by Kathleen Costa
AcornTV is one of my favorite go-to options when elsewhere is full of reality and reruns. For a reasonable fee (monthly $5.99 or special annual deal $59.99) members have access to hours and hours of entertaining series, engaging movies, informative documentaries, and even fun game shows from decades past or just uploaded. As a passionate Anglophile, I get a daily, sometimes multiple times a day, dose of accents, references to cups of tea, and gorgeous settings from the coast and the highlands to the Cotswolds and gritty urban streets. I always find something new, but my favorite are the detective shows like these new Acorn Originals…The Chelsea Detective and Harry Wild.
The Chelsea Detective is a new light drama starring popular character actor Adrian Scarborough as the mostly grumpy, ginger bearded DI Max Arnold, member of the Chelsea Metro police. His attitude could be attributed to currently going through a divorce and arguing with his wife and gallery owner Astrid (Annamaria Marinca) about who gets custody of a high-end coffee machine, but he’s also dealing with the recent loss of his father and the closure of his father’s beloved bookshop. He lives on a houseboat, plays the piano, rides to work on his bike, and suffers from dyslexia. As a young boy, it was his father who spent hours reading textbooks, etc., to him leaving him the idea words didn’t matter, “What mattered was his voice in my ear, knowing he didn’t give up on me.” DI Arnold doesn’t write information down; taking pictures with his phone is his thing: “Pictures make more sense than words.”
Caught in the act, the guy trying to steal DI Arnold‘s bike takes exception to his picture being taken. “Are you going to nick me?” he snarks. Arnold replies, “I prefer to avoid any unnecessary paperwork!” Instead, he demands the guy get him a new lock with a receipt, which later he does with a note: Sorry.
The Chelsea team includes DS Priya Shamsie (Sonita Henry) returning early from maternity leave. Although she’s a brilliant cop, picks up the slack when DI Arnold requires it, and offers a positive perspective, she’s struggling connecting with her infant daughter afraid she’ll mess up parenting. The Coroner Ashley Wilton (Sophie Stone) is a refreshing hearing-impaired member of the group. She’s very capable, uses a cochlear implant when she wants, and stands firm when the detectives need forensic answers immediately. Extra assistance is provided by two competent detective constables Conner Pollock (Peter Bankole) and Jess Lombard (Lucy Phelps).
The Wages of Sin — Police are called to the Metro. Witnesses say the victim fell, jumped, or was pushed in front of an oncoming train. They discover Andrew Knightley was widowed and recently complained of being hounded by a ghost leaving biblical quotes on his mirror. Later it is determined to be murder with CCTV evidence showing the victim was pushed. The murder investigation takes the team to a local cemetery. ICYMI. Al Weaver was curate Leonard Finch in Grantchester.
Mrs. Romano — Julia Romano and her wife Robin own a popular restaurant and are basking in the success of their cookbook. However, Robin is missing, and when her car is located, the DNA evidence is troublesome. The police are juggling a lot with Julia’s troubled son, financial questions, and rumors of infidelity, but too many secrets makes for a complex investigation. ICYMI. Liz White was a key figure in Life on Mars.
The Gentle Giant — A local night watchman, Steve O’Hare, is found stabbed, drugs nearby, and the police learn the man was a local hero for having caught a couple of drug dealers. He also worked at a Chelsea Nursery and the owner’s husband has an import/export business. The victim also has a very ill wife, and it was reported he’d argued with his wife’s caregiver. So, what do Chelsea football fans have to do with murder? ICYMI. Sarah Smart (as Siobhan O’Hara) and Rebecca Front (as Diana Hopkinson) are popular character actors.
A Chelsea Education — Popular college professor, Mr. Oliver Cowie, is prepping to move his family to Japan, but he’s found bludgeoned to death. Police learn of his daughter’s anger about moving and his wife checking into divorce options. They also find the victim was supporting a sexual harassment claim by a colleague against the headmaster. Harassing graffiti. Revenge. Blackmail. ICYMI. Richard Harrington is the lead in Hinterland.
