Our Girl (BBC 2014-2018)

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Now streaming on Britbox is Our Girl, a British military series that is now in Season 3 in the UK.  Seasons 1 and 2 are now on Britbox, and I must say it’s pretty good.  I’m not much for military dramas, but taking this journey is worth the time.

The two-hour pilot sets the background for the heroine’s life before joining the army.  Lacey Turner plays Molly Dawes, a young woman from a dysfunctional family situation in London.  Pressured and unhappy about her home life that is a dead-end scenario, and the fact that she has no idea what to do with her life, she glances across the street at a recruiting station.  From the time she walks through the door, the pilot takes you through her application, her acceptance, her boot camp experience, and her eventual career as a medic in the British army.  Her family turns her back on her because of her decision, but she finds a place she belongs and perseveres.

I’ve only watched five episodes so far, but am impressed with the storyline. As Molly is deployed to Afganistan, it’s an interesting look into the lives of the young men and those who lead them.  Molly is far outnumbered and the only female at her post. Of course, she needs to earn the respect from the male soldiers and commanding officer but eventually does so after she saves one of their own.

I’m looking forward to continuing the series.  If you have BritBox, check it out.


Shetland (BBC Scotland TV Series 2013-Present)

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You’ve heard of Shetland ponies and sheep dogs– now comes a Shetland BBC Scotland TV series.

Once again, the BBC takes me on a trip to places I’ll never visit but find hauntingly beautiful under cold gray skies in the way-up-northern hemisphere. Oh, how I wish I could live there where the madness of the world slips away to a sleepy village with a few murders sprinkled here and there among the back-road and coastal communities.

Shetland is currently streaming on Netflix and is another fine BBC who-done-it drama.  Once you get used to those heavy Scottish accents, the first two episodes will pull you into another world.  Of course, I run off and must Google everything, to see it on the map and read about the history, but I won’t bore you here on an entertainment review blog.  To my disappointment, the series is filmed in mainland Scotland that is somewhat like the Shetland Islands, and only a few scenes have included Lerick. Be prepared to watch the ferry cross the waters back and forth between island locations.

Nevertheless, the first two episodes is an intriguing story of a murdered elderly lady, who had a love affair in her youth with the Norwegian leader of the Shetland Bus. You’ll have to tune in to figure out what that period of World War II was all about.

In addition to that tidbit, the first two episodes also give you the experience of watching the Up Helly Aa fire festival of marching men in Roman outfits and a Viking long ship being burned by torches.  It’s worth watching just to see the last few scenes of torches being tossed on the ship and flames flying everywhere.

Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez (tune into the third episode to find out why he has a Spanish surname), played by Douglas Henshall, is the inspector traveling back and forth on a ferry with his rugged SUV to travel the highways in the middle of nowhere.  Much like series Vera or Hinterland, he traipses about the barren landscape, solving murders among the community.  Apparently, the series is based on novels by Ann Cleeves (not to be confused with Anne of Cleves, the fourth wife of Henry VIII – just thought I’d throw that out there).  Douglas Henshall apparently won the best actor BAFTA award for 2016.

The series started in 2013 and is scheduled for more episodes to be released in 2017.  If you’re looking for another British mystery crime show, I highly recommend Shetland to add to your binge list.  I haven’t seen any Shetland ponies or dogs yet, but here’s hoping.

The Moonstone (2016 BBC TV)

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Ah, BritBox!  My second series to binge upon was The Moonstone, which is a five episode drama based on a  detective novel by Wilkie Collins written in 1868.  This tale is a classic who-done-it that will keep you guessing until you find out who-did-it.

The moonstone is actually a yellow diamond that has been stolen by a corrupt British officer while in India. The stone is revered, precious, and outrageously big.  When he dies, he bequeaths the stone to Rachel, his niece. Unfortunately, with that gift comes problems, greed, and danger.

Upon her eighteenth birthday party, Franklin Blake, Rachel’s cousin, has been entrusted to give her the stone now that she is of age. Once again we are faced with cousins romantically entangled with one another in the series as two vie for Rachel’s affections. She has a large birthday party celebration where everyone in attendance gets to see the fabulous diamond and handle it. Insistent that she merely keep it in a drawer in a cabinet in her room overnight, she discovers in the morning that it has been stolen.

The story is an interesting premises where the audience is brought along to remember the occurrences of that evening as reflected upon a year later. Franklin returns to England, hoping to win back Rachel’s heart, but he knows he must find the stone in order to do so. An interesting group of characters are all suspects, including Rachel, and the whereabouts of the stone and its current location remains a mystery. Even traveling Indian Hindu priests wanting to return the stone to India are suspects in the missing stone.

Of course, we are back in the Victorian era of cousins falling in love with cousins, and this time Rachel has two quite dashingly handsome men wanting her hand in marriage. If anything, the story kept me intrigued trying to figure out who stole the diamond, and the end has a few surprising twists and turns as the mystery is solved.

Apparently this is the second time this series has hit television, with Greg Wise being Edward Blake in an earlier BBC version in 1997. There is even another movie version in 1934, which is an American mystery film.  Who knew?  Apparently, not me because I’ve never heard of this gem (no pun intended) until I subscribed to BritBox.

Okay, I’m off my soap box.  It’s worth the watch.

