Category: Reviews

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.

 

19-2 (Canadian TV 2014-2017)

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19-2.  You may think that’s an odd title for a series.  As a matter of explanation, 19-2 is the number of the police car where two opposite personalities are partnered up at a Montreal Police Department station.  Nick Barron, whose former partner was shot and gravely injured, is paired with a newly transferred Ben Chartier from the north country.  You’ll be doing ride alongs in the back seat of their patrol car as well as the cars of other cops in the station.

I’ll preface this review by saying I was once married to a Detroit Police Officer for three short years back in the early 1970’s.  I am quite familiar with the drama that being a cop can bring into personal relationships, and this television series will immerse you into the same type of drama from rocky relationships, wife beaters, alcoholics, infidelity, and a host of other emotional baggage that comes with the job.

To add to the interest of this particular series, the audience is part of their daily routines in a city that isn’t exactly a cop-loving environment.  They deal with the same community problems of being accused of being too rough, having their calls taped on cell phones, complaints of not doing enough or doing too much, etc.  Frankly, it’s not often they can do anything right except save someone’s life when needed.

The show also, like most police stories, deals with corruption in the department. Station 19 has a mole.  Whenever there’s a raid, police are either in a trap or the criminals are long gone ahead of time.  The story weaves in and out of that storyline, along with the personal lives – one policeman an alcoholic, one going through a divorce, one beats his wife, and love affairs left and right.  Beware this is graphic sexual content throughout the show with minutes of rutting from front to rear and naked bodies (sorry to be so graphic as the content but that’s how it is).  If that turns you off, then don’t turn it on.  After three episodes, I was frankly sick of seeing it.  In addition, the team often beat up each other because they can’t deal with their anger.  Also, the “F” word is used often.

Emotions run high in this series. If you’re curious about day-to-day lives of police on the street, it’s a must-see.  If you have any prejudice against police beforehand, you probably won’t like it at all.  For me, it hit home, having been married to an unfaithful and alcoholic policeman for three years.  I know the stress of the job because it’s up front and quite personal.  Yes, I loved the man in spite of having to iron his uniform shirts. While on duty, he met someone else, and my ride-along in his life ended with a broken heart.

 

Homefront (ITV 2012 Series)

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2 Kernels

Homefront, is another series on Britbox that didn’t keep my attention. I struggled to watch the episodes until the end, which revolves around the lives and melodrama of four army wives in the UK.  Their husbands come and go from Afghanistan throughout the series. Since I enjoyed The Last Post, I was looking forward to this series but it fell flat.

The basics are a young wife who loses her husband and the ensuing inquest into his death overseas as the family members cope with the loss.  A woman engaged to a major who can’t decide whether she’s army-wife material.  Two teenagers acting out.  Then, the usual, drama of infidelity and a wife who can’t make up her mind whether to forgive or kick him to the curb.

In order to pinpoint my disappointment, I guess it lies with the story, the acting, and the unnecessary and somewhat boring scenes that lead to a snail’s pace of a show.  There is really no empathy for any of the characters, even the wife of a dead soldier.

Sorry on this one — don’t have very much redeeming accolades to give for this poor soap opera quality.  Not surprised it wasn’t renewed.  It’s easily forgettable.

Signing off on a short and somewhat sour commentary on Homefront.

Acceptable Risk (TV Series 2017)

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Acceptable Risk, streaming on Acorn TV, is an Irish series that aired in 2017.  It’s a drawn-out mystery, focusing on the life of Sarah Manning (played by Elaine Cassidy). Life is peachy until her husband is murdered, and she eventually discovers she married a man of mystery whose actions led to his death.

The story unfolds to a rather convoluted plot that includes corporate corruption, the Canadians getting involved in the investigation, the United States FBI, the local Dublin detectives, a sister, and unyielding Sarah absolutely determined to find out who killed her husband. Thrown into the mix are her children and their issues as she attempts to unravel the mystery shrouding her husband’s true identity.

The character of Sarah Manning at times comes off as obsessive in her search for truth but if it wasn’t for her tenacity the truth would have never been revealed. However, by the end of the series, Sarah became a prickly character that began to grate on my nerves. Nevertheless, you understand her undying motivation to face danger when others in the investigation have thrown in the towel and given up or been told to leave the matter alone or suffer consequences.

The villain of the story is the corporate head, Hans Werner Hoffman, played very coldly by Morten Suurballe. The man literally gives you the chills as the master of evil and manipulation. The other cast members do a fine job, coming in and out of the picture of the story, but Sarah Manning is the die-hard focus that will drag you to the surprising end of corporate greed and secrecy.

