by Kathleen Costa
With repetitive news, baseball only in spring training mode, and Hallmark Christmas movies shelved, most might find limited choices for entertainment. Not me! I am not at a loss for entertainment with AcornTV airing classic and contemporary dramas, comedies, movies, and documentaries varied in style, era, and mood. For a monthly fee comparable to the price of a caramel macchiato, I can stream my favorites and some new finds anywhere my iPad or iPhone has a signal…which for me has been everywhere from doctor offices to waiting in line at Starbuck’s drive-thru. From England to Scotland, Wales to Ireland, Down Under to North of the Border, I love my streaming options!
Midsomer of the Southern Hemisphere!
Clever murder mysteries, a tight-as-family investigative team, and a hint of country music is just what I enjoy about the Brokenwood Mysteries series. Personally dubbed the “Midsomer of the Southern Hemisphere,” Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd (perfect casting with Neill Rea) has a quiet and introspective manner, yet it his critical thinking that accounts for his success rate. He seems to see connections well, yet realistically…he doesn’t have an “aha!” moment that isn’t backed up by the evidence. He is divorced, multiple times, but his lack of marital success is more mutual with his exes; one ex does appear in this new season offering more insights into his past. His team, Detectives Kristen Sims (Fern Sutherland) and Sam Breen (Nic Sampson), started out leery of Shepherd’s management style, but they’ve evolved to learn from him, follow him, and trust him…and he to them. And the “she’s Russian” pathologist Gina Kadinsky (Cristina Serban Ionda) has some language issues, and tries to make her feelings for Shepherd known, awkwardly at times, “I am a sight for your sore eye.” His marriage record makes him courteous, but distant. However, she doesn’t give up. And characters of and issues with the local native population of M?ori descent are fascinating.
Brokenwood Mysteries is a big favorite, but sadly, there are only ever four 90-minute episodes produced for a season…though, they are great for a night of reruns. The series revolves around a small town with a high murder rate per capita like Midsomer County, easy-going lead detective like John Barnaby (although Shepherd’s character often talks briefly to the dead body), smart banter between the detectives like Barnaby with his DSs, and always a clever twist! The well-developed plot delves deep into the various personalities, victim’s background, suspects and their connections, more than one reasonable motive, and a few red herrings to make the ending a surprise. The series also allows fans to learn more about the main characters making them relatable. The show is enhanced by a soundtrack that illustrates Shepherd’s passion for country music, but instead background filler or peripheral, here it’s as important as the setting and often the words have a meaning to the drama. The country music is not Top 40 from Nashville, it is often original to the show from New Zealand artists. Three albums and individual songs are available from iTunes…check them out!
The Power of Steam centers around steampunk enthusiasts and conflicts within the community over an Aeronauts steampunk festival that rise to the level of murder. Prejudice? Family? Secrets?
ICYMI: Shepherd is warned, “Corgis are cute, but look out ‘cause they’re one of the more deadlier breeds.” I just saw their short legs, and…
A Real Page Turner sheds light on a scruples-challenged author. His death puts Shepherd’s ex-wife on the suspect list. Women scorned? Writers’ angsts?
ICYMI: Mrs. Marlowe’s cheese rolls pop up several times in the series as her signature snack. There’s also Det. Sims’s sausage rolls; don’t forget the egg wash! Why can’t recipes be included with television shows?
Dead Men Don’t Shoot Ducks pits a “Birds Lives Matter” activists against avid duck hunters. Who do you think wins? Club dynamics? Duck egg deliveries? Ghost?
ICYMI: Coffee enthusiasts who use a French press may enjoy Mrs. Marlow’s “wibbling” demonstration. “Wibbling is the art of bringing the crema to the surface. Now, before you plunge, you must wibble until two small stationary waves start jiggling. Then, and then only, do you plunge.”
Dead and Buried is quite a mystery with a woman inmate dead alone in her locked cell. The victim had confessed to murdering her abusive husband, but the body and murder weapon were never found. She is one Shepherd helped to put in jail. Secrets? Quid pro quo deals? No honor among…cons?
ICYMI: Det. Breen, “I hate prisons.” Det. Sims’s thought-provoking response, “Well, I think, my friend, that’s the whole idea. People come for a long time, not a good time.”
Other AcornTV Shows Not to Miss!
Lovejoy is one of my all-time favorites produced from 1986, then reprises 1991-1994. This classic has a bit a mystery, a bit of comedy, and a few antiques for sale…real or manufactured. Ian McShane (perfect casting) stars as “Mr. Lovejoy? No, just Lovejoy,” a “divvie” with exceptional skills to recognize a masterpiece from fakes and forgeries. His partners in “borderline crime” (Dudley Sutton; Chris Jury) offer comic relief, but all is tempered by his close friendship with Lady Jane Felsham (Phyllis Logan from Downton Abbey) and later Charlotte Cavendish (Caroline Langrishe). Currently Season 1-3 is airing with thirty-six 45-minute episodes. LOVE IT! I reviewed the series for KRL HERE (8/13/16).
Midsomer Murders is well into twenty years of worldwide and personal popularity. I thought I’d seen all 124 episodes, but was super excited to discover I had missed several (No, not related to any senior moment, either). John Nettles still remains my favorite Midsomer detective inspector, and seasons 10-13 (2007-2011) are binge worthy entertainment. I was thrilled to see guest stars whose star has risen high. I have reviewed this series several times for KRL HERE (5/20/17), HERE (5/19/18), and HERE (2/22/20).
Kingdom is a delightful new find. This dramedy, airing 2007-2009, focuses on the trials, tribulations, and family angst in the Kingdom & Kingdom law firm. Stephen Fry stars as Peter Kingdom, a more compassionate than contentious lawyer, with a high-maintenance half-sister (Hermione Norris), an aging aunt filled with wisdom (Phyllida Law), a want-more-respect and a bigger office associate (Karl Davies), and office manager/single mother of a challenging teen (Celia Imrie). From his office to the courtroom, from divorces to land disputes, from lawsuits to criminal charges, from difficult sibling dynamics to quirky client requests, this series was extremely entertaining! Sadly it ran only for three short seasons with eighteen 46-minute episodes. I loved it, but the final episode ended with a cliffhanger that left me with my mouth open!
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