Category: BBC TV Series

Line of Duty – S5 (2019)

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Thank God for Acorn TV for us across-the-pond fans. Line of Duty, the BBC hit and highest rated series in the UK, is now on Acorn TV.  It started May 13th.  Like a junkie on drugs, I watched five episodes straight in the row until I couldn’t keep my eyes open.  Savored episode six with dinner the next day while eating my microwave TV turkey and gravy (what else).  What a freaking season!  This show is addicting.

Bent coppers – that’s what it’s about.  You don’t know who to believe.  Suspicion with a capital “S” pointing to Superintendent Ted Hastings.  By the end of the episode, you’re raging on Twitter #lineofduty – Free Ted.

Here’s a good rundown from DigitalSpy about Season 5 and how it may be frustrating to some viewers.  Naturally, the mystery remains.  People you thought were the good guys are turning out to be the corrupt guys.  Where is Season 6 going to take us?

Season 5 is interrogation overload, for sure (…let me turn your attention to page…), and by the end there still is corruption in the force.  Of course, the writers and producers are going to make us wait again to find out what comes next.  Buggers.

And one last thought, for a woman who can play parts such as docile Mrs. Darcy in DeathB Comes to Pemberley, Esther Summerson in Bleak House, or Bessy Higgins in North & South, Anna Maxwell Martin can really play a woman on a mission with a bitchy attitude that makes you squirm in your seat.  Let’s face it, when you want to gag a character in a TV show, the actress is doing a great job of making you despise her.   Well done Anna.

And last, but not least, there definately (pun here) should be multiple kudos flung at Adrian Dunbar.  Well done, Superintendent.  You had me shaking in the hot seat with you.

Line of Duty Season 5: Ted Hastings and Kate Fleming RETURN…  Yes!!! 

LINE OF DUTY fans were in for a treat last night when Jed Mercurio dropped a teasing look at the upcoming fifth season of the hit BBC drama after the Bodyguard finale.

Source: Line of Duty season 5: Ted Hastings and Kate Fleming RETURN as Steve Arnott unrecognisable

The Passing Bells (2014 BBC Series)

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Why do I watch these series that make me go through a box of tissues?  Can someone answer me, please?  It’s that phrase that continually resounds in my brain, “Lest We Forget.”

Since I’ve recently written a book set in England during World War I, between finding all of my distant cousins who perished, plus doing research non-stop, I’ve been pulled into this terrible conflict. The more I watch, the more I cry.  Someone on the Period Drama Group on Facebook suggested The Passing Bells. It’s streaming on BritBox, if you care to watch it.  It’s also on sale on Amazon but in overseas format only. Beware, the ending will rip your heart out.

It’s a story that spans four years of the World War I, seen through the eyes of two young lads – one from England and one from Germany.  From the moment that war is declared and they enlist, the story flips back and forth following their training and fighting in a war that after four years becomes tiresome and pointless.

In addition to their lives, the story touches upon their families — the fears of their mothers when they enlist, the proud fathers who wish their sons the best, the young ladies the young lads love, and the effects of war upon their home communities. It also places the audience in the trenches and at the battle of Somme, which was the most horrific battle where in reality 420,000 English soldiers, 434,000 German, and 200,000 French died.  At the end of the series, the following is shown – What passing-bells for these who die as cattle. (Anthem for Doomed Youth byWilford Owen)

There is great hope as you watch this five-part series that the two young lads (Thomas played by Patrick Gibson as the English soldier and Michael played by Jack Lowden as the German soldier) will survive. As you watch the politicians sign their names to the Treaty of Versailles something terrible happens at the end.  It is not an easy story to watch, but it reminds us that we should never forget.

My only critical comment about this series is that British actors with distinctive British accents also play the Germans in this movie. It detracts from the realism and would have been much better had they learned the accent for the role.  At times it feels as if it’s the British lads fighting British lads.  Otherwise, it’s realistically filmed and well acted.

Line of Duty (BBC 2012-Present TV Series

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BBC films. Acorn TV posts. I binge.

It’s as simple as that scenario to keep me glued to my recliner. My latest binge, when I should be writing and editing my books, Line of Duty – now streaming on Acorn TV.

