by Kathleen Costa
AcornTV is one of the best streaming options for Anglophiles, like me. For a reasonable monthly ($6.99) or special annual ($69.99) membership fee, I have access to a large, varied library, updated frequently, of sit-coms, dramas, detective dramas, movies, theater productions, documentaries, and foreign-language programs. I can enjoy decades past classics with the young actors destined to become icons or new series with iconic actors showing they’ve still got it to up and coming performers who may be tomorrow’s best. The programming also varies in the setting and era from Ireland to Scotland, London to Sydney, contemporary New Zealand (The Brokenwood Mysteries) to 1900s Canada (Murdoch Mysteries movies). For me, it’s all worth the money!
The Brokenwood Mysteries (2022 Season 8) has the squad back for six episodes filled with more mayhem and murder set in the small, quirky town of Brokenwood, New Zealand. Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd (Neil Rea) maintains an easy and introspective attitude along with quiet conversation with the victim, but his private phone calls and curious non-answers about his weekend plans fuels suspicion. Detective Kristin Sims (Fern Sutherland) and Detective Constable Daniel Chalmers (Jared Rawri) keep asking the right who, what, and where questions, but Mike isn’t taking the bait. Dr. Gina Kadinsky (Christina Ionda) is a brilliant, albeit eccentric, medical examiner who is still not giving up her efforts to foster a more personal relationship with Mike, despite his polite and professional, yet not interested, demeanor. Sims and Chalmers are not giving up on discovering Mike’s secret, but a few dead bodies take on top priority.
The phone call always arrives with bad news…someone’s been found dead. From the Cradle to the Grave the team is called to a lonely stretch of road where they find a dead body in an Egyptian sarcophagus wrapped in linen. A collector, a museum curator, and Frodo’s (Karl Willets) questionable family are all tangled up. In Death n’ Bass, a lead rock musician is found in his trailer dead from “sound.” His band mate, former singer, and a groupie are all suspects. Spark to a Flame focuses on the dead body of a pushy neighbor found bludgeoned in someone else’s vacation chalet. The owner, the real estate agent, and several neighbors unimpressed by the victim’s efforts to bring peace and order to the little community are not forthcoming in the questioning. Three Coins in the Fountain has the world “spoofing” champion found impaled on a fountain statue with a coin stuffed in his mouth. Several stripe-jacketed contestants, the blackened-eye venue owner, a wealthy tyre magnate, and a hard-to-pin-down artist are under scrutiny. The tale is as Good as Gold, when a young woman rumored to be looking for a mythical nugget is found shot. With a Hatfield and McCoy style feud and a Romeo and Juliet inspired secret, only one person knows the truth…the killer. Four Fires and a Funeral, leads the detectives to the smoldering remnants of an out-of-the-way shed and the body of a former volunteer fireman under the ash. A tragic fire incident plagues memories and a therapist and the entire fire department crew are on the hot seat. Even with false statements, fingers pointing in the wrong direction, theories frequently being revised, and motives sometimes being one with which they sympathize, Mike leads the team to an arrest.The Brokenwood Mysteries is a top favorite detective drama for its complex mysteries, several possible conclusions, and surprise arrests, but I really enjoy the cast of characters. The main trio is portrayed with realistic personalities, professional manners in the face of uncooperative witnesses and angry suspects, and a close friendship. The professional interaction between Kristin and Daniel has a bit of friendly tension that I’d like to see explored on a more personal level, and Mike’s secret is revealed to Sims and Chalmers surprise and Gina’s dismay, but the season ends with a ‘Will you…?” cliffhanger. The Bonus: The Making of Season 8 is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the actors and insights into the production. Season nine is rumored. Earns 5+/5 Country Western Hits!
Murder 19C: Detective Murdoch Mysteries (2004-2005) is three movies based on Maureen Jennings novels and starring Peter Outerbridge as Detective William Murdoch, Colm Meaney (Star Trek) as Inspector Thomas Brackenreid, and Keeley Hawes (MI-5; Durrells of Corfu) as Dr. Julia Ogden. The general feel and personalities mirror the television adaptation (2008-present) with some differences worth exploring. Peter Outerbridge maintains the quiet personality with his Catholic beliefs intact, evolving interest in Dr. Ogden, and riding his trusty bicycle, but he’s not as attractive as Yannick Bisson (although he has beautiful blue eyes), his penchant for invention is more typical for the era and less fanciful, he wears a bowler not a Hamburg, and he talks to the photo of his late fiancée. Colm Meany is more “meany” than Thomas Craig’s version and not receptive to Murdoch’s criminalist techniques although they both enjoy their whisky. Keeley Hawes has the appearance, demeanor, and personality for a medical professional, much like Hélène Joy’s performance, and compliments Outerbridge’s Murdoch. Constable Crabtree (Matthew MacFadzean) is a real copper, not comic relief like Jonny Harris, which helps maintain a more dramatic tone to the stories. Ettie Weston (Flora Montgomery), not a regular in the series, is a low class seamstress, a doxie, and a spiritualist willing to assist Murdoch, usually for a price, with what she knows of the street. She, however, wants more of him, and he comes close to succumbing to her advances. There are many similarities between the movies and the series, yet despite a few differences, the cast does well to match the author’s vision.
Except for Dying A young woman is found strangled, sans her clothes, but with obvious signs of doping. Detective William Murdoch is called in, and immediately mistakes Dr. Julia Ogden (Keeley Hawes) as a common nurse instead of the acting coroner. The tragic role of women on the streets (doxies) is explored along with household servitude, but what seems obvious…isn’t.
Poor Tom is Cold Murdoch is saddened and worries about the religious ramifications of the possible suicide of the young constable he had taken under his wing. The evidence does finally rule out suicide, but a mysterious woman may hold the key to murder. Fingerprint evidence, a newly discovered scientific theory, is questioned as reliable along with the competency of women scientists.
Under the Dragon’s Tail A woman who makes potions for the ill, especially those with “women’s troubles,” is found dead of a possible accident. The dead woman is suspected of being an “abortionist,” which pits religious fanaticism against the reality of poverty and abuse of woman and children. Murdoch’s use of graphology is intriguing to his superior, but it, too, is early in its validity.
ICYMI: Hélène Joy, Dr. Ogden in the television series, makes an appearance as Maud Pedlow, the wife of a wealthy judge.
All three movies were excellent, well done, well cast (except for Colm Meany) but with a more realistic representation of the city, the police station, the morgue, and a mental asylum. The crimes investigated often highlighted greed in some form along with many of the early twentieth centuries issues with societal mores, class disparity, poverty, and the role of women and plight of children. Interwoven is also issues of acceptance, or lack of, for women in authority, police procedures (good and bad), and the judicial process. Earns 5/5 Fingermarks!
ICYMI: Peter Outerbridge does make an appear in season 8 of television series, “Shipwreck,” playing Father Keegan, a mentor from William Murdoch’s past.
Don’t Miss These Gems…Previously Reviewed!
The Chelsea Detective (Season one available) A quirky detective, DI Max Arnold (Adrian Scarborough) and his partner, DS Priya Shamise (Sonita Henry) apply their skills to uncover the truth, no matter the wealthy or status of their suspects. Season two is set for 2023.
Whitstable Pearl (Season one available) A retired cop now café owner, Pearl (Kerry Godliman), is also a private investigator often mucking up the works for the DCI Mike McGuire (Howard Charles). Season two is rumored.
Dead Still (Season one available) Brock Blennerhasset (Michael Smiley) is a photographer of the dead, memorial portraitures, in Victorian Ireland, but a sinister element is involving him in murder. Season two is only rumored.
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