by Kathleen Costa
The pandemic has directly effected our lives in many ways and we have tried desperately to find ways to keep ourselves engaged or distracted. We’re used to reruns, and in many cases don’t mind binging our favorite sit-com and movie series, but there’s On Demand, Netflix, Pay-Per-View, and a wide selection of streaming services for reasonable to “Ouch!” fees. For several years now, my “reasonable” membership in two streaming services has provided this Anglophile access to a wide variety of UK television shows and movies, some new and some longtime favorites. As a retiree, these services have made my lockdown more like a vacation and less like being grounded for a year. One of my go-to entertainment choices is AcornTV whose huge library ranging from decades ago to 2021 productions varying in style, genre, running times, and emotions that they elicit has been the best escapism.
Productions in 2021, network, cable, or pay as you go, have been effected, too. These three worldwide favorites—Murdoch Mysteries, The Brokenwood Mysteries, and Midsomer Murders—finally completed a new season and on AcornTV all of their episodes are available.
Head up north to turn-of-the-century Toronto! Murdoch Mysteries has completed its fourteenth season, however with less episodes (eleven instead of eighteen), with signature cameos from historical figures (Chaplin, Keaton, Stan Laurel), use of before-its-time inventions (portable communication device), exploration of social issues thru a turn-of-the-century lens (race, class, and sexuality), clever wit and crazy predicaments, and a “can’t wait for season fifteen” cliffhanger. The Station Four family all seem to be dealing with a variety of issues beyond the murder du jour. William (Yannick Bisson) and Julia (Hélène Joy) have a stalker, are engaged by the government in a game of spy vs spy, and lured into a deadly puzzle, yet their collaborations are positive until the final episode. Chief Brackenreid (Thomas Craig) struggles with publicly recognizing his interracial daughter and protecting his youngest son, Constable Crabtree (Jonney Harris) questions his life, becomes close to a very tall female lawyer, and fears her secretary is out to get him, Detective Llewelynn Watts (Daniel Maslany) has his owns struggles with his sexuality, Constable Higgins (Lachlan Murdoch) announces he is going to become a father, and the black coroner Violet Hart (Shanice Banton) tests society’s boundaries almost to the point of rupture. Binge worthy! AcornTV has all of the series episodes available along with several Christmas specials. Earns 5+/5 Homberg Hats.
Down under and turn left! Brokenwood Mysteries is one of my favorite Southern Hemisphere gems with its clever mysteries often with a surprising ending, rich characters, and an ensemble well cast and entertaining. Set in New Zealand, Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd (Neill Rea) leads his team through seven seasons investigating homicides with more than a few quirky or unexpected twists set to Shepard’s favorite country essentials. The newest season (six episodes) says goodbye to DC Breen (Nic Sampson) who offers one bit of advice to his replacement, DC Daniel Chalmers (Jarod Rawiri), “Whatever you do, don’t let Kristin make the coffee.” Detective Kristin Sims (Fern Sutherland) takes the new DC as an active partner as the team collaborates on various challenging murder investigations: an appraiser is garroted, a health spa isn’t healthy for one guest, a botched robbery leaves the manager dead, an up-scale artisan market is deadly, a night at the movies spotlights murder, and with Shepard AWOL on a personal matter, the team finds family dysfunction murderous. The regular supporting cast rounds out the quirky nature of Brokenwood: although her poetry is dark, the Russian coroner is still enamored with Mike, Mrs. Marlowe has an interesting past, and Frodo’s coffee wagon seems to always be around. Binge worthy! AcornTV has all seven seasons available for viewing. Earns 5+/5 Country Ballads.
Over the Pond and into the Cotswolds! Midsomer Murders is one of the most iconic cozy-ish detective dramas that bring into question, is there anyone still alive in Midsomer County? The entire series is available from the pilot, “The Killings at Badger’s Drift” (1997), with favorite Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) to season 22 with new favorite John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) at the helm. However, the pandemic has played havoc with the production. The new season has two new telemovies available with the remaining four episodes scheduled for Fall. But despite the limited new stories, it was still wonderful to join Inspector Barnaby and Detective Sergeant Jamie Winter (Nick Hendrix). In the Halloween-inspired “The Wolf Hunter of Little Worthy,” a creepy urban legend about a wolf hunter becomes all too real with a costumed killer targeting patrons of The Hub, an internet café. You’ll be delightfully surprised to see guest star Mark Williams (Father Brown; Mr. Weasley) in an out-of-character role, and “glamping” is added to my bucket list. In “The Stitcher Society,” a private health facility focusing on post-operative care for transplant patients, an unsolved murder years earlier is linked to a trail of brutal murders. The coroner Dr. Fleur Perkins (Annette Badland) is a fascinating character with experiences and talents best rated NC-17, and Mrs. Sarah Barnaby (Fiona Dolman) is always the loving wife, supportive sounding board, and the one to keep John on his healthy eating. Earns 5+/5 Cotswold Pubs.
Check out these gems!
Mystery? Drama? One Lane Bridge (2020) focuses on a New Zealand landmark with a history of unexplained events. While a Maori detective (Dominic Ona-Ariki) investigates a murder, he awakens his second sight ability, “a gift that endangers his life, but may help solve the mystery of the sinister landmark.”
Comedy? Try The Delivery Man with former police officer Matthew Bunting (Darren Boyd) as the first male midwife at Easthill Park Materinty Unit. Short-lived (six episodes), but pure fun!
Foreign Language? If you don’t mind watching and reading concurrently, check out these French gems: Balthazar, a forensic pathologist in Paris, and Candice Renoir, a chief commandant in the South of France. Both offer intrigue and humor.
Documentary? Saving Britain’s Worst Zoos, a British family becomes zookeepers in a small Welsh town, The Secret History of the British Garden, explore 400 years of the British garden, and Off the Beaton Track, explores the far reaches of Wales.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also check our our new mystery podcast! A new episode goes up next week.