by Kathleen Costa
From Great Britain to Canada and then Down Under, Acorn-TV offers engaging, sometimes quirky, mysteries, comedies, dramas, documentaries…something for every Anglophile’s tastes. I’ve been totally entertained over the past year since joining Acorn-TV. My membership fee easily fit my budget and well worth it with a range of entertainment from decades past like Pie in the Sky, Where the Heart Is, and Hamish MacBeth to contemporary programs like Striking Out, No Offense, and Mystery Road. I cringe, I cry, I giggle…I am a fan for life!
Agatha Raisin Earns 5/5 Clever Cotswold Crimestoppers!
My favorite dramady (more comedy than drama), Agatha Raisin, returned in November as the first sole commission by Acorn-TV. Based on M.C Beaton’s marvelous stories, of which I’ve also become a fan, the three telemovies have been extended to 90-minutes providing a more detailed look into the characters’ personalities and relationships along with a better jaunt around the Cotswolds, more predicaments to navigate, and expanding the investigative focus. I am very pleased that the original cast has returned led by favorite Ashley Jensen (also in Acorn-TV’s Love, Lies, and Records) smartly dressed with her four-inch heels and matching designer bag…it was well worth the wait!
Please say there’s more than three! Premiering with Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham (Trailer on YouTube (1:00)) fans get some answers to the question, “What happened in Cyprus?” After Agatha’s wedding disaster at the end of season one, she returns unattached with a hair emergency and desperately in need of some attention, but it’s her sleuthing skills that are a “cut above the rest” when the handsome Evesham hairdresser is murdered. In December, Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam aired with Agatha trekking off to a rural retreat to write, will try to write, her detective novel. However, she runs afoul of the local fairy legends, limited cell reception, pins in an effigy, and murder! Her friends come to her aide, but fail in their efforts to hide the fact that James, her ex, is set to return to Carsely. Last up in January? Agatha Raisin and the Curious Curate is set to air. Curious about what? What will happen when James returns? Who is set to be the next Cotswold victim? More importantly, I’m “curious” and hopeful that season two’s popularity will mean more to come!
Murdoch Mysteries Earns 5/5 Clever Constable Conundrums!
The “Deadly” Dozen! Murdoch Mysteries returns for a twelfth season with more drama, comic relief, and a mid-season cliffhanger based on novels by Maureen Jennings set in 1900s Toronto. The original cast has returned with Detective Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) and Dr. Ogden (Hélène Joy) taking up a new residence, Chief Inspector Brackenreid is still heading up Station Four, Constable Crabtree continuing to look for love in all the wrong, or unsuccessful, places, Constable Higgins clumsily navigating a more privileged life, and Dr. Rebecca James adeptly taking a more active role in the coroner’s office. The mysteries continue to be engaging, thought-provoking, entertaining, and in some ways, a veiled attempt to address issues from current headlines. I always look forward to a fun appearance of an historical figure like Frank Lloyd Wright and Elizabeth Arden. These plot lines, excellent writing, and wonderful, well-developed characters again make Murdoch Mysteries #12 a big hit worldwide!
The first half of the season (nine episodes) is ready to air incorporating many engaging and fascinating plot lines. Addressed in an excellent and most thought-proving episode, Murdoch Without Borders, the 1906 Immigration Act led to the deportation of mostly Greek criminal, unemployed, and sick migrants. Dr. Ogden butts heads with her superiors over denying medical care to migrants, and a murder is conveniently linked to one of the migrants. The issue is exacerbated by xenophobic articles by a local tabloid reporter interestingly and more accurately labeled “fabricated news.” Other episodes raised with more contemporary issues like racism and gender equality. Dr. Rebecca James attempts to be the fully accredited Coroner and mixed race relationships are frowned upon. Not all drama, the comic relief episode “Sir. Sir? Sir!!!” is a quirky nod to 50s science fiction and the body-snatchers. The ninth episode is the mid-season cliffhanger, but it’s not “Is he dead?” mystery; someone may have to permanently live in the “doghouse.”
ALERT! Acorn-TV also has the three original feature-length Murdoch Mysteries telemovies aired in 2004-2005 also based on Maureen Jennings novels of the same name. Detective William Murdoch is portrayed by Peter Outerbridge who in 2015 guest starred in the television series episode “Shipwreck” as Father Keegan. The supporting cast is recognizable with Colm Meaney (Star Trek The Next Generation) as Inspector Brackenreid and Kelley Hayes (The Durrells) as Dr. Julia Ogden. Different vibe with this cast, but well worth watching!
Brokenwood Mysteries Earns 5/5 Clever Kiwi Crimes of Passion!
Earlier this year, I made a fortuitous discovery of this Kiwi gem, and binging season 1-4, (KRL Review Season 1-4), I’d become very eager for season five. Each season only has four 90-minute telemovies, and although it provides ample time to delve completely into the investigation, add another murder or three, and continue fascinating character development, I wanted more episodes. The original cast returned with Neill Rea as Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd in all his quiet, introspective manner. Each episode is clever, well-written, and enhanced by a soundtrack that illustrates Shepherd’s passion for country music.
Brokenwood is the Midsomer of the Southern Hemisphere: small town with a high murder rate per capita, easy-going lead detective, smart banter, and always a clever twist! This season Shepherd is challenged by a murder at a family-owned carnival, a hen party, at a family farm with multiple murders within one family, and an abandoned mental facility. However, as creative and engaging the plot, it’s the characters that have made this series a personal favorite. The soundtrack is often considered peripheral, but here it’s as important as the setting. The country music is not Top 40 from Nashville (although Willie Nelson’s “Crazy” plays a role), it is often original to the show from New Zealand artists. I found/downloaded one of the albums from iTunes…check it out!
Keep an Eye Out for these 5/5 Star Gems!
Finding Joy, a thirty-something looking for happiness in odd places
Detectorists, two unlucky seekers of lost treasures hidden underground
The Delivery Man, the first male midwife in Easthill Park Maternity Unit
Ackley Bridge, drama ensues when a Yorkshire school is integrated
Cloudstreet, two rural families in Perth 1943-1963 share more than a residence
A Place Called Home, saga following the Blighs, a wealthy Australian family
Victoria Wood’s Nice Cup of Tea, explores the Britain’s love affair with Tea
Four in a Bed, behind-the-scenes of the British B&B with a competitive twist
The Art Detectives, follow experts as they seek out British art treasures
Learn more about Acorn shows and check out their free trial on their website.
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