by Kathleen Costa
BritBox is the perfect compliment to my other streaming membership with only a handful of shows overlapping, and with limited convenient access to UK productions on cable television, the additional $6.99 monthly or $69.99 annual fee, I feel, after three years, it is still well worth the expense. I am in heaven as a long-time Anglophile whether daily watching a favorite iconic detective drama like Cadfael or DCI Banks, weekend binging the classic comedies Good Neighbors and Are You Being Served, Again?, or the original productions of All Creatures Great and Small and Father Brown. But, it’s being introduced to vintage classics and brand new shows from every corner the United Kingdom or Commonwealth that I enjoy the most: Mrs. Brown’s Boys, Ballykissangel, Gavin & Stacey, and these three telemovies that I found outstanding fun!
These three telemovies currently airing are the perfect answer to…what’s good on television…we’ll, iPad? These comedy-drama films were created by Jason Cook and star Johnny Vegas and Sian Gibson as a pair of reluctant amateur detectives falling into murder investigations by no fault of their own. Each film runs around 90 minutes with varied settings from a bus tour to a ferry trip to a visit to a caravan vacation park, recognizable guest stars who may be stretching their comedy wings, and a clever murder mystery reminiscent of Gil Mayo Mysteries or Rosemary & Thyme with its light treatment of homicide, comic relief attitudes and characters, friendly partnership, and even a little romance. These three films are excellent entertainment with a three-part Murder, They Hope currently in production with our amateur heroes testing the waters as full-fledged private detectives. Earns 5/5 Triple Scoops…Entertaining!
Murder on the Blackpool Express (2017) Draper’s Literary tours showcasing “the locations behind your favorite creations” is failing and needs this current tour to avoid bankruptcy. This trip is led by the very dramatic murder mystery writer David Van Der Clane highlighting the various settings used in his different murder novels. Joining Terry Bremer, the bus driver, and Gemma Draper, business owner and tour leader, who is occasionally stalked by her ex Ben, is Doc with his memory-challenged brother Kevin, three seniors Marjory, Mildred, and Peggy on the run from the home, wheelchair Moira and her caretaker Laura, hen-pecked George and his pecking wife Grace, and Graham who is overprotective of his suspicious package. But, as Van Der Clane explains his literary murders at each location, real murders begin to whittle down the tour participants, and the cops called in don’t seem to be all there.
Death on the Tyne (2018) Terry and Gemma are taking Draper’s Tours onto the Empress of the Tyne, a ferry that’ll take the group cross open sea to Amsterdam. Mildred, from the Blackpool fiasco, booked the tour, and Gemma believed it’d be full of seniors, but one, two, only three passengers show up: Colleen with a sassy mouth, Hilda with a bit of a “loose mind,” and Mildred who swears in Marj’s will she wanted them to enjoy the trip. But, the three seniors seem to have a secret agenda. On board there’s a “hen party,” DJ Bobby, the soon-to-be Captain James Valentine with his uppity wife lounge singer Emily, cruise director Denise, Tracy the flighty attendant, Dippy the Dolphin, and “be still my beaten [octogenarian] heart” Captain Jack Pearson. But, as luck would have it, there’s no peace on the high sea with a big storm on the way and a serial murderer roaming the gangways.
Dial M for Middlesbrough (2019) Draper’s Tours is suppose to pick up and transport Mildred and Hilda to Middlesbrough for a funeral, but the coach breaks down stranding Gemma and Terry at Shady Creek Caravan Park. Gemma has a dubious history with Jed and Evie who manage the park that the staff and guests might prove as a “creepy, childhood holiday paradise.” There’s Mary, the opening victim, Susan the culinary-challenged cook, Edna and her husband Clive reincarnated as a tortoise, Chad the American, Professor Neil seeking an endangered bird, Phil and Penny full of complaints and threats, and Darren from Gemma’s teenage past. But, when another body is discovered, Terry and Gemma embrace their inner detective.
More Gems Not to Miss!
Heartbeat (1992-2010; 18 seasons) Based on the Constable books by Nicholas Rhea, and although limited in specific references to the era, the series is set in the mid 60s. Stories follow a group of police officers on the “bobby beat” interacting with residents in and around northern Yorkshire. The varied environment, quirky attitudes, trips to the pub, and various ups and downs, made this series a binging favorite. Earns 5/5 Bobby Helmets…Engaging!
Northern Lights, City Lights, and Clash of the Santas (2006; 2007; 2008) Robson Green (Grantchester) and Mark Benton (Shakespeare & Hathaway) team up with poignant laughs and problems as childhood best friends, neighbors, coworkers, and married to sisters…not theirs, LOL. In Northern Lights (six eps), the duo work, wish, and play often with humorous consequences. In City Lights (six eps), families go into Witness Protection Program after witnessing a gangland killing. In Clash of the Santas, (90 mis) the duo goes to Lithuania for a Santa convention. Earns 5/5 Quirky BFFs…Fun!
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