May 14, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT
We gave it an A

While she was busy conquering the big screen as two of England’s most formidable monarchs, Queens Victoria (in 1997’s Mrs. Brown) and Elizabeth I (in Shakespeare in Love), Dame Judi Dench concurrently took on a much meeker TV persona in As Time Goes By: middle-class, middle-aged Jean Pargetter. When widowed Jean coincidentally encounters divorced coffee planter Lionel Hardcastle (Geoffrey Palmer), she realizes he is the same young soldier she dated 38 years before. Can the two rekindle their romance — or has too much time gone by? First shown on the BBC in 1993, the series has run for eight seasons, and its recent importation by PBS stations brings a subtle, hilarious show Stateside. Dench and Palmer display palpable intimacy; this sophisticated, sweet series is truly for mature audiences only. A

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