The show is from a different slant about DS Steve Arnott (a short man who has a lot to prove), who is transferred to the police anti-corruption unit after a dastardly stint in another. Series one focuses on the officer of the year, who tells enough lies to wrap himself up in a sticky spider’s web with no way out.  

It’s well done, well acted, just the right amount of suspense, not too boring that you fast forward, and keeps you guessing and entertained until a surprising and inconclusive ending.  I’m afraid to start season two because I will probably waste the entire day getting nothing done.

As usual, British television does it again. The show apparently started in 2012 and is now in season five in 2017.  I suppose that tells you it is good enough not to cancel.

Check it out if you’re a crime-crazy nut that would rather watch the corruption from inside the force, rather than the force fighting the corruption outside.

UPDATE:  As a side note, I’ve watched Season 2 and Season 3, and they continue to be extremely engagement, to say the least.  Great show!  Keeps you guessing.

Criminal Justice (BBC Season 2)

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Streaming on Acorn TV is a former series entitled Criminal Justice.  I tuned into Season 2, which ran five consecutive nights in October of 2009. It’s a series where the audience travels through an individual’s life from the beginning of the crime to final decision of the justice system.   It’s an interesting story that focuses on the victim, the individual who committed the crime, the results of that crime upon family members and acquaintances, the police investigation, the defense solicitor and barrister, and, of course, the individual on trial.

Season 2 focuses on a woman by the name of Juliet Miller (played by Maxine Peake), the wife of a successful barrister Joe Miller (played by Matthew Macfadyen).  In the opening scenes Juliet is the focus as a nervous and depressed individual sitting in a car who eventually returns home to take a shower.  Joe, on the other hand, has been trying to reach her by telephone multiple times but she ignores his calls.

Joe later comes home, obviously suspicious over his wife’s behavior.  She is sullen, nervous, forgetful, and avoids him. After dinner with their teenage daughter in the household, everyone retires to bed. Joe wants to initiate sex but Juliet pulls away. She leaves the bed to retrieve something (which I cannot tell you since it’s a spoiler) and then stops in the kitchen. Her thoughts turn toward the knives on the kitchen counter. She chooses three, lines them up, and picks the large six-inch wide blade and carries it back to bed.

After hiding the weapon under the pillow, Joe re-initiates the sexual encounter. Their daughter hears groaning noises from their bedroom and goes to investigate. As she peeks around the corner, her father is on her mother groaning but then rolls off with a knife sticking out of his belly.  Hence the crime has been committed, and the underlying causes of the tragedy take five episodes to unfold one by one until the final verdict.

It’s an interesting, albeit extremely slow unfolding story. If you like action, this is not the series for you. You witness prejudices and preconceived ideas among the police. Joe ends up in intensive care, while the investigation begins. Along comes the solicitor, with her own agenda to get her client off by immediately painting Joe as an evil abusive husband. She nurses a vindictive goal, while one police investigator wants to see justice served regardless of the circumstances since Juliet did stab him in the gut. Everyone has their opinion – everyone is emotionally affected by the case.

To discover the ins and outs of this emotional series and the outcome, you’ll have to watch it yourself. If I say anything further, I’ll be writing SPOILER all over this post. Frankly, be prepared to watch many minutes of silent brooding from the actors and painful reflection. You could probably chalk up an entire hour of merely watching the characters say nothing except crying and staring off into the distance. It will be a bore or you will be sucked into the emotional aspect of this story as the writers have obviously intended. Their goal is to drag you through the emotions of their characters.

Maxine Peake’s heart-wrenching performance deserved accolades, but you are quite torn between giving her sympathy or wishing that the United Kingdom still used hanging for punishment.  It was shocking to see she did not win an award but instead, Matthew MacFadyen won supporting actor at the British Academy Television Awards 2009.  His screen time is minimal, to say the least.

As far as Season 1 of Criminal Justice, I’ve yet to watch those episodes.  Frankly, I need to wind down after this slow and painful journey of Juliet Miller before I take on another British crime show.