Waking the Dead (2000-2011 BBC Television)

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Stars: Trevor Eve, Sue Johnston,Will Johnson, Claire Goose, and others

Let’s clarify this title early on – it’s not about Zombies.  Waking the Dead  is a BBC series that focuses on a cold case murder squad. They probably could have chosen a better title, because I passed over this show multiple times after seeing the word “dead” and thinking “waking” was “walking.” (That was before I got my new glasses.)

Anyway, I just finished five seasons, but apparently there are many more not yet on NetFlix. If you like British detective programs and love hearing, “I’m DCI…” whoever, you’ll probably get into this one too. The British titles are so much cooler…Detective Chief Inspector.

It focuses around Detective Boyd, who runs the show, played by Trevor Eve (not bad looking for a man his age). Dr. Grace Foley, played by Sue Johnston, is always analyzing everyone as the profiler of killers and her coworkers. Like so many other shows, this one reminds me not to get emotionally involved with the actors and certain characters.

Claire Goose, who plays one of the detectives, leaves the show (via a horrific on-screen death), which totally changes the flavor of the team after her departure. Coupled with a change in the forensic team at the same time, it’s a shocker. When that happens, I grieve the loss and often find myself loosing a tad bit of interest trying to get into the replacements who I often don’t like as well. It was no different in this case either, but it’s like work — people come and go all the time.

After watching so many British detective police shows, this one carries the usual underlying themes in the series that I am finding occur over and over.

  • The main detective is a bit wonky with either work or personal problems. They are either emotionally detached from others, unable to make close relationships, have some fault like yelling, drinking, or whatever.
  • The top guy always is a little rebellious refusing to obey orders, and there is usually someone on the force that is out to get them in the upper echelons.
  • Though the team works well together, there is always some undermining strife and rivalry in the ranks.
  • Some of the crime stories can be downright sick, especially upon the discovery of a dead body and how gruesomely the poor victim had been killed. The newer shows go for the shock factor more than the mystery, and I wish they would spare me the gory details.

Of course, these stories always leave me with unanswered questions:

  • Is forensic science that advance it figures out everything?
  • Do DCI’s ever carry guns?
  • How much tea do they drink on the job and what kind?
  • When they are in the pub sloshing down the ale, are they on duty or off?
I may never know the answer to these perplexing questions, however, it doesn’t stop me from searching for the next BBC crime show.  As you can see, I’ve watched a few.  Do I have favorites? I am a bit partial to the older shows with less gore and murders of only stabbings, strangulation, and poison, which occur at night while the peacocks are screeching in the background. The more complicated the lead detective, the better. These are some of my favorites:

  • Midsommer Murders
  • Detective Lewis
  • Prime Suspect
  • Wallender
  • Murder in Suburbia
So that about sums it up. BBC or ITV better keep cranking these series out, or I’m going to be disappointed.

It’s time for an Earl Grey.

"The Paradise" (BBC TV Services 2012 – 2013)

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Stars:  Joanna Vanderham, Emun Elliott, Stephen Wight, Elaine Cassidy

If you didn’t find what you were shopping for at Selfridges, there is another store in town – The Paradise.  It seems audiences are fascinated with shopping habits in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Now streaming on NetFlix, you can watch or re-watch the eight episodes to get ready for season two, which has already aired in the U.K. (I’m assuming it’s coming to the U.S.)

Unfortunately, it wasn’t renewed for a third season, no doubt because of the tough competition from Mr. Selfridge. After reading the synopsis and spoilers for Season 2, it sounds like the story came to a slow death in viewer numbers.

Not as grand as the other store on PBS, The Paradise is owned by the charismatic Moray (odd name). Widowed, mysterious, and an ambitious businessman, he quickly swoops you into the season. Engaged to the very snobbish  Katherine Glendenning (where do they come up with these names?), who has apparently lowered her aristocrat standards and fallen in love with a less than acceptable man in daddy’s eyes, Lord Glendenning.  Nevertheless, she wants what she wants, and the Lady will not be denied her handsome businessman as a husband.  In fact, as the series progresses, she is almost to the point of delusion on that matter.

Of course, like any other love triangle, one must have a third in the mix – introduce Denise.  She’s a pretty girl from the country, whose poor uncle lives across the street from The Paradise scraping out a meager living from dressmaking.  When she shows up on his doorstep, she discovers that he is unable to support her arrival. She walks across the street and is hired in the lady’s garment section.  Young and impressionable, she quickly falls for the dark and handsome Moray.  Her affections grow, and he reciprocates, even though engaged to Lady Katherine.

It’s obvious Moray is only using Katherine for the connections and money that daddy can bring. There isn’t an ounce of romance or spark of attraction.  In fact, he appears to be in anguish when in her presence. At the end of season one, he faces the difficult decision whether to go ahead with the wedding or not.  Of course, there are all sorts of small sub-plots with the characters, that weave in and out of the main storyline.

As far as value, I didn’t find it as engaging as Mr. Selfridge.  Moray doesn’t come across as the gregarious lover of life like Harry, played by Jeremy Piven.  In contrast, the owner of The Paradise has an intense and dark character, with a questionable past regarding his deceased wife. The other characters don’t draw you into their lives with that much interest either, compared to other shows. I just didn’t find the series as charming as I hoped, but still enjoyed the fashionable ladies of the day and their hats.