To be honest, I had to split this series out into two. Initially, I became bored and uninterested after the first few episodes because Sarah was getting on my nerves. It sat for a month before I returned to finish the series just so I could write you a review!

Since that’s the case, I wouldn’t call this series a binge-worthy watch but more of a slow and sometimes irritating trip to the end credits. Others, of course, may have a different opinion as it appears the series was an “acceptable risk” to watch.  Whatever floats your remote, folks, is fine with me.

Small Island (Series BBC One 2009)

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Streaming on Britbox and available elsewhere is Small Island, adapted from a novel by Andrea Levy.  It apparently streamed on PBS Masterpiece in 2010, which I obviously missed.  If it hadn’t been for the Period Drama Facebook Group, I probably would have missed this one altogether. I watched the two-part series (90-minute episodes) in its entirety last night, staying up past my bedtime.  It was well worth the lack of sleep.

The story, in the beginning, flashes back and forth between the lives of two young Jamaicans – Hortense (Naomie Harris) and Michael (Ashley Walters) – pre-World War 2. On the other side of the world, it’s Bernard (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Queenie (Ruth Wilson). Each has their own dreams – Hortense of marrying Michael; Michael rebellious in his upbringing; Queenie escaping her childhood and the pig farm; and Bernard a shy man, living with his father.

Eventually, life splits Hortense and Michael.  Queenie marries Bernard to escape returning home to her parents, and then the war breaks out.  War, as you know, throws everyone’s lives in various directions with new challenges.

The main focus of the story is the character of Queenie, who doesn’t have a prejudice bone in her body when it comes to black people.  When Benedict leaves for war and she’s left alone in the house, she offers three airmen housing. One of the young men is the charismatic Michael, a handsome and alluring man in uniform.  Queenie willingly succumbs to his seduction and the next day he’s off on another mission.

As the story continues, she meets Gilbert, also from Jamaica and they form a friendship.  He marries Hortense, and the two of them eventually live in Queenie’s home because Benedict never returned after the war. I could continue the remainder of the series but will spare you spoilers.

The story, of course, shows the bias against the black Jamaicans among the English. Jamaican children under English rule were taught to love the “motherland” and obviously Gilbert did as a child and adult. Unfortunately, when he’s in the country who he believes supports and accepts him as an Englishman too, he finds the stark reality that prejudice against his skin color is no different than it is in the United States.

I enjoyed this two-part series and recommend it to those looking for another pre-WW2 or WW2 storyline that delves into a different aspect of human behavior during those years. It’s well acted and packaged to please.

 

 

 

No Offense (Acorn TV 2018)

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No Offense is a British television police show set in Manchester, UK (love Manchester).  Season One is currently streaming on Acorn TV.  If you love British crime drama, a variety of police types from DI, DC, DS, DCI, PC’s (you’ll just have to look all those acronyms up), you’ll enjoy this one.

DI Vivienne (aka Viv) played by Joanna Scanlan is the team leader. Her personality is a bit prickly, crass, and a go-getter against fighting crime, however, when the prime suspect is close to home, it’s time to burn the evidence and hopes her two close girls on the force are on her side.

The first season revolves around a serial killer who drowns girls with Down Syndrome. It’s the main focus of the show, but each episode carries small off-shoots of other cases. The department is well rounded out with great characters from those in plain clothes to those in uniform, which occasionally get their own screen time about their personal lives. The ending of Season One is a bit of a twister.

What always amazes me is this DI, DC, DS, etc., never carry guns.  It’s only the uniformed police, unlike the USA where everyone is packing something, including the citizens.  Of course, our knife stabbings aren’t as prolific as they are in the UK.

Well, anyway, I’m probably going to find season two because I don’t feel like waiting for Acorn to get around in a year from now loading the next batch. I find that I lose traction waiting for additional seasons to arrive on Acorn, BritBox, Netflix, etc.  How can you really binge a long one with only six to ten episodes?  It ain’t possible.

 

 

 

Lost in Space (Netflix 2018)

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Danger, Will Robinson!  Danger!

Well, if you grew up in the 1960’s, like I did, Lost in Space was the show to watch and many reruns for years afterward.  Though it only lasted three seasons, Netflix has had the brilliant idea of bringing back the premise of the show.  It doesn’t quite look the same in the scheme of the old one, except for a robot that is way more scarier and somewhat cooler.

I sat through all ten episodes for the sole purpose of avoiding my tax return and paying my bills.  (I promise to file tomorrow.)  Instead, I sat watching the show in two days finding it mildly entertaining but was left scratching my head a few times and hitting the fast-forward button in the last three episodes because I wanted to get over it.

