by Kathleen Costa
AcornTV is one of my favorite go-to entertainment sites, and it’s not just for avid Anglophiles. It has a reasonable membership fee (monthly $5.99 or an annual special $59.99) in comparison to other options available, and offers hours and hours of engaging dramas (Single-Handed), laugh-out-loud comedies (Boomers), clever mysteries (Agatha Raisin), and informative documentaries (Adrian Dunbar’s Coastal Ireland) from all over the British Commonwealth. The library updates regularly adding new 2021 productions emerging from Covid lockdowns, as well as dipping into the archives for popular gems. Whether online or their app, on my computer, tablet, or phone, whether sitting home or waiting at the dentist’s office, I continue to give AcornTV a big thumbs up!
Suspects (2014-2016) is a recent addition to the AcornTV line up with all five series of twenty-three, forty-five minute episodes available. This police procedural focuses on a team of detectives from the Greater London Police force. Series 1-4 has senior detective, DI Martha Bellamy (Fay Ripley; The Delivery Man), leading her team of DS Jack Weston (Damien Molony) and DC Charlie Steele (Clare-Hope Ashitey), and in the final series 5, opening with a shocking event, Detective Chief Inspector Daniel Drummond (James Murray), DS/Inspector Alisha Brooks (Lenora Crichlow), and TDC Gary Roscoe (Perry Fitzpatrick) are added to the cast.
In series 1-4, the team investigates a typical urban caseload ranging from murders to drug and sex-related crimes, missing persons to domestic and child abuse with compelling details and always a final, yet surprising, arrest, but in series five, the six episodes are related to the same case, The Enemy Within. The cast is excellent with several new-to-me actors doing well to present varied personalities, UK accents, collegiality, and a range of emotions. The drama focuses primarily on their professional side, exploring crime scenes and places of interest, interviewing witnesses and suspects, and discussing among themselves the details and direction of the case, but, except for a few personal remarks in jest, accusation, or basic insights about a character, the stories don’t go deeper into their background and motivations. However, this production has a different look from other cop shows.
This show’s unique nature comes from how it is produced, filmed, and performed. It has a documentary or reality TV style emphasizing the feeling a film crew might be following this team as they complete their investigation. It is oddly compelling as the audience watches much of the drama as a first-hand spectator with angles at a distance, around corners, and through windows or screens with camera movements that are free to follow the actors around the squad room, through stairwells, on rooftops and the street, and in or outside of cars. CCTV footage and security tapes are also widely used to view suspicious behavior leading to suspects, witnesses, and the guilty parties. The most fascinating element is that the actors do not rely on a script. They are provided a detailed story outline for the individual scenes which gives their performance a natural, real-life appearance. Earns 5/5 Improv Honors with a Big Gasp in Series 5!
The Silence (2010; 4 episodes) is also new to the streaming line-up starring favorite actor Douglas Henshall (Shetland) as DCI Jim Edwards. Eighteen-year-old Amelia Edwards (Genevieve Barr), Jim’s niece, is eager to begin navigating the hearing world after receiving a cochlear implant, but she’s also dealing with overprotective parents, Chris Edwards (Hugh Bonneville; Downton Abbey) and wife Anne (Gina McKee). Her uncle Jim and his wife Maggie (Dervia Kirwan; Ballykissangel) offer to have Amelia stay with them on the days she has her therapy to cut down some of her commute and give her a chance to hang out with her “hearing” cousins. Amelia is eager about the freedom she’ll gain away from her parents, but it seems it would have been more prudent to have exhibited caution. She, first, witnesses an illicit affair, then a murder…a murder of a police woman, Jane Shilladay who works with the domestic violence unit. The killer fears a witness finding Amelia’s hearing processor which is difficult for Amelia to explain. However, she maintains her “silence.”
DCI Edwards demands to be assigned the case since it occurred in such close proximity to his home. Amelia has kept quiet about witnessing the crime, and her parents worry about changes in her attitude. Edwards breaks protocol bringing his work home to review CCTV footage from the area, and Amelia interrupts to read the lips of the people on the tape. Edwards questions her accuracy, but enlists her help all the same. She finally, to her uncle’s angry frustration, admits to seeing not only the victim’s intimate encounter, but her murder. Edwards is concerned about his professional responsibilities to treat her as a material witness, but Amelia is his niece, and he chooses to puts his career on the line for family. It becomes more problematic when revealed law enforcement is involved in the murder and more.
The drama is very compelling, well acted, and often very intense with family members being put in the crosshairs by the drug squad: frame jobs, careers in question, friends revealed as enemies, and Amelia floundering not knowing who to trust. Cracks in the family are exposed and long-held grievances need to be addressed. The last episode ramped up the tense emotions until…WOW! Douglas Henshall portrays the same diligence and dogged attitude tempered with vulnerability that made his Shetland DI Jimmy Perez an iconic favorite. Genevieve Barr, as Amelia, is excellent, and actually was born deaf, learning early to speak orally, but for the role she learned sign language. There wasn’t a second season, despite some final closure left to assume, yet three years later, Shetland premiered and is now airing its sixth season. Earns 5/5 Signs of Wrong Place, Wrong Time…Excitement!
Other “Don’t Miss” Gems!
Blood (2018; 2020) Cat Hogan (Caroline Main) returns home after learning about the accidental death of her mother. Suffering flashbacks from a trauma in her childhood, she fears her father (Adrian Dunbar; Line of Duty), a respected doctor, may be involved in her mother’s death. Exciting. Well acted.
Missing (2009-2010) DS Mary Jane “MJ” Croft (Pauline Quirke; Birds of a Feather) leads Dover’s Missing Persons Unit charged to locate victims, sort of motivations, hold perpetrators accountable, and attempt to reunite families. The cases also bring to light the team’s own personal struggles. Interesting focus. Great cast.
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