the genial porn stud Roy the Rod, makes him a little too good to be true. Writer/director Cathy Verney appears in a small role as “agency client”.
A second series of Hard, its run extended to twelve episodes, followed in 2011 and maybe that will make it to DVD at some point.
Series One of Hard is released by Arrow on a dual-layered DVD encoded for Region 2 only. The disc begins with a forty-five-second trailer for Season One of Maison Close. The six episodes can be selected individually, or there is a Play All option (163:51 in total).
Shot in HD, Hard looks as bright and slick as it should, with good contrast and solid blacks, in other words as it should be for a recent high-def TV production. The aspect ratio is 1.78:1 and the DVD transfer is anamorphically enhanced.
The soundtrack is Dolby Surround (2.0) though like many television productions, it isn't an elaborate sound mix, with the surrounds being used almost entirely for the music score. The English subtitles are electronic but non-optional.
Apart from the trailer for another Arrow release mentioned above, there are no extras.