by Kathleen Costa
AcornTV is a popular streaming option and one for which I’ve had a membership for several years: $5.99 monthly or get a deal with the annual $59.99 fee. My personal experience has been without complaint, and whether I’m binging an old favorite, enjoying a current season, or checking out a new-to-me production, I totally enjoy the quality of the audio and video and the convenience to view anywhere on any of my devices with my AcornTV app. Slowly, programs that had new seasons contracted before the pandemic are returning to filming with premiers set throughout the summer and into the fall. I am thrilled about two of AcornTV Originals ready to go: the new Whitstable Pearl, and season two of Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mystery. Yeah, AcornTV!
Whitstable Pearl, based on a set of novels by Julie Wassmer, made its way successfully through Covid rules and mandates to complete six episodes. This surprising gem is filmed in the town Whitstable situated on the River Thames estuary providing it with its claim to fame: oysters. The coastal setting, the fishing industry, and the oyster are used as important characters in the drama. Bucket list beautiful. Fascinating history. Google-worthy gem. This new show has been added to my “My Favorites” list and well worth rewatching.
The show centers around thirty-something Pearl Nolan (Kerry Godliman) who owns a restaurant she named Whitstable Pearl; a family affair since both her mother Dolly and son Charlie pitch in regularly. However, she also has a small private investigation firm she runs out of her house and the restaurant. She used to be police, but an unplanned pregnancy caused her to choose family over career. Her son is now entertaining college, so although she’s immensely proud, she has thought about being an empty nester. Her new gig as a PI could help fill up any extra, and empty, moments in her day.
When Pearl questions the official determination of the unexpected death of a family friend, she runs afoul of Chief Inspector Mike McGuire (Howard Charles) and his partner DS Nikki Martel. Even as a DFL (Down From London) outsider, Mike resists Pearl’s insights. He is quiet, almost sullen, and hates small towns because he’d “have to talk to people.” He is also a new widower. Yet, as he and Pearl work closely together on several suspicious deaths, he recognizes her intuitive ability and knowledge of the community slowly accepting her friendly manner, or is it the oyster stout? They try a “not a date” date, but it doesn’t go well posing the question: Will they? Won’t they?
Whitstable Pearl Earns 5+/5 Oyster Shooters! This show has made my Top UK Streamers for 2021 for episodes that are engaging, not overly complex, with just enough peril to get your heart racing. A new case, cold or hot, occurs in each episode, and on a couple occasions, I had an inkling of the solution and proud to be proved right, but I was also caught off-guard on other episodes with the twists and turns and surprise arrests: from a close family friend to a questionable estate agent, from a retired DCI to a long missing young man, and two cases dealing closely with family, including secrets long kept within Pearl’s own family. It is, however, the characters in which I have became invested.
Kerry Godliman is new to me, but I can’t see how anyone else would have done a better job; she is Pearl! She is soft spoken, delightful, and portrays well the personality created by author Wassmer. Howard Charles is a familiar talent having played Porthos in the 2014-2016 BBC series The Musketeers. He was able to use that quite manner to create a heartwarming introvert struggling in a town of extroverts. The supporting cast also seems to have been meant for their roles: Francis Barber as Pearl’s flamboyant mother Dolly, Rohan Nedd’s caring attention as Pearl’s son Charlie, Sophia Del Pizzo’s snappish and concerned manner as DS Nikki Martel, and the innocence of young employee Ruby Williams by Isobelle Molloy. It is an outstanding ensemble!
From the Book! Julie Wassmer is the author of the Whitstable Pearl Mysteries currently with eight novels. I have recently been pleasantly surprised by the original books on which many of my favorite television series are based. The Whitstable Pearl (5/5 Starfish) begins the series with the same main mystery, however, there’s more historical background and description of the setting, depth into the characters’ pasts and motivations, and drama that limited time caused to be unused. I also found reading Wassmer’s descriptions and dialogue is much more rewarding than having some details on the small screen overlooked or delegated to the periphery. I am hooked, not only on the books that evolved into the television show, but on Wassmer’s Whitstable Pearl series, including the four audible books narrated by the talented Willow Nash (Book 4-5] and Karen Cass (Book 5-6).
Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mystery finally got its “green light” to complete their long anticipated season two. This series, inspired by the very popular Miss Fisher’s Murder Mystery, first aired in 2019 with four 90-minute episodes (reviewed here), so fans of this Aussie gem were more than eager to get groovin’ back to the 60s with its miniskirts, music, mores, and surprise…there are eight 45+ minute episodes.
Ms. Peregrine Fisher (Geraldine Hakewil) is Miss Phryne Fisher’s niece. Aunt Phryne knew of, but never met, a half-sister, and when Phryne’s adventures finally got the best of her, missing and presumed dead, she sadly wouldn’t get to know her niece. Peregrine knew nothing of her aunt, either, until she discovers she is the sole heir to her aunt’s modern house, modern car, and modern issues. Definitely having inherited her aunt’s adventurous nature, she’s become a member of the Adventuress Club her aunt had founded, and like her aunt, she’s also successful at discovering dead bodies, exposing killers, and running afoul of the police, especially the misogynistic Chief Inspector Sparrow (Greg Stone). She has, however, captured the attentions of Detective James Steed (Joel Jackson)…Yes, she is definitely a chip off the ol’ gold-plated, pearl-handled pistol!
Peregrine is bold and courageous, and with several successful investigations to her credit, she’s acquired a name plate and business cards announcing herself as a “private detective,” of course, sans the licensing required from the police…”well, that’s never gonna happen.” She’s also smitten with Detective Steed, and he with her, which makes for a positive professional and personal partnership, just don’t tell CI Sparrow whose dismissive view of women keeps Peregrine out of the “official” loop. However, that doesn’t stop a “Fisher” when mysterious deaths are discovered: an architect, a stewardess, a farmhand, dog show competitor, a rocker, Pigeon Club president, a suspected murderer, and a pop singer. Life is further complicated when “the ring” pops out, and Peregrine takes a closer look at what she really wants for her own life. She has great support in the other members of the Adventuress Club from “maybe” retired spy Birdie Birnside, her brother and inventor Samuel Birnside, and his love and scientist Violeta Fellini, and whether assisting in her investigations or as a sounding board for her romantic issues, they’re there to provide whatever encouragement she needs.
The Modern Ms. Fisher Earns 5/5 Mod Boots! This series is light, yet addresses some dark themes. It has an excellent ensemble cast painting the drama with realism and clever mysteries that aren’t complex, but I challenge you to solve it before Peregrine. Setting the show in the mid-60s brought back many pleasant memories of Mrs. Peel, Twiggy, and the pop British singers I enjoyed. Peregrine Fisher is more a one-man woman, unlike her 20s liberated aunt, and exploring the idea of marriage or not was a nicely-handled dilemma. The supporting cast, too, has their own storylines with which to grapple: do they or don’t they? will they or won’t they? The results offered some surprises and hopes that a season three will be quickly approved.
Agatha Raisin — Ashley Jensen, as the title character, sashays onto the screen with four more, long-awaited telemovies adapted from M.C. Beaton’s popular books. Co-stars: Mathew Horne, James Glover, Lucy Liemann, Matt McCooey, Jason Merrells, and Jason Barnett. I can’t wait!
Jack Irish — Guy Pearce, as the title character, returns in the fourth and final season of this Aussie gem revisiting the tragic death of his wife with surprising, yet shocking, implications. Co-stars: Marta Dussledorp and Aaron Pedersen.
My Life is Murder — Lucy Lawless returns as Alexa Crowe for an exciting second season with her consulting again on some clever and intriguing mysteries. Co-stars: Ebony Vagulans and Bernard Curry.
Queens of Mystery — Olivia Vinall returns as DS Matilda Stone for a second season of this quirky “cozy” favorite with clever mysteries. What does the black crow have in mind? Will more be revealed about the mystery of Matilda’s mother? Co-stars: Julie Graham, Siobhan Redmond, and Sarah Woodward.
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