British TV is Still Better than Anyone Else from Murderous Villagers to Runaway Pigs.
Acorn TV – The Best British TV
British television series owned the comedy, police and spy genres long before Hollywood and New York did. And British serials have proven their mettle, averaging a decade on the air.
One of its most popular series, MI5 / Spooks, is a riveting government homeland intelligence agency stayed at the top of the ratings and won consistent critical reviews for a decade.
The “trend” of killing off leads didn’t start with Game of Thrones, oh no. MI5 did it long ago, developing the format to introduce new faces, throw natures balance off and add urgency that has only been copied in recent years in North America.
New Tricks is a police series about retired cops returning to reopen cold cases gave greybeards new status and provided a point of view rarely seen on television anywhere – from the eyes of the old timers whose experience and intelligence still matters. New Tricks is in its 11th season.
Midsomer Murders is the enduring murder series set in a rural English shire where mayhem seems to occur behind every bramble bush. Its slaughters have entertained audiences since 1997 without a break, led by DCIs Barnaby. Midsomer is Britain’s Cabot Cove, a dangerous place to live with otherwise pleasant folk and a wise woman.
Agatha Christie’s Poirot, that grand old man of TV detectives just finished a 13 season run to close the show. David Suchet has starred as the elegant, moustachioed private eye for 25 years in various incarnations. He was generally found in stately homes and other haunts of rich, examining the details of their misdeeds.
Poirot’s female counterpart, Christie’s gifted snoop Miss Jane Marple, who inspired the Murder She Wrote series, enjoyed an eight year run. Geraldine McKeown starred as the villager with wisdom and human instinct bellied by her genteel appearance. Previously, Joan Hickson appeared in twelve Marple TV movies and in twelve episodes of Mystery’s Miss Marple.
The Broker’s Man stars Kevin Whately (Inspector Lewis) as a former policeman who left the force in disgrace, who takes work as an insurance claims detective. His cases are just as interesting and dangerous as his police work.
Murder in Suburbia follows a pair of detectives played by Caroline Catz (Doc Martin) and Lisa Faulkner who examine the most brutal murders with their respective gifts of education and gut instinct. The series has comedic elements mostly around their love lives, and they enjoy a good banter dead serious about murder. The tone is lighter than most but loses nothing for it.
One of my favourite new Acorn releases is Line of Duty, a series starring Keeley Hawes as Detective Inspector Lindsay Denton, the only officer to survive an ambush on a police perp move. She falls under suspicion and within days her life is in ruins. Her struggle to come to the surface is blocked by an in-house conspiracy of male officers and her inability to connect to others. I found myself gasping for breath in this well-acted and conceived story.
We did mention comedy, and as is appropriate with all this grim murder, there is a killer wit at work in the TV adaptation of P.G. Wodehouse’s ‘twenties stories set in Blandings Castle. It stars Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous, Jam and Jerusalem) and Timothy Spall as a dotty brother and sister trying to hang onto the old aristocratic world of Blandings Castle while under siege by seducers, ne’er-do-wells, grasping relatives, Hollywood filmmakers and those who would steal the Lord’s beloved pig The Empress.
This month Acorn releases The Broker’s Man, and to coincide with new episodes, Agatha Christie’s Poirot Fan Favorites Collection and Marple’s Fan Favorites Collection. Murder in Suburbia, the Complete Collection is available on Acorn DVD August 26th, as and Blandings. On September 2, Acorn releases Line of Duty Series 2, and Midsomer Murders Series 10 and 11. British shows can be viewed online at www.Acorn.tv.