Category: British ITV

Kris Marshall on the clamour for follow-up to Jane Austen drama

ITV’s Sanditon finished last month with a broken-hearted heroine and many loose ends. But actor Kris Marshall has confirmed that he and the rest of the cast are on call to start filming a new series.

Source: Kris Marshall on the clamour for follow-up to Jane Austen drama

The Jury (ITV 2002 & 2011)

Jury4 Kernels

There 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.

Grantchester (2014-Present ITV)

grantchester24 Kernels

Grantchester – the show with a hot vicar.  Are vicar’s allowed to be hot?  Are they allowed to drink too much, enjoy a good smoke, and love a married woman? Do they have a propensity for solving crime?

Better looking any day than Miss Marple, comes Sidney Chambers, played by the dreamy James Norton.  Probably no one during Season 1 of Grantchester drooled over him as much as they have after War & Peace.  The ladies are clamoring to see more of this handsome Brit with a dreamy voice (if he’s not playing the psychopath in Happy Valley). So flock to Season 2 now on Masterpiece Theater (or Theatre, depending on which side of the pond you come from).

The scene is set in the 1950’s in Cambridgeshire village, which is apparently the era where Midwife, A Place to Call Home, Brooklyn, and a few other shows are reviving the times. James Norton plays the heartbroken man, whose love of his life married someone else. He carries the unrequited love torch throughout the episodes unable to give her up completely. As hard as his friend tries at matchmaking, he just can’t seem to move on.

Of course, Morven Christie as Amanda Kendall doesn’t help matters either. Having married the man her daddy preferred (higher classed gentry), she’s not acting very happy. Nevertheless, even though the lady’s husband just punched Sidney in the nose and told him to stay away from his wife, he doesn’t seem to get the point he’s stepping across boundaries.  Give it a rest Sidney.  Plenty of other women are willing to fall at your feet and wash your clergy robes.

The vicar, of course, has another relationship going on besides his congregation.  He is sleuth friends with Detective Inspector Geordie Keating played by Robson Green. Though he thinks that Sidney should keep his nose out of the business of police work, he ends up tolerating his interference while solving the latest crime.  The Grantchester Mysteries are based on stories written by James Runcie.

Even though the eye candy for the ladies with Mr. Norton exists, I do not find the murder and crime portion of it as engaging as other British television shows. It’s lacking the tension, dark mystery, and danger I prefer. There is always a short sermon in there somewhere for the small congregation of Sidney’s church (no revival going on here), but otherwise, the tales of crime and woe are so-so.  I’ve been spoiled by intense story  lines elsewhere, but I guess in 1950 crime wasn’t as exciting in Britain.

Nevertheless, it fills the void on Sunday nights.  Let’s hope that Sidney falls in love with someone and we get a little heat rather than remorse brewing each episode.  It could liven things up.

Will the vicar eventually fornicate?  Heaven help us. So far he’s good at pushing women up against a brick wall during a passionate kiss.  There may be redemption for this man after all.

P.S. It appears that Grantchester has been renewed for Season 3.

Prime Suspect (1991 – 2006)

4 Kernels

Intense British Drama

British Television (1991 – 2006)

Stars:  Helen Mirren
BAFTA TV Awards & Emmy Awards

British television once again sucks me into its clutches and won’t let me go an entire weekend on Netflix.  I’ve seen so many murder mysteries lately, I’m going to start writing my own one of these days.  Enter Prime Suspect – a British ITV television program that aired intermittently from 1991 – 2006.  It revolves around Jane Tennison, a strong-willed police detective that always gets her man.

Jane is smart as a whip, emotionally cut off in relationships, married to her job, drinks a bit too much, fights against discrimination as a woman in the workforce, and barks orders at men.  Her character is an interesting mix of emotions, and Helen Mirren is an award-winning actress who does well in keeping you interested.  Jane will not rest until she solves a case, and has been reprimanded, suspended, taken off the cases, and put back on almost every episode because of her unorthodox tactics that breaks every rule in the book.  Just when you think she’s going to get fired once and for all, she solves the murder and becomes the hero vindicating herself in front of her male counterparts.

The stories in Prime Suspect are very intense.  I’ll admit I was a bit emotionally drained after a few of them, but found myself glued to my green recliner.  The murders deal with real issues in areas that you don’t necessary wish to know about on the dark side of London.  Poverty, pimping, prostitutes, homelessness, transvestites, police corruption, pedophiles, childhood sexual abuse, and war criminals just to name a few topics.  If you’re sensitive, this is not the show for you.  Some episodes are disturbing in content and also visually as you look at the dead victims and become intimately acquainted with how they were murdered.