The Chelsea Detective, with its four 90-minute episodes, is a fantastic addition to the British detective universe, and my new favorite. Its stories are cleverly developed and portrayed by a talented and diverse ensemble, always with a surprising and engaging arrest. The lead, Adrian Scarborough, perfected the quirky persona throughout his career, so cast as DI Max Arnold was a brilliant and entertaining choice. His meticulous manner, insightful processes, and pictures over words charting makes DI Arnold a successful detective, and his reading challenges, somewhat distant relationship with his Aunt Olivia Arnold (Frances Barber) and colleagues, and dealing with his father’s death and in-the-process divorce adds the kind of realism I enjoy. Earns 5/5 Chelsea Blue & White Flags.
Harry Wild is a new, exciting light drama set in Dublin, Ireland, and starring Jane Seymour as Harriet P. Wild, professor of literature, who recently joined the ranks of the retired. She isn’t cut out for gardening or traveling, and that great novel she thought she’d write is at chapter one, literally only the words “Chapter One.” She can re-engage with her son Garda Charlie Wild (Kevin Ryan) and his wife Orlan (Amy Huberman), but they might not be eager for that. Then there is her granddaughter Lola (Rose O’Neill) with whom she might want to spend more time. She begins questioning her decision to retire, but her world is about to collide, literally, with Fergus Reid (Rohan Nedd), a disgruntled teenager.
When Harry Met Fergus is “the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Harry is off to the grocer, and Fergus has gone AWOL from school. Fergus attacks Harry, snatches her purse, and leaves her with a mild concussion. Charlie brings her home with him for a few days of recuperation, not necessarily a good thing since Harry can be snappish and overbearing, and correcting everyone’s grammar is annoying. But, it’s her snooping in one of her son’s official case files and attempting to offer her literary insight into the killer’s MO that gets her ejected, so to speak. Fortuitously, Harry sees the young mugger and guilts him with a taser, and after the young man returns her wallet and she discovers details about his home life, she decides to tutor him in his weakest subject: Literature. She also decides he can be useful and enlists him in her plan to get the evidence necessary for her son to arrest a kidnapper/killer. Despite causing problems for her son and his superiors when the news report names Harry as a key factor in closing the case, Harry finds retirement might not be all that “boring.”
Harry Wild, with its eight 45-minute episodes, is a very entertaining drama filled with delightful accents and Emerald Isle landscapes. The multi-generational duo engages, not always by their own design, in several murder investigations, some even put Harry’s freedom or life in jeopardy. From a kidnapping murder to a deadly murder game, from a cold case robbery to a psychotic yin to Harry’s yang, from “Me, too” revenge to dead bodies in the pub, from a Zoom murder to vintage nightmares, all are brilliant, complex, clever, and an added twist at the end. The most fascinating element is that the cases have some literary link, reference, or connection that, even if a struggle, only Harry recognizes. From poetry to the classics to even Sherlock Holmes, she deciphers the clues, then turns over what she learns to her son, often with a scolding rather than a thank you, for an arrest. The mysteries are engaging, the ensemble works well, and Seymour is a delight. Earns 5/5 Literary Snippets.
Check out these Gems!
Comedy—Love & Marriage (2013) follows the trials and tribulations of the Paradise family after the much unappreciated matriarch Pauline (Alison Steadman) decides to walk out leaving them to fend for themselves. Humorous.
Drama—Seachange follows Laura Gibson (Sigrid Thornton) as she and her two children make a fresh start in the small coastal town of Pearl Bay. But, it isn’t the same idyllic vacation spot that she remembers from her childhood nor are the residents charming. Engaging.
Documentaries—Shakespeare: The Legacy John Nettles (Midsomer Murders) narrates a fascinating look at the man known primarily as Shakespeare. Insightful.
Foreign Language—Balthazar follows the suave, and somewhat strange, forensic pathologist Raphael Balthazar in Paris as he solves intense crimes in the City of Light, but it’s the death of his wife over a decade ago that still haunts. Graphic.
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