 

Father Brown (BBC Series 2013-2017)

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Streaming on Netflix are years and years filled with Father Brown, and I’ve been overdosing on Catholicism in a predominantly Anglican country (thanks to Henry VIII).  Who knew England had so many Catholics sleuths solving murders and giving absolution?  Enter Father Brown, who baptizes, marries, and mostly buries the humans of their small country village because of the usual incompetent police force.  Mark Williams makes a fine priest and wears the collar well in this series.  He is never without his umbrella or his bicycle.

The Father is an odd sort of fellow who tells an occasional white lie for the greater good, steals evidence, enjoys his occasional glass of alcohol, has been known to go to the theater, and will read a few questionable books if it helps to solve a crime.  What is interesting about this series is that you are often brought into the confessional as he hears his parishioners confess their sins and sometimes in spite of the sin must keep it a secret.  Of course, it’s no secret to the audience.

What strikes me the most are the reminders that murderers are hung by the neck until dead. I find it somewhat disconcerting watching executions of humans so quickly bound, neck-tied with rope, a bag placed over the head, and the floor pulled from underneath their feet.  Justice served, as some would say, but if the good Father has his way, the soul is saved. The last hanging in the United Kingdom occurred in 1964, and since Father Brown isn’t quite in that era, the noose is still the preferred form of punishment.  However, a few get off with extenuating circumstances.

Nevertheless, the Father is quite the character, who has his sidekicks in criminal sleuthing that includes his secretary, Mrs. McCarthy, Lady Felicia the local upper class, and her chauffeur Sid Carter.  The police dislike the Father’s interference (as the series does go through a few different inspectors), but if it were not for the Father’s involvement, not a crime would be solved.

You may not like the religious inferences of confession and repentance in all of the episodes, however, there are more lofty ones such as the Father sacrificing his life to save another.  You may also hear quite a bit of Latin here and there being spoken over dead bodies.  Supposedly based on characters by G.K. Chesterton.  If you’re into reading the original plots, you can do so by purchasing his books on Amazon.

There are so many crime shows from the British, who obviously love to kill people on paper and write dastardly plots with twist and turns, that it is often hard to choose the most entertaining. From Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Grantchester, to Father Brown, plus others, there are plenty of period murder mysteries to keep you busy.  Father Brown is not the cream of the crop, but if you’ve binged on everything else, it fills the need for murders, graves, and mysteries.  There is no gore, but there is death.

 

Wallander (BBC 2008-2012 TV Series)

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 Stars:  Kenneth Branagh

For some reason, I have this morbid fascination with the complex male character.  Wallander feeds my need to crawl inside the male brain and watch a man driven by inward demons perform his difficult job of catching killers.

It is a BBC series, now streaming the first three seasons on Netflix, about a Swedish detective. (I have read there is to be a season four in 2014, but I’m having difficulty finding if it’s been released or filmed.)  The stories are violent, sometimes sick, as the intense detective searches for the answer.  However, it’s not always the search for the killer that is intriguing about this series. It’s more the character of Kurt Wallander, as he goes through life trying to find meaning for everything around him.

From a broken marriage, a dysfunctional relationship with his daughter, and a strained relationship with his father, it’s a good challenge for a psychologist.  As for my personal tastes, it holds the keys to great drama – an interesting story line to keep you guessing and a subplot of the main character’s life as it intertwines into his daily routine.

Putting aside the annoying ring tone on his telephone, it never seems to end getting him up at all hours of the night fetching him to the latest gruesome murder.  Set in Sweden with beautiful landscape, the stories are adaptations of novels by a Swedish author, Henning Mankell’s,  An impressive list of books are available on Amazon.

Frankly, I’m not too keen on violent murders. Be forewarned quite a few of these are not a pretty sight. Nevertheless, I found the series deeply intriguing because of the character. There is something about him that makes you empathize with his pain.  You see it, but he never articulates it.  His relationships are estranged, and sadly he realizes he is the way he is because of his vocation.  Not many crime series move me to tears, except one in particular in Season 2, “The Fifth Woman.”  The ending was a powerful climax to catching a serial killer and a breaking point for Wallander that was unprecedented.

Kenneth Branagh’s performance in this series is top notch.  With a long line of awards and other nominations for best actor, it’s quite obvious he makes this series the time worth watching. If you are looking for a great and intense crime series, you should microwave the popcorn and check this one out.

