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.

Miss Potter (2006)

4 Kernels

Stars: Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor

I am probably the very last person who has ever been interested in children’s books.  Amazon Instant Video provided something to watch on an empty Saturday night, and I stumbled across this film about Beatrix Potter.  Of course, the name “Peter Rabbit” is recognized worldwide, but I knew nothing about the author behind the successful children’s stories.  It’s apparent that I’ve missed much in the area of children’s literature!

Being 32 and single in 1902 wins her the name of “spinster,” until Beatrix meets the man she falls in love with.  Played by Ewan McGregor, Norman Warne, is her first love who is in the family publishing business and works closely with her on her various releases.  They become engaged, but her family vehemently forbids the match due to the usual class system between the upper class and working tradesmen.  Nevertheless, Beatrix by now has become a self-supporting, rich woman from her royalties and spurns her parents’ advice.  Unfortunately, her beau sadly passes away before they can marry.

The story continues with her bid for freedom from her parents’ domination, and she relocates to the Lake District where she buys a farm, and neighboring farms, to keep them protected from development.  Another love interest enters her life, and once again she finally finds happiness as she continues to pen her children stories throughout the remainder of her life.

Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable film, with a sprinkle of fantasy.  The filmmaker allows her endearing animal characters to come alive on her pages  as she draws them.  She calls them her “friends” who are the only ones who really know and understand Beatrix Potter.  Though it seems odd that an artist/author should see her characters come to life on a page, I can attest from the muddled mind of my own stories, characters do tend to have a life of their own.

My only complaint was the casting of Beatrix. As much as I love Renee Zellweger in other roles, she makes a terrible English woman…no offense Renee.  She is quite toned down and a bit dowdy in appearance, but she has a horrible habit of facial expressions that look just plain painful and unnatural.  Picture a face after eating a sour pickle and that’s Renee as Miss Potter. As far as the other performers, I had no qualms, but Renee really did nothing for me in the role.  It appears, though, that Renee was also one of the Executive Producers of the film, which probably is why she played the part that should have been given to another.

All in all it was entertaining, informative, and cute.  As an author myself, I’m always intrigued about stories of authors and the creative gifts and expressions that guide their lives.

If you’re curious about the creator of Peter the Rabbit, it’s worth the watch. The scenery isn’t bad either.  For more detailed information about the life and writings of Beatrix Potter, visit the Peter Rabbit website.

Murder in Suburbia (2004-2005)

4 Kernels
British TV (2004-2005, 12 Episodes)
Stars:  Lisa Faulkner, Caroline Catz, and Jeremy Sheffield

Anything that puts a smile on my face and gives me a good laugh once in a while deserves four kernels. Though it seems this two-season British TV series was cancelled and doesn’t have that many rave reviews, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed the Netflix streaming of Murder in Suburbia. Hey, as long as I’m entertained, I don’t care what the critics say.

Murder in Suburbia is about two detectives, DS Emma Scribbins (played by Lisa Faulkner) and DI Kate Ashurst (played your favorite Dr. Martin’s Caroline Catz), who are partners in the fight against murderous crimes.  Though the murder plots are par for the course, the bantering between Emma an Kate is far worth the watch. They complain about being single, they both have a crush on their boss – more so with Kate, and the boss is always on the edge of showing his interest in them as well.  Of course, it’s the work place and one must not cross the line.

There are subplots to each episode of murder, mostly made up of their dating escapades and looking for the right man.  Kate seems to always run off at the mouth at the wrong time in front of DCI Sullivan (Jeremy Sheffield), her boss. In one particular funny episode, she complains about needing sex and wouldn’t mind paying 500 pounds for a male prostitute.  After she yells that to Scribbins as she’s about to open the door to her apartment, she discovers her boss is on the other side.

Most of the encounters are humorous, but the last episode was frankly priceless.  I may watch that one again.  It’s too bad it got cancelled, because I would have loved to seen the story continue between Kate and Sullivan.

Nevertheless, each to their own. If you’re into a little humorous bantering between two women on the job, cold-blooded murders (most of which I got the who-done-it wrong), you might enjoy this lighthearted murder in the suburbs of the United Kingdom.

British TV…what can I say…priceless.

Any Human Heart (2010 Masterpiece Classic)

3 Kernels

Cast:  Sam Claflin, Matthew Macfadyen, Jim Broadbent

Another night surfing for something to watch brought me to this Masterpiece Classic on Netflix consisting of four episodes.  Any Human Heart is based on a novel written by William Boyd, which I have not read.  As far as how close the Masterpiece adaptation is to the written work, I have no idea.

It’s frankly an emotional journey about one man – Logan Mountstuart from his coming of age to his death.  The movie starts on his pursuit to lose his virginity, along with his college friends that he remains fairly close to throughout life.  Of course, like all young men, virginity is lost, and the boy grows into a man.  Warning: There are some very graphic sexual scenes that may offend.  They are boys in rut.

The story follows his pursuit to become a novelist, for which he accomplishes the writing of one book and never seems to come to a place of finishing another.  Life takes him through a loveless marriage, an affair with his one true love, his stint as a British naval intelligence officer during WWII, his rubbing elbows with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Edward VIII and his wife Wallis Simpson, and finally ending up a recruited, but clueless revolutionary.  Portions of his life are lived in opulent wealth, while toward the end of life he’s eating dog food to survive.

There are three actors who play Logan from young man to old – Sam Claflin, Matthew Macfadyen, Jim Broadbent.  I enjoyed Matthew fairly well, but I cannot say it was his best performance.  Logan, as a character, is interesting enough. He lives with the philosophy of his father, that life is merely about luck.  It’s either good luck or back luck.  There isn’t a God.  There’s only luck, and you hear that phrase until you’re tired of hearing that phrase.  The greatest heartache of his life revolves around his wife, daughter, and unborn child he loses during the war.  It’s a loss he never truly recovers from the remainder of his days.

Any Human Heart isn’t the best of series that I’ve watched.  It’s mildly engaging and a thoughtful look at the meaning of life from birth to death.  By the end you’re beginning to weigh the good and bad luck in your own life.  One part of the movie I did enjoy was the multiple times Logan sat down, rolled a piece of paper into the typewriter, and sat there waiting for his next book to come out of him.  He had writer’s block that lasted for a lifetime and a blank page that never got filled.

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