by Kathleen Costa
BritBox is a streaming service that completely quenches my Anglophile thirst. I had before relied on PBS stations or A&E network to see anything British, but it usually would be shows that had become iconic, popular, or were easy to purchase, and the idea of viewing the shows multiple times whenever I wanted was not an option. That was limiting. You only could watch it once, and if something took precedent, like fundraising, you would miss episodes. Then streaming came along at a very reasonable fee (monthly $6.99; annual special $69.99) offering a huge library of vintage, classic, iconic shows along with new and returning series, many I never knew existed from dramas, comedies, and my favorite…detective dramas to movies, mini series, documentaries, and theatrical presentations. When the news is disturbing and network television misses the mark, there’s always streaming!
Grace (2022), first aired in 2021 (Season One reviewed HERE), is adapted from the next three novels in the Peter James’ Roy Grace series. The original cast returns with John Simm (Life on Mars) in the title role, Richie Campbell as his partner DS Glen Branson, Rakie Ayola as his superior ACC Alison Vosper, and his team DS Potter (Craig Parkinson) and DS Moy (Laura Elphinstone). A third series has been commissioned for 2023 set to adapt the next three books Dead Like You, Dead Man’s Grip, and Not Dead Yet, but a new ACC will be cast after the departure of Rakie Ayola.
Detective Chief Superintendent Roy Grace is a member of the East Sussex CID and had been on desk duty after the press got hold of the unique resource he used in a high-profile investigation: a psychic. His skills and insights, however, are quite valuable, and despite his superior ACC Vosper’s reticence having Grace on active duty, he returns to lead a detective squad. DS Branson, his partner and close friend, has returned to work after recuperating from being shot, but Grace and Branson’s wife worry his reckless driving and fearless behaviors might indicate something deeper and dangerous. The investigations deal with traditional motives like revenge and greed, but the team is more than capable to rise above miscalculations and misdirections to bring the criminals to justice.
Not Dead Enough, starts with a body floating in the shadow of the ruins of West Pier, the husband not upset enough, and a new member of the corner’s office. Of course, the spouse is always scrutinized closely, but there’s another murder, lies caught, secrets uncovered, and a shadowy stalker to muddy the investigation. Grace shows interest in the new forensic pathologist Cleo Murray (Zoe Tapper), accepting an invitation for drinks and dinner, indicating a willingness to move on from his wife’s disappearance years ago.
Dead Man’s Footsteps, starts with a woman trapped in an elevator, a skeleton found in a storm drain, and a former colleague from the MET Cassian Pewe (James D’Arcy) joins the squad. Details about the skeleton dredge up memories of Grace’s missing wife Sandy, and while detective superintendent Pewe reviews cold cases choosing to first focus on Grace’s wife’s file, he approaches Sandy’s parents insinuating Grace, like most husbands, should have been considered a suspect. His new relationship with Cleo has a few issues to address.
Dead Tomorrow, starts with a boat of illegal immigrants in the dead of night, a motorcycle accident, a patient waiting for a transplant, and a dredger ten miles off shore finding a man wrapped in tarpaulin. The body shows evidence the missing organs were surgically removed leading the team to question whether organs are being illegally harvested. Grace and Cleo are trying to find a way forward. Grace is still interested making the decision to put things behind him and move on, until…
Grace is an outstanding police procedural focusing on clever, yet complex, cases along with the dynamics, emotional ties, and working relationships among the squad and support team. Grace and Branson are friends precipitated by a previous mentor/apprentice connection, and Branson has earned the right to offer Grace a joke or personal and professional criticisms or nudges when needed. Grace’s wife has been missing for many years, flashbacks pop up on occasion, and his interest in Cleo Murray adds another layer to his personality, but the relationship is not smooth sailing. Grace is willing, but reserved and maybe awkward in his responses, but the ghost of his wife and the two’s age difference are not fully addressed. DS Potter is a brilliant veteran detective often showing initiative when a specific avenue of inquiry is discovered, but his inappropriate remarks or attempts at humor are cause for complaint by DS Moy who herself is an excellent part of the team needs more responsibility outside the office. ACC Vosper still appears to have it in for Grace, sidestepping reporter’s quips about Grace using psychics, and using her authority to force Grace to include Pewe in their inquiries, a man with whom Grace had and has serious conflicts. My only complaint is the limited number of episodes, despite being 90-minutes or so, three doesn’t provide enough time to fully explore the personal issues that are just as intriguing as the crimes. Waiting a year to learn more is a drag. Still…Earns 5+/5 Brighton Beaches…Excellent!