UPDATE 5-2016: Season 4 is now on PBS.  This is the last, as Wallender is about to face his biggest challenge.

Ripper Street (2013 BBC TV Series)

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London – As Dark as it Gets
Starring:  Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn, Adam Rothenberg 
 
I love London.  I’ve been there twice and could go back a thousand more times.  However, in all of my tours, I’ve yet to take the infamous Jack the Ripper walk at night to retrace his steps.  After watching this show, I can safely say, “I’ll pass.”

If you’re not into the dark side of humanity, the reality of the east side of London in the 19th century, along with debauchery, crime, and suffering pass on this one.  It takes a strong constitution to sit through this show and enjoy the stories.

Matthew MacFadyen (once are beloved Mr. Darcy) has dropped the aristocratic garb to become a detective (Inspector Edmund Reid) in the worse crime area of London called Whitechapel.  He plays the role well, along with the other characters in the story such as a detective (Sergeant Bennet Drake), an American doctor (Captain Homer Jackson), along with the brothel mistress and prostitute.

Be forewarned it can get pretty ugly.  If you cannot stomach body parties, mutilation, autopsies, and the like, you probably won’t care for it.  However, as far as grit and substance depicting the dark side of London the show does a fine job.  The episodes are not only about solving the gruesome crimes, but it also contains great subplots with each character.  Inspector Edmund Reid’s situation is quite heartbreaking.

If you’re interested, check out the show website. They have a great blog about the historical facts they use in the episodes, some of which are quite shocking.  OFFICIAL SITE 

Needless to say, the British once again triumph in their ability to bring good drama to the screen.  Though I did find some of the stories deeply disturbing, sometimes you need to go beyond the fairytale aristocratic life of London and cross the river to the horrible reality of poverty and crime.

This show is a real eye-opener between the separation of class in the Victorian era.

UPDATE 5/27/16 – The show had been cancelled and resurected.  I just finished binge watching Season 3 on Netflix, which sums it up as if it’s the last in the series.  However, low and behold, it was brought back to life.  Season 3 is extremely dark and emotional, which I won’t elaborate upon less I give spoilers.  It’s full of surprises that you won’t see coming in characters who have gone to the dark side because of greed.

To The Ends of the Earth (BBC Television Series 2005)

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BBC Television Series
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Sam Neill, Jared Harris, Victoria Hamilton, Others

Let me preface this review by saying I had a keen interest in watching this film. One of my English ancestors (2nd great uncle) left northern England and sailed to Australia in the early 1800’s to make a new life for his family. Through ancestry research, I’ve found new relatives in Australia and New Zealand who are decedents and pictures of the graves of the brave family travelers. So, of course, I had a great interest in what it would be like on a ship sailing to the ends of the earth from top to bottom.

After seeing such stars as Benedict Cumberbatch, Sam Neill, Jared Harris, Victoria Hamilton, in the series, I had hoped to be in for a treat about life on a ship, the English separation of class, and the various interactions of the voyagers seeking out a new life elsewhere. Frankly, as the story unfolded with each of its main themes for the three episodes, I wasn’t as impressed as I had hoped to be in the substance of the series. Nevertheless, life on the ship was an eye-opening experience from Edmund Talbot’s first response upon entering the lower deck, “What is that smell?”

I can only imagine what it was like for passengers throwing up from the tossing and turning, riveted with fear of the possibility of meeting a French war ship during the voyage, or stormy weather that takes water onto the ship and threatens the old converted battleship from sinking to the depths of the ocean. My ancestors were not aristocrats, so as tiny as the little private cabins some were given, I have no doubt they were in the dark holes of the ship shoved in like rats for most of the voyage. Frankly, we think some have it hard on cruise ships that have problems today. Let’s face it, we have no idea of the life of the poor and what they endured while those with titles received the small benefits of status.

Benedict was quite good, I thought, as he acted his voyage of travel and character realization. The long trip and Talbot’s actions to various situations serve to open his eyes to some questionable traits that cause him shame. The film is tag lined, after all, as “An epic journey of self discovery.”

