The Jury (ITV 2002 & 2011)

JuryThere are times that I become so overwhelmed at the absolute greatest of British television, I’m speechless.  No one does it better than the Brits.  I’ve just finished the two seasons of The Jury that first broadcast in 2002 and then again in 2011.  Both series consists of five one-hour episodes.

It begins with ordinary citizens receiving in their mail a summons to jury duty.  A few of the jurors in each case are focused upon as subplots and how the experience affects them.  Of course, the main focus is upon the accused.  The first 2002 series revolves around a Sikh teenager who is accused of murdering a classmate who bullied him.  The second in 2011 focuses on a man accused of brutally murdering three women he met on an internet dating site.

For those of you who love Gerard Butler, you will find him staring as one of the jurors, along with other familiar faces such as Helen McCrory.

The entire series engrosses you into the English jury process.  As the audience, you are given no more information about the guilt or innocence of the individual than what the jurors hear. When they retire to deliberate, no one agrees, of course, initially upon the verdict.  You, on the other hand, can cast your own vote.  In the first series there is still some doubt, but in the second it appears to be overwhelming evidence at the end of the unanimous outcome.

Needless to say, I’m continuing to rave about the excellence in writing, acting, and presentation of some of these fantastic British shows.  This one is currently streaming on BritBox and well worth the ten episodes.

REV. (BBC Series 2010-2014)

The Rev. Säsong II. Tom Hollander som Rev Adam Smallbone.Thanks to BritBox, REV. has started streaming.  It is a delightful comedy series starring Tom Hollander about a vicar who has transferred to the east side of London to a struggling inner-city church.  Having come from a small rural parish in Suffolk, he faces new challenges of a sparse congregation, an ever pressuring Archdeacon to increase the church’s income, plus an eclectic mix of individuals who make up his parishioners.  His wife has a fulltime job as a solicitor but isn’t involved in the workings of the church with her husband.

If anything, this sometimes irreverent and humorous show has given me a new appreciation of Tom Hollander.  He is fantastic in this role, giving you an inside look at the mind, motivation, and beliefs of Reverend Adam Smallbone.  Each episode contains his inner dialogue of prayer that is often down-right humorous, as he throws questions of why this and that to God.  He pokes at the almighty about his personal struggles and asks why Nazis live into their nineties.  It shows his humanity as he deals with his calling.

One particular episode he falters in faith, displaying the moments the faithful all walkthrough on dark days.  It is especially poignant and thought-providing story that draws him back to his calling that he cannot escape.

His self-esteem is often tested when he meets the popular vicar with a bulging congregation offering smoothies on Sunday, and the popular vicar who has a radio show he is jealous of for his success.

Whether you are a believer or non-believer, I highly recommend this insightful series that will give you a chuckle.  Don’t be surprised if it pokes at your own belief system and morals.  The fact that they make the vicar such vulnerable and honest human rather than a saint is what makes this show a great 30 minutes for each episode.  In addition to Tom Hollander, there are wonderful short appearances with such stars as Ralph Fiennes, James Purefoy,  Geoffrey Palmer, Hugh Bonneville, and Liam Neeson.

The Last Post (BBC Series 2017)

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The Last Post, now streaming on Amazon Prime, is a BBC Drama series set in the mid-1960s regarding a unit of Royal Military Police in Aden, which at the time was British controlled.  It involves not only the officers of the military but their wives and children who live on the base.  It’s a bit of a melodrama soap opera that is overplayed in some aspects with the wives but is worth the watch for historical background on the ever-shrinking British empire colonies.

If you can get past the dramatic wives, there is much enjoyment to be had in the British men in uniform.  There is no lack of good acting, except one huge disappointment in the character Alison Laithwaite, played by Jessica Raine.  You will recognize her as an integral character on Call the Midwife.  In this series, however, she has morphed from the sweet lady birthing babies to a raving hormonal drunk who wants an abortion.  I found her acting in this particular series disappointing but it could be highly attributed to the poor script.  The writers paid far too much attention to her character, which is painfully overplayed, leaving you no sympathy for her plight.

The other characters involve such actors as Jeremy Neumark Jones (who reminds me of a young Henry Cavill) and the seasoned acting of Ben Miles, who does a stellar job as the major.  There are other subplots involving other military men such as one man falling in love with a Muslim woman, newlyweds, and adulterous affairs.

The series consists of six episodes each lasting 59 minutes.  If you’re into another look at the British Empire’s history in Yemen, this is a good series in spite of the slight disturbing scenes of terrorism, the soap opera of the wives, and slightly unbelievable scenes/dialogue.

Penelope Keith’s Hidden Villages (2014-2016)

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I’ve been to England four times and often wished I could rent a car and drive everywhere visiting the little-known villages I haven’t seen.  How many of us have loved the photographs of quaint English country life and wished we could live in such an idyllic place?  I know that I have.

In all honesty, I’m not much for watching traveling shows, but this three-series wonder is an absolute gem.  Currently streaming on Acorn, I highly recommend it to everyone who wants to see the inner workings of these smaller communities.  At the present time, I’m only beginning Season 2 but have much more to see.

What is unique with this particular travel series is that while you’re riding in the car with Penelope to the next location, you know what is down the road is going to be as fascinating as the last.  So far I’ve traveled to Wales, Lancashire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Devon, and Cornwall, among other places.  Penelope immerses the audience not only in the village’s history but its people, architecture, challenges, and sometimes quirky celebrations communities hold together.  It’s a wonderful series that only deepens your longing for England.

The running time for each episode is 47 minutes. So brew a cup of tea, gather some biscuits and sit down for a wonderful tour of beautiful England’s landscape and its villages.

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Another series that is almost as entertaining if you’re interested in things regarding the monarchy, is Penelope Keith at Her Majesty’s Service also streaming on Acorn.  Here she visits the iconic locations and explains the unknown rituals that have continued on for centuries.

Episode 1 is at Windsor Castle, including a ride on the Queen’s barge.  Episode 2 visits Inveraray and Holyroodhouse, locations the royal family frequent. Episode 3 is on location in Northern Ireland at Hillsborough Castle and Episode 4 at Caernarfon Castle in Wales.  It’s another wonderful show for those who love all things English.

 

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