All I can say is be prepared for a plot with more holes in it than a slice of Swiss cheese. There are more danger scenes packed into ten episodes with the more impossible scenarios of “getting out of this jam” than you can imagine.  From nailbiting scenes to the ridiculous, you’ll watch the Robinson family escape danger, solve every problem you can possibly image, and save the day while being hounded by one crazy woman who is Dr. Smith.

What works in this series?  Special effects are acceptable.  Robot friend of Will is fine until he starts killing everything, but redeems himself when pre-historical alien creatures are about to eat everyone.  The brave attempts of survivors (more than the Robinson family), to leave a planet they have crashed upon fill up most of the story. Perhaps they could have just made it on this piece of rock, except that apparently, this plant is dying too.  Oh, and don’t think you get the whole story of why the Robinsons and the special people had to leave earth.  I’m still confused on that one too.  Apparently, it was all a ruse.

What doesn’t work, is the plot and unanswered questions.  You’re forced to sit through flashbacks to their former life on earth, and then are hurled back in space with the family.  We have a husband (Toby Stephens plays John Robinson) and wife (Molly Paker who plays Maureen Robinson) who were about to get divorced and are now together escaping planet earth.  We have Will (Maxwell Jenkins, fairly cute kid) who has two sisters (Taylor Russell and Mina Sundwall).

The mother is so intelligent about absolutely everything it’s to the point of being ridiculous.  Definitely, the overreaching dominate female who semi-emasculates her husband emotionally. Their eighteen-year-old daughter who looks like fourteen is a doctor.  Will and his other sister are smart enough to run around the ship and fix just about anything.  On top of it, Will saves the day when it comes to finding fuel.

I can’t really go bonkers over this remake.  Everyone has a near-death experience at least three times in each episode.  A few of the characters are annoying, and Dr. Smith (Parker Posey) and her evil psychopathic or sociopathic or something psychotic personality grates on your nerves.  There is no clear reason why she acts to insanely intent on conniving to ruin every situation or every person around her for self-preservation.  Frankly, I think she just gets her kicks out of being a bitch. She’s like a monkey wrench thrown into each scene to muck things up.

Okay, enough ranting.  Give it a spin if you like space movies.  Just remember by the end of it, you may be just as lost as the Robinsons in space.

 

Delicious (Acorn TV 2016-17)

delcious Season 1 – 3 Stars

Season 2 – 1 Star

Meet the dysfunctional family whose central character Leo played by Iain Glen. He is having an affair with his first wife, Gina, played by Dawn French. Twenty years earlier, he left her for a younger woman named Sam, played by Emilia Fox. At one time he and Gina owned a hotel, were both celebrated chefs.  He now runs that hotel with Sam.

Leo makes a mess of his life when his current wife discovers he’s shagging his first wife on the side.  When he finally decides to ask for forgiveness and confess his love to his second wife, he ups and dies by accidentally taking too much heart medication.  He leaves behind a bankrupt estate, debts, children that no one knows about, and a convoluted mess of relationships.  If that weren’t bad enough, Gina, his first wife has been holding onto a secret of her own that her mentally disturbed daughter, Teresa, is unaware exists.

The tale waffles between the odd and often strained relationship of Gina and Sam who attempted to keep the hotel afloat after Leo’s passing. They have their own secret buried in the backyard that will eventually come to haunt them. Joe and Sam have an 18-year-old son named Michael who has a nearly incestuous relationship with his supposed half-sister. It’s another storyline that plays out to a surprising conclusion.  Among the two seasons an old lover returns, Gina’s father shows up who she hates, the police are investigating money laundering, and another secret in the closet that Leo has held quiet for twenty years emerges.

Season one was mildly entertaining in the fact that dead Leo narrates the story and occasionally appears to his daughter and Gina.  However, when season two rolls around, the storyline crashes into the ridiculous, making me wonder what hallucinations the writer entertained  The ending makes absolutely no sense, and if it were a book, I probably would have thrown it against the wall.  Just when things are all coming together for the good of everyone involved, Gina goes off the deep end with no rational reason for her behavior whatsoever. By the end, her character and the audience’s relationship with her turns from tolerable to absolute hatred.

If you’re curious, give it a watch only if nonsensical endings do not get the best of you.

‘Maigret’ marks a welcome return from Rowan Atkinson

Highly recommend!  Just watched the first episode.  Check it out on BritBox.

Rowan Atkinson, a.k.a. Mr. Bean, returns as French police detective Jules Maigret.

Source: ‘Maigret’ marks a welcome return from Rowan Atkinson

The Jury (ITV 2002 & 2011)

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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.

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