Jared Harris, who I recently saw hang himself in Mad Men, was alive and well as the captain of the ship. He played a great seasoned sailor, as well as those who portrayed the crew. The other characters from a vicar to various individuals have their own side stories, personalities, and quirks.

Unfortunately, for me, I did not think it was a five-star wonder, but more of an eye opening voyage to what individuals endured traveling the stormy seas from the ends of the earth to get to a new world. For me a meaningful story leaves a lasting impression, and the only thing I felt impressed with was life on the ship and not the interactions and occurrences in the lives of the characters themselves.

There are instances of immorality that may shock some, but it’s no different than portrayed in movies of the 21st century. It’s probably surprising because audiences may not wish to believe people were as indecent in that time period. Human nature is human nature regardless of the era.

On top of the rest, I wondered how they filmed the scenes from watching the travelers tilt from one side to the other, while being jarred around on several occasions, or what ship they used for the movie. If it had been me, I would have been barfing with the rest of them. Perhaps the camera men were heaving over the side as well if they were on the open sea.

Now you know the scoop, so if the experience of traveling abroad in such a fashion interests you, it’s worth the watch. It’s currently on Netflix.

Monarch of the Glen (2000 – 2005)

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 The Bankrupt Estate

Stars:  Alastair Mackenzie, Richard Briers, Susan Hampshire
Type:  TV Series – BBC Scotland

I’ve been streaming Monarch of the Glen for a few weeks now and have made my way through Season 4. There are a few more ahead of me, but I’ve peeked online and read what is to come. No surprises await me.

When Season 1 began, I was quickly drawn into the story and the lives of all the players with great interest. Archie, the reluctant Laird, played by cutie Alastair Mackenzie, is a keen personality drawn home to Glenbogle and a position he doesn’t care to hold. The family estate is bankrupt, his father is in denial of the problems, and his mother schemes to keep Archie there. Archie, however, is determined to make it a short visit and hopes to return to his overbearing girlfriend and entrepreneurship as a restaurant owner in London. The family estate contain painful memories of a brother who drowned in the loch.

As the story ensues, he is sucked back into the world of his childhood. His dead ancestors, along with his parents, are determined to make him face up to his responsibilities as the Laird of Glenbogle. Events lead to just that – he abandons his life in London and roots himself back into his heritage. His family and the staff are an eclectic mixture of personalities, as well as family friends and potential loves. Of some interest, one friend of the family and neighbor is played by Julian Fellowes, who later went on to write Downton Abbey.  The first three seasons I thoroughly enjoyed, but as the seasons continued on, I found myself losing interest.

Archie’s first love interest, Katrina, made a great angst-filled love story of two personalities clashing together, who were both too proud to admit their feelings. When they finally do, the actress who plays the part leaves the show, and we are left with Archie once again seeking to adjust.

Lexie, the cook and housemaid, has her eyes on Archie; but, of course, the class separation looms before her as an obstacle. Golly and Duncan are great side characters and employees of the estate.  Hector, Archie’s father, and Molly his mother, are wonderful characters in their own right. The story focuses upon their intent to get the estate out of debt before the bank forecloses and forces them to sell. As they struggle to get out of debt, life goes on with its ups and down, along with humorous and lighthearted episodes that continue to entertain. There are a few characters I grew to dislike, however, especially from the bank!

Unfortunately, I found the series losing steam toward the end. Huge changes in casting and story line occurred, and the blending of the characters you’ve come to love, suddenly unravel. People leave the show, replacements come in, and things change. I think, too, I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed over Archie’s choice of a love interest in Lexie at first. For so long there was no spark between the two, and then suddenly he confesses he’s loved her all along. The emotionless expression on his face gave me the impression he was settling rather than being head-over-heels in love, which is the story I would have preferred to see. I see in the episodes ahead, a little more emotion between the two, though.

In any event, it’s a good and entertaining watch. The Scottish history and heritage is fascinating. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking and makes me want to visit Scotland the next time I cross the pond. It was filmed on location in Scotland around Badenoch and Strathspey and at the Ardverikie House, on the far shore of Loch Laggan.

One other comment, if you’re not used to heavy Scottish brogue, the dialogue is sometimes difficult to understand.

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