Category: BBC Television

Case Histories (BBC 2011 and 2013)

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Streaming on Amazon Prime Video is Case Histories, an engaging British crime television drama about a private detective named Jackson Brodie. These episodes are based on the novels of Kate Atkinson.  Jackson is played by the talented Jason Isaacs. Before becoming a PI, he was a soldier and policeman. Jason is plagued by his own memories of a family tragedy. He’s also divorced and is dealing with custody issues when his ex-wife wants to move to New Zealand.

Set in Edinburgh, you’ll get a mix of British accents and very heavy Scottish brogues. To round out the cast is Amanda Abbington who plays D.C. Louise Munroe. (You’ll remember her more recently as playing Mary Watson in Sherlock and Miss Mardle in Mr. Selfridge). There are romantic feelings between the two, which aren’t really expressed until the end of Series One, which is the only one streaming at the moment.  Also, be prepared for graphic sexual encounters – loud rutting but not much flesh. There is also one upsetting scene with a father having incest with his daughter.  I do agree with some viewers that could have been cut out and handled differently.

Otherwise, this is a good series because Jackson’s clients are an eclectic mix of interesting cases that often intersect in one fashion or the other.  He solves mysteries that have gone unsolved by the police and takes on new cases with surprise endings.  Even though he’s a former policeman, he sort of skirts around the law when it suits his purpose. Frankly, I enjoyed the series but Season Two is not available except for purchase on DVD.  I’ll wait hoping eventually it will go to Prime.

 

 

Doctor Foster (BBC 2015)

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Spending Christmas Eve alone can lead to binge watching on Netflix.  Hence was the case yesterday between The OA and Doctor Foster, which I devoured last evening for hours on end.  BBC has done it again with top-notch acting, great drama, and stories that tear your heart.

Meet Dr. Foster, an intelligent, beautiful woman who discovers her husband has been cheating on her with a younger woman.  Suranne Jones plays Gemma Foster, giving a performance that truly proves that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

At first glance, you think that Dr. Foster is going to go off the deep end after she learns of her husband’s infidelity. In fact, you almost expect her to go “Gone Girl.”  However, Dr. Foster has the ability to reign in her emotions to seek revenge against her lying husband, played by Bertie Carvel.  You really want to see the man get his due punishment as Gemma continually drops the hint for him to tell her the truth that he’s been cheating.  Instead, throughout the entire show, until confronted in the last episode, he lies to her face like a coward and dirtbag that he is.

What makes this drama works is that Suranne Jones does two things in her portrayal of Gemma – she tears your viewing heart with her brokenness over her husband’s betrayal, but also takes you along as the woman scorned who intelligently plots her revenge.  Along the way of dealing with a failing marriage, her professional life crumbles around her as those she thought to be friends, turn against her in spite.

If you are a viewer who has experienced the agony of dealing with a cheating boyfriend or husband, these five episodes of season one may resurrect painful reminders of the agony you’ve endured.  Having been cheated upon in my first marriage by a conniving husband who got another woman pregnant, I related to her pain and gloated at the end over her expertly wielded revenge.  Unfortunately, I never had the guts to do what Gemma did — devise a plot in order to unleash the fury of hell. That’s the difference between a weak and strong woman who decides not to turn the other cheek because she knows she deserves better.

For more information, here is a good write-up on Digital Spy about the show, its rewards, and an upcoming second season.  I highly recommend this great drama because the Brits know how to do them best.  The awards prove it for the series and acting.

2016 – National Television Awards – New Drama – Won

2016 – National Television Awards – Drama Performance Suranne Jones – Won

2016 – Broadcasting Press Build Awards – Best Actress Suranne Jones – Won

2016 – Royal Television Society Awards – Best Actress Suranne Jones – Won

2016 – British Academy Television Wards – Best Actress Suranne Jones – Won

Versailles (2015 TV Series – BBC Two, Canal+)

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Finally, streaming on Amazon is Versailles.  The first three episodes are up to devour.  New episodes are posted weekly.  Is it worth the $2.99 per episode (first one free with Prime)?   Episode 1  Absolutely.

Versailles begins in 1667 with the 28-year old King Louis XIV on the throne. Tired of Paris, he wishes to remove himself and build his kingdom palace at Versailles, which was once a hunting lodge.

The series introduces you into the maturing young king as he attempts to control the nobility who are against him and establish his power in France.  As any other reign, his bid for supremacy is threatened by those who would overthrow him.  The life at court is filled with the usual intrigue that includes those loyal and those disloyal to the throne.

