DVD Review: Series four of Plebs is a comic treat

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Years ago in my teens, our Latin teacher told his young charges struggling to get to grips with the classics that traffic jams were not a modern-day problem - it was the same in ancient Rome, writes Tony Spittles.

He produced an account by Juvenal, a noted writer and poet of the time, detailing the noise and chaos which happened every ninth day as farmers and smallholders from outlying areas drove their carts into the city to sell their produce at market.

Fast forward 2,000 years and its more of the same served up in a skilful blend of the old and new in the historical comedy gem Plebs, which has just ended its fourth series on ITV2.

Now, thanks to Acorn Media International’s latest DVD release, home movie viewers will be able to “do as the Romans do” as they follow the latest escapades of the three young men from the suburbs trying to make their way in the big city.

Those new to the series, tucked away in a late-night slot on ITV2, will see a seamless re-writing of history as one of the original trio, Stylax (Joel Fry from Trollied and Requiem), makes a sudden exit to be replaced just as quickly by dumb blonde builder Jason (Jonathan Pointing from Pls Like).

His arrival throws the life of the other Plebs, money-minded Marcus (Tom Rosenthal from Friday Night Dinner) and his lazy slave, Grumio (Rotherham-born Ryan Sampson - Wire in the Blood and Holby City), into turmoil, especially when they manage to wangle an abandoned toilet from crooked property dealer Crassus (Robert Lindsay - My Family) which they decide to convert into Rome’s hottest new wine bar, The Crown and Toga.

And they soon have all the “movers and shakers” flocking to the door, including Rome’s leading food critic Athena (Annette Badland - Slitheen Margaret Blaine in Dr Who), stand-up scathing satirist Minerva (Aisling Bea - 8 Out Of 10 Cats team captain) and Made in Chelsea’s Ollie Locke as hipster Aloysius.

These big-name cameos have been one of the enduring delights of the whole series, starting with the three boys living in a grotty block run by their dodgy landlord (Karl Theobald - GameFace) and working in dead-end jobs for ruthless boss Flavia (Doon Mackichan - Two Doors Down).

Guest stars in series two - in which Stylax wanted to become a champion charioteer, despite not having a chariot and not being able to drive - included Simon Callow (Four Weddings and a Funeral) and Vicar of Dibley stalwart James Fleet.

There were more familiar faces in series three, set against the backdrop of Rome hosting the Games, with Michelle Keegan (My Girl) as a brazen Vestal Virgin, the ever-busy Miriam Margoyles as a theatrical grande dame, and Maureen Lipman carrying on the work of her landlord son.

Series four, with out-takes, is now on sale at £19.99, and also features in the six-disc boxset, price £39.99, of the whole series with deleted scenes and interviews with writers Sam Leifer and Tom Basden (he also gets to appear in front of the camera as Waterboy) plus Ryan Sampson and Tom Rosenthal.