Rebus (Season One) is comprised of four 90-minute episodes adapted from the Inspector Rebus novels by Scottish author Ian Rankin and aired between 2000-2004. Detective Inspector John Rebus (John Hannah) is middle-aged, divorced, and father of college-aged daughter Sammy. He is a veteran cop assigned to the streets of Edinburgh, Scotland, dealing with criminals on the streets and in the station. He works primarily on his own, but there is a team that supports his investigations. Although quid pro quo arrangements occur among officers, from threatening suspects and intimidating witnesses, Rebus has his own set of ethics drawing a line at manufacturing or ignoring evidence or being part of a criminal enterprise.
Black and Blue (2000) A copycat serial killer, dubbed “The Disciple,” brings back memories of “The Preacher,” a series of murders fifteen years ago ending with no arrest. Rebus, however, finds himself under investigation when a convicted murderer, before plunging to his death off the roof of the prison, claims his innocence in the death of his girlfriend and accuses Rebus and his partner of tampering with evidence. Rebus does catch a curious murder case, is given a counterfeit ten-pound note, is alarmed that of two more women found murdered includes one he knew, and a crooked cop has Rebus in his sights. ICYMI—The wife of John Hannah plays Eve Kendal (Joanna Roth).
The Hanging Garden (2000) Rebus’ daughter is in intensive care in a deep coma, a victim of a hit and run, and he believes he’s responsible for putting these events in motion. A low-level drug dealer is murdered, a violent gang usurped the drug traffic from the old guard who’s now in prison, the young drug lord warns Rebus to stay out of his way, and the one witness to bring him down could bring down Rebus instead. ICYMI—An iconic Scottish actor James Cosmo plays Cafferty.
Dead Souls (2001) An old school pal approaches Rebus about his missing son, but it’s not his department, until he learns the mother is a former girlfriend. Also a recently released pedophile is arrested, but the young man says, “You can’t touch me; I’ve got protection.” This doesn’t sit well with his partner or the residents of the building, but it’s more complex when his partner is found dead, and Rebus discovers links to abuse at a children’s home. ICYMI—Rebus’ former girlfriend is Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark Game of Thrones).
Mortal Causes (2004) A body is found in the underground tunnels with multiple gunshots, and the Scottish Crime Squad see links to terrorists. Rebus isn’t happy being assigned a lesser role in the case and disagrees with the SCS focus. He’s proved right when the father of the victim is discovered. It’s the devil with whom he made a deal to find the man who injured his daughter, and now the devil wants Rebus to find who killed his son…favor for favor! ICYMI—Ashley Jensen (Agatha Raisin) is Mhairi Henderson, the pushing reporter.
Rebus is a gritty police drama showing the seedy side of Scotland: murder, drug and human trafficking, corruption, sexual predators, and war crimes. The stories are realistic, but not always happy endings…surprises, sure, justice, in its way, but not always happy. Hannah’s voice over is an engaging narrative explaining background, connections, and his perspectives. The cast and guest stars work well together, some with accents that I end up using the captions option to help understand names, etc. I enjoyed John Hannah in McCallum and Amnesia, so it was easy to enjoy this dramatic performance, but he’s not as curmudgeonly as the drama deserves…that is corrected when Rebus gets a facelift with a new cast in 2006. Earns 5/5 Shots of Whisky…Engaging Drama!
Don’t Miss these Detectives!
A Touch of Frost (1992-2010; 15 seasons) stars David Jason as Detective Inspector William “Jack” Frost, an “unconventional detective with sympathy for the underdog and an instinct for moral justice.” His sloppy style is reminiscent of Peter Falk’s Columbo, but he’s more abrupt with a tendency to thumb his nose at superiors, even if only behind their backs. Initially based on the DI Jack Frost novels by R.D. Wingfield.
The Vice (1999-2003) stars Ken Stott (Rebus 2.0) and Caroline Catz (Doc Martin) in a police procedural drama following a team in the Met Police’s vice squad as they wade “through the murky world of prostitution and pornography” doggedly pursuing “the criminals.”
Silent Witness (1996-2022; 25 seasons) first starred Amanda Burton as Dr. Sam Ryan (1996-2004; 2022), then Emilia Fox as Dr. Nikki Alexander (2004-2022), lead a team of forensic pathologists to uncover the details and “truth behind murders and accidental deaths.” Initially, the series was based on the activities of Professor Helen Whitwell, a forensic pathologist.
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