What makes this show work for me is George Blagden, who plays the young Louis XIV. He is the center stage in the entire production, playing a convincing role of a young monarch who is coming into his own among the wolves who surround him. At first, he appears unsure of himself, and then as time progressives, he shows that he can be as ruthless as his enemies, tender as any lover, and merciful when it’s to his advantage.  Blagden is a convincing monarch and a perfect choice for the role.screen-shot-2016-08-10-at-1_47_17-pm

The costumes are lavish, the settings rich with grandeur, and the story believable though probably not one hundred percent historically accurate.

My only caution is beware of the over-the-top sexual scenes including the king’s affairs with his mistresses and occasional intercourse with this wife. On the other side of the coin, there are homosexual scenes involving the king’s brother, Philippe, Duke of Orleans, played by Alexander Vlahos. Sex is not a silent subject in this production.

You might find this article and interview with George Blagden by The Guardian of interest on the filming.

The rugged heartthrob is about to be very big indeed – after landing the part of the spiffily dressed Sun King in this scandalous tale of sex, violence, and sublime shoes

Source: George Blagden on dressing up for Versailles: ‘Heels do wonders for your confidence!’ | Television & radio | The Guardian

The violence so far as been tame in comparison to other shows. It appears most of the intrigue is in the king’s court and in the bed of the women he makes loves to, siring all sorts of children in his lifetime.

Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a good period drama, I suggest you tune in and watch Versailles. It’s enjoyable indeed to see the lavish lives of royalty before their subsequent generations lost their heads on the guillotine.

Sense & Sensibility (Movie 1995) vs. Sense & Sensibility (TV BBC Mini-Series 2008)

senseOnce again, I’m back comparing two classics.  Who doesn’t love Jane Austen?  Well, maybe some biker on a Harley, wearing lots of leather and a skull helmet. Nevertheless, for the ladies of the world who revere her timeless stories, this is one of my favorites.

Like many other Austen tales, there are multiple versions of this first published work of Jane’s in 1811.  There was a 1971 TV serial, 1981 TV serial, 1995 film  and the most recent 2008 mini-series.  Do I have a favorite?  The 2008 version is the one that floats my remote, but the 1995 movie version is close behind.

The 1995 version had been my favorite, of course, until the 2008 mini-series came along, consisting of three episodes and 174 minutes.  Sense & Sensibility is one of my best-loved Austen tales. The 1995 version is the star-studded, well-known cast of Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Greg Wise (married to Emma Thompson in real life, by the way), Hugh Grant, and the infamous Alan Rickman.  Each of these talented actors make up cast who tells this fascinating tale of the Dashwood sisters.

The 2008 TV mini-series is much longer, of course, with a casting of new faces, at least for me, in most of the characters.  I had never seen Hattie Morahan (Elinor) or Charity Wakefield (Marianne) before this series aired.  Frankly, I loved them and found them both endearing in this version.  Kate Winslet, although, probably outshines as Marianne between the two. She is such a spirited actress. “Can he love her? Can the soul really be satisfied with such polite affections? To love is to burn – to be on fire, like Juliet or Guinevere or Eloise.”

Then we have the men who love these woman. Hugh Grant and a young Greg Wise in the movie version make good choices. In the 2008 version, we have blue-eyed Dan Stevens (the Downton Abbey heart throb) as Edward Farrars.  A more sleazy Willoughby, in my opinion, was the 2008 Dominic Cooper, who drew from a me a little more empathy in spite of being a rogue. There is quite a bit of sexuality played in the 2008 version with the seduction scene at the beginning. The interaction between Willoughby and Marianne is more tender and seductive as well. However, I’ve read that was a pain point with some critics (read here).  Austen and raunchy don’t mix. But in all honesty, there isn’t anything raunchy about the BBC version whatsoever.Sense1

Then we have Colonel Brandon, played by the late Alan Rickman in 1995, who did everything well on screen. It’s sad that he has left us and his fans have been robbed of great performances that were yet to come. Nevertheless, we are left with memories of older ones, even in this version of Sense & Sensibility.

In the 2008 version, we have David Morrissey, a handsome Brandon, who I thought more attractive but a bit too stiff in his role.   Alan had a little more heart in his performance than David did.  Morrissey is no longer wearing cravats and period clothing but has been on Zombie and sci-fi related shows in the past few years. Apparently, he’s working on another long-long-ago period drama set in 45 AD, Britannia. Maybe he’s taking up a toga instead.

Another thing that I like about the longer series version is that it’s not so rushed.  You also get to enjoy beautiful coastal scenery of Hartland, Devon, with quite a few shots of rolling waves crashing against the rocks. It brings back to me the quiet life of those time periods, when long walks, picnics, playing the piano forte, and finding husbands were the order of the day.

Both versions are available to rent and stream on Amazon.  However, the 2008 version is on Hulu, if you have a subscription there.

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