by Kathleen Costa
BritBox has been a lifesaver in keeping me entertained. For a nominal monthly ($6.99) or annual ($69.99) membership fee, I have had access to a huge library, regularly updated, of comedies, dramas, and a mix of both with detectives, private eyes, doctors, and nosy neighbors, some good, some bad, but all entertaining! I regularly revisit favorites like Midsomer Murders, Are You Being Served? Again, and Father Brown along with stepping out of my comfort zone with Shakespeare, Dickens, and Jane Austen historical dramas. BritBox always has vintage programming from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and continues to bring the current seasons of popular dramedies like Shakespeare & Hathaway and Death in Paradise.
Greetings, Dear Bard of Mystery!
Shakespeare & Hathaway has become a popular buddy show perfectly illustrating that opposites can fit together like puzzle pieces. This third season has everyone returning: Luella Shakespeare (Jo Joyner) is still the calming, intuitive force with a fun wardrobe; Frank Hathaway (Mark Benton) is still the insightful ex-cop with serious curmudgeon tendencies; Sebastian Brudenell (Patrick Walshe McBride) is still the struggling actor and best at costumed undercover assignments using his vast accent repertoire. There are some changes from small, like Frank has been glammed up with a new short haircut, to big, like the team’s connection with law enforcement has change to the cantankerous DS Joe Keeler (Tomos Eames) in the lead and Lou and Frank relying on DC Viola Deacon (Yasmin Kaur Barn) for official insights.
With titles that mirror the Bard’s style like “See Thyself, Devil,” “Thy Fury Spent,”and “Thou Invisible Spirit of Wine,” the ten dramatic comedy episodes focus on witty and clever mysteries with, of course, a dead body or two: from a local Bingo hall owner hounded by a overzealous developer to one of Frank’s favorite rock stars on a comeback, from the covenant of gardeners in conflict with the manor house to the strange workings of a family-owned carpet business, from a local museum targeted by The Society of Herstorians to a hair-styling competition revisiting Lu’s previous career, from a fracking company’s woes to a podcaster’s Quest for Justice, and from another feud between the Montages and Capulets to a local production of Hamlet showcasing Sebastian’s failed dream to be an actor. The suspects are always aplenty from the obvious to the “didn’t see that coming,” covert skills are challenged, and motives run the gambit with greed, jealousy, family dysfunction, and a few contemporary headlines. The investigative team always finds themselves in big trouble with the cops or some personal peril, but the conclusions always shows up the “quick to judge” officials and sends someone to jail.
Shakespeare & Hathaway earns 5+/5 Bard Barbs…Engaging Fun & Entertaining Characters!
This program is a top favorite I can’t wait to watch every year. I love its true cozy style with humorous dialogue and predicaments, marvelous characters, varied British dialects, and an “I want to live there” setting in, where else, Stratford-upon-Avon with its half-timber architecture, cosy pubs, and some manor houses that rival Downton Abbey. I am envious of Lou’s red Mini Cooper, and I always find myself craving a pint and a bag of crisps!
Alert! Although delayed due to the pandemic, season 4 is set with the main characters returning, but there is a burning question still remaining unresolved or left to be explored. Are there any romantic feelings between Lu and Frank or are they just close friends? Their interactions, banter, and snarky comments sound much like an old married couple, or is it more like brother and sister? I hope season four explores both questions. I’d be satisfied with either answer.
Another DI Says “Goodbye” to Paradise!
This ninth season starts with an island celebrating the new year, and the quirky Irishman, DI Jack Moody (Ardal O’Hanlon), has again used his insights to successfully close a variety of cases meant to stump his team: from a masked murderer looking for La Vengeance to a suspicious locked-room murder of a troubled artist, from a competitive bicycle racing team to a husband’s suspicious text. However, having acclimated to the tropical setting, acquired a taste of a Caribbean food, and making friends with his talented team and Harry the gecko, DI Moody has been met with a personal conundrum. His daughter will be staying in England permanently and his heart has been captured by a vacationing divorcée. His inner conflict manifests as conversations and pleas for a sign from the photo of his late wife. He makes a decision that leaves a vacancy in the Honoré police station, but is it to return to England or will he leap at the chance for love?