After saying all that, you probably wonder why I didn’t give it a five kernel rating.  As I stated, I found the show intense, sometimes disturbing, and the episodes a bit overly long.  Some story lines drag into two parts, and it’s just a time-consuming show to watch.  Be forewarned.  Also, as much as I loved Mirren in the role, she did such a great job that by the end, I was getting a little tired of Jane’s character. A few times I wanted to slap her face over her insubordination toward her peers. You’d think after years on the force, she’d learn a little.  Jane Tennison never does, but her salvation is that her character is so tenacious, she gets the murderer one way or the other.

Other than that, it’s a good show, if you like intense drama.  The British get to swear much more on television that our US counterparts, so be prepared for some pretty surprising language.  I really need to stop watching so much murder.  It’s taking it’s toll.  Nevertheless, I love British television because everything they do is top-notch.  They’ve known how to tell compelling stories from Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, and others.  It’s what they’re made of, and I rely much on my English ancestry to place drama in my own work.

The Forsyte Saga (2002-03)

4 Kernels

(2002-03) – Television Series – ITV
 Damian Lewis Actor

Since I’m in the midst of writing my own English saga of sorts, I usually get sucked into these DVD sets for hours on end drowning myself in period English dramas. The Forsyte Saga makes it to the top of my list as an enjoyable treat of English life.

I’m often fascinated over how the rich lived in the Victorian age. My English family made bricks, while families like these lived lives of luxury filled with all sorts of soap opera antics.

The Forsyte Saga is a television adaptation of John Galsworthy three novels, which apparently has been filmed in other adaptations throughout the years. This particular version was done by Granada Television for the ITV network, however, some complained it took too many liberties from the original work.  It was later shown on Masterpiece Theater.

Nevertheless, stories like these are up my alley, even if I haven’t read the original. I will confess at the ending of the entire saga, I felt upset and left hanging, so I downloaded the original work on Kindle to see if it really did end that way.  And yes, to my chagrin, it did.  Frankly, it would be a hell of a story to pick up and write a sequel . . . hum.

Soames, played by Damien Lewis (who by the way just won an Emmy for his portrayal in Homeland in 2012) is the central character of the story and family.  My heart went out to the proper, stout Englishman who adored a woman, wanted to be loved in return, and desired children. His passion, of course, borders on obsession, but you can’t help but feel sorry for the poor guy, who never found a woman to love him in life. Yes, he was a rich snob, but even snobs need love once in a while.

As far as Irene, Soames first wife and obsession, I felt absolutely no sympathy for that woman whatsoever. Perhaps my heart was a cold as the one she portrayed with little remorse over the hurt she caused others in her life. She was an interesting character who grated upon me throughout the series, which good characters are supposed to do!

As far as the remaining hours, they were an interesting treat of English life and the gorgeous dresses and costumes, dysfunctional family members, scandals, and the rest of the lot that makes up a soap opera atmosphere. No matter what English movie I watch, the birds are always chirping in the background as if life just goes merrily along.

The only problem I did have with the saga itself, were the abrupt jumps in time period, i.e. from five years, six years, and twelve, with not one gray hair eventually making it to anyone’s head! They all seemed to be ageless. A little more realism in that arena would have been better. Otherwise, it’s an enjoyable series for you English loving blokes.

Foyle’s War (2002 to Present)

5 Kernels
Stars: Michael Kitchen, Honeysuckle Weeks, Anthony Howell, and Julian Overden

 Type: ITV Series (22 episodes to date)

 You’ll discover a lot about who I am as a person as my reviews continue and what makes me tick. Foyle’s War, believe it or not, is a good example. I don’t always watch the “chick flick” fluff. There are times that I watch the nitty-gritty of life’s realities that are filled with struggle and often heartache.

I think my fascination with this series is due to my background. My father fought in World War II. He was in the Army Corps of Engineers, and though he was stationed in the Pacific, rather than in Europe, I know that World War II had a huge influence upon my parent’s life. My mother kissed her husband goodbye when she was pregnant with my brother, and four years later he returned, thankfully, alive. During those years, my mother worked in a radio factory, and life was tough for everyone. My parent’s generation were people that knew about sacrifice, unlike the younger generation of today, who have no idea about ration cards for food, gas masks, bombs falling upon their heads, blackouts, death, and destruction in their own backyard.

Foyle’s War is an interesting look into war in Britain from the very beginning to the end, and a few series beyond. It’s not only a murder mystery series, it’s a series about how the war affected everyone in England, from the civilian to the soldier, pilot, or sailor.

Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle (played by Michael Kitchen) is the main focus. He’s a man of honor, moral absolutes, and integrity, who is faced with not only the war in Britain, but the war against criminals during a time of war. It’s true that hardship can bring out the best in the human race, but it can also bring out the despicable of the human race. Foyle, as you soon learn in the series, is sometimes faced with the question of whether to take the high road in prosecuting the criminal, or turning a blind eye for the sake of the war effort.

From the early onset of the series, the difficulties and heartaches of war are clearly focused upon and not glossed over. The episodes are wonderfully crafted, as well as the interwoven stories of a different kind of war — one of a personal nature where individuals kill a single human not for king and country, but for personal gain, greed, and hatred.

Foyle is the ultimate man with the stiff upper lip mentality. He says very little, you can be assured, unless it’s necessary to say. The remainder of the time he ponders, deducts, and keeps a tight lip on his own emotions, though his facial expressions and body language reveal his every thought. When it’s time to reveal the killer, he pulls no punches and spews out the facts and accusations with clarity and often laced with a tad of sarcasm.

The series also focuses upon his son Andrew (handsomely played by Julian Overden, who just released an album by the way); Samantha Weeks aka Sam, who is Foyle’s driver (played by the cute Honeysuckle Weeks); and his side-kick detective Paul Milner (played by Anthony Howell). Of course, like any other series, there are side plots that involve everyone’s life.

I’m happy to see that Foyle’s War is scheduled to release three more episodes in 2013, which are after-the-war, of course. Foyle at the end of the last episode retires, but I think he has unfinished business to attend to in America.

Though this isn’t your typical female watch, if you like murder mysteries, this series could be for you. I know I absolutely loved it, and it convinces me once again that the British know how to do great television tastefully, even with difficult subjects.

Highly recommended and entertaining series. I so love British TV.

Favorite Line: (Season IV – “Invasion”) The US Army Captain says to Foyle (Paraphrased), “It’s you British that are always murdering each other.”

Greatest Disappointment: Andrew and Sam don’t get married. :sniff:

 

Bramwell (1995-1998)

4 Kernels
The Victorian Way of Life

Stars: Jemma Redgrave and David Calder

Type: British ITV Four Seasons (28 episodes)

Let’s get something out of the way. I love British TV. Seventy percent of what I’ll review has been filmed by the English. It fascinates me. They are great storytellers. Drama is their forte, as well as comedy–hands down.

Twenty-eight episodes later, you’ll be well educated in the Victorian way of life if you tune into Bramwell. I watched it originally on Netflix, but as you know stories come and go there. However, the DVD’s are available on Amazon.

The series is named after its main character, Dr. Eleanor Bramwell, a woman physician in 1895. Her father is a doctor, as well, and his daughter has decided to follow in her father’s footsteps. However, in 1895, women physicians struggled to be taken seriously by their male peers in the same profession. The series begins in a hospital, where after a heated argument with physician in charge, Eleanor embarks on opening a thrift medical center to treat the poor with the help of a financial supporter. Her father is appalled over the idea.

It’s here in this setting that the series embarks upon a variety of stories revolving around her patients and staff, interspersed with her home and social life in an upper-class environment. The medical cases are crude, such as treating women thought to be too hysterical by removing their ovaries to “calm them down,” to the early methods of surgery without the wearing of masks and sterile conditions. It’s a wonder anyone lived, frankly, through half the medical procedures. Nevertheless, it’s a time of learning and knowledge for the medical profession, even if they are still in the dark ages about some practices.


Overall the series is wonderful portrayal of Victorian life, manners, courtship, class differences, evolution of medical knowledge, and a woman’s place in society. Eleanor Bramwell is a feisty woman, who at times I wish I could knock up side the head. Her character is stubborn, independent, and bull-headed. However, she was born in a time when women were spreading their wings and demanding better treatment. Eleanor, however, is so opinionated in her vie for change, that she thinks she is always right – about everything. On the other hand, her treatment of the poor and attitude toward the sick is her redeeming quality.

Every other character that came and went throughout seasons one through three, were great additions to the story. Eleanor is unmarried, but has a main love interest in her life, another doctor. The man is frankly a scoundrel, as far as I am concerned. Even in all of her self-professed intelligence, Eleanor didn’t have an ounce of sense when it came to men.

Seasons one through three are wonderful. Season four falls flat on its face. Many of the main characters are gone, including her father. My suggestion is skip four, and save yourself the pain. It sorely lacks the brilliance of the first three. Read a synopsis instead to satisfy your curiosity.

If you like the Victorian Era, this is the series for you.

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