[Enter DI Neville Parker (Ralf Little)]
The death of the daughter of a wealthy resort developer causes island authorities to bring in a representative from Greater Manchester CID, where the woman originally resided, to officially confirm the cause of death as suicide. However, the “visiting” detective isn’t convinced and says…it’s a real chance it’s murder. Expecting to leave, he learns his superiors have decided to put him in charge of the, now murder, investigation. DI Neville Parker, is “quite brilliant, if a little annoying,” but “not very good away from home” with a hypersensitive to everything. He carries a backpack filled with lotion of a multi-digit SPF formula, industrial-strength bug spray, and a little recorder into which he stores crime scene details and insights to review later. His complaints about the heat and humidity, refusal to abide the rustic, on-the-beach “shed,” constant reference to needing to talk to his doctor, and desire to evict Harry the gecko doesn’t endear him to the team or to the police commissioner. But, he’s good, very good, and it’s only temporary, right?
Wrong! The surprising diagnosis of DVT (deep vein thrombosis) keeps DI Parker grounded, unable to fly home, but murder doesn’t take a vacation and the team still needs to rely on his rank and expertise to solve several perplexing murders: a survival group leader didn’t survive, a member of a wedding party is a no show, and a blind woman is the only witness to murder. Of course, it means our illustrious island team of DS Madeleine Dumas (Aude Legastelois), DC JP Hooper (Tobi Bakare), and Officer Ruby Patterson (Shyko Amos) overlooks his stopping to reapply lotion, complaining about the heat and “mozzies,” his knowledge of odd facts, and running up an unnecessary hotel bill. But, Parker has a personal epiphany that garners mixed reactions of smiles, welcomes, and an “Oh, God, please no!” and a “very large rum” to wash it down.
Death in Paradise earns 5/5 Case Reports…Entertaining and Clever!
I continue to have fun watching Death in Paradise and these eight episodes were a stark comparison of two detectives whose manner, speech, and medical conditions are different. But, the two both had a similar way of organizing evidence, interviewing witnesses, weeding through suspects, and in great Poirot-style, gathering principles together to point the finger at the killer…or killers. DS Dumas has oodles of the required patience, DC Hooper dreams of a promotion, but confidence is the missing element, Officer Ruby is slowly coming into her own and trying to do the job well and keep her uncle, the commissioner, happy, and Commissioner Patterson (Don Warrington) just hopes it works out. Together it is a perfect, binge-worthy escape!
Alert! Again, the pandemic delayed filming of season 10, but more Death in Paradise is expected for 2021. DI Parker returns, quirks and all, however, major changes are reported. Two members call it quits, and I wish for a nice good-bye, not just they’re gone. This has provided an opportunity for the familiar characters of DS Florence Cassell (Josephine Jobert) and DS Camille Bordey (Sara Martins) to join the team along with rumored cameo appearances by DI Richard Poole (Ben Miller) and DI Humphrey Goodman (Kris Marshall). Poole’s appearance will be interesting since he had been one of the many deaths in paradise. I can’t wait!
Do you prefer a “no dead body” rule?
Join BritBox and try these programs…plenty of giggles to be had!
The Good Life “The Goods leave behind the irritations of everyday and embrace the simple life, much to the horror of the neighbors next door.”
To the Manor Born “The [former mistress of the manor] is forced to sell her stately home and decides to show the new owner a thing or two about ‘nobility.’”
Waiting for God “Refusing to succumb to old age, [a pair] of seasoned delinquents cause many headaches. Their uneasy alliance is destined to make life difficult at the Bayview Retirement Village.”
The Job Lot “An ensemble comedy about a West Midlands job center dealing with work…or the lack of.
Hold the Sunset “Dreams of retirement to the sun with her long term suitor are shattered when her 50-year-old son arrives home, seeking to recapture his boyhood happiness.”
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