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Favorite TV Shows

SHAUNA’S NOTES ON BRITISH (& OTHER) DETECTIVE TV SERIES


(In order of most recently watched...)


—> Retribution (English): Emotionally heavy, but a kind of brilliant modern take on an old-fashioned British mystery storyline (murder committed with a lot of people gathered in country house waiting out a storm, whodunnit?) — starts with a rather gruesome murder of a recently-married couple, and you see the killer, and then the killer becomes the murder victim for the actual mystery that animates the rest of the series.  Great British acting and plotting in first two eps so far


—> Case Histories (English): Based on the books by Kate Atkinson, who is one of my favorite living authors — such amazing character development, great acting, a bit heavy on the violence-against-women; if blood upsets you, this may be a trigger.  But not nearly as bad as some of the really grisly or creepy British series (this is not that, it is far more artsy).  Jackson Brodie is a private detective, always trying to find and save his sister (killed when he was a lad) — or, in her place, other young women he tries to save or avenge.  Great acting, and I want the soundtrack.


—> Jack Taylor (Irish): Delightful, overacted in a very Irish way, but great fun if you appreciate a rascally drunk detective (which I do).  Great accents, good plotting, a few nice performances by supporting characters, sometimes over-the-top plot points, and a bit too much drinking even for a habitual drunk.  Still, I could watch these all day, even if Iain Glen is really getting too old for the part by the end (the last set really falls off in quality).


—> Hinterland (Welsh): Dark, brooding, extraordinary sound effects work and visually stunning.  Welsh bigshot detective moves to a remote area to solve murders, after a personal tragedy. Very high quality acting, writing, if rather morose and angst-filled.  Beautifully done.


—> Tin Star (British/Canadian): Violent, bloody, rather overblown, somewhat creepy, but extraordinary acting and somehow quite gripping.  A rebellious, unconventional police chief who had tangled with dangerous criminals in England moves his family to the Canadian rockies, but they track him down and kill his son.  (Note: I almost stopped watching after the four-year old dies in the first episode!  But it gets better)


—> Shetland (Scottish): My favorite accents of all the British isles, even if I often can’t understand a thing they are saying.  Very well done.  Based on the wonderful writings of Anne Cleeves (very worth reading the books also; Cleeves writes the Vera books as well).  Shetland series centers on Jimmy Perez, who really should have more Spanish blood if they were being true to the books, but the actor does an admirable job anyway, and you like him in spite of his whiteness (even if you are faithful to the books). Excellently-plotted and exectued stories, high quality filmography of a truly remote and beautiful area.


—> Vera (English): My favorite of all the British detectives!  How often do you get to see an odd older woman in charge?   And odd she is, including often being outright rude to her staff, and wearing the worst clothing you’ve ever seen; all part of the fabulous character.  Excellent supporting acting but Brenda Blethyn steals the show.


—> Line of Duty (English): a twist on the usual detective story.  Here the main characters are anti-corruption officers, working undercover and trying to trap and gather evidence on corrupt police officers (and sometimes police chiefs!).  Suspenseful, good plotting, the main actors are rather wooden, but that kind of works.  Not the great characters of some of the other dramas; relies instead on action.  Very well done.  Season 2, with Keely Hawes as Lindsey Denton, is particularly good and with lots of plot twists and turns.


—> Trapped (Icelandic): very well done murder mystery series (ten episodes only) set in remote Icelandic coastal village cut off by massive snow/ice storm.  Body washes up (in chunks).  Local police chief only has a few days to find murderer.  Beautiful location (if freezing-looking!), great acting/direction, high-quality filming.  Very cool to get a glimpse into Icelandic culture/family life.  Subtitled.


—> Terriers (American): I usually dislike American TV but this is a nice exception.  Wonderful, fallible, lovable detective and sidekick, good acting and writing, good mystery that unfolds over the course of several episodes. Set in sunny coastal southern CA town, nice setting and scenery. Of course since I liked it, they stopped after one season.


—> Dr. Blake Mysteries (Australian): set in the 1950s in Ballarat, Dr. Blake (Australian heartthrob Craig MacLachlan) is an unconventional conventionalist; he is a medical doctor solving crimes, sometimes acting with and sometimes against the local police force.  There is a nice hint of romance with his housekeeper (the excellent Nadine Garner), but both are too scrupulously polite and upstanding to do anything about it.  If you appreciate the slow, deliberate plotting of an old-fashioned police procedural, blended with a hint of Masterpiece Theatre, this is it.


—> Republic of Doyle (Canadian/Nova Scotia — so weirdly, some Irish accents): makes me want to live in St. John’s, Nova Scotia, what a lovely looking town.  The private detectives are the Doyles (mostly a father-son team, but with help from various other family members and a very funny comic relief actor.  After about the fourth season I got bored, but great fun at first.  Light, comedic, not heavy drama or terribly great acting but highly enjoyable.  Becomes formulaic after a while and you want to kill the ne’er-do-well younger Doyle.


—> Witnesses (French): terrific if creepy series, lead is Sandra, a beautiful, brilliant, and sometimes foolhardy police detective.  Each season follows one large case, sometimes putting Sandra in danger (especially in the second, far more intense season).  Compelling and very worth-watching.  Subtitled.


—> The Tunnel (British/French): A body is found exactly at the midpoint of the chunnel between the UK and France, necessitating a joint team. The two detectives could not be more different but eventually find a way to work together and even become friends.  Excellent writing, acting, direction, and production values.  Both seasons are exceptional, I only wish they would make more.




SHAUNA’S NOTES ON SPECULATIVE FICTION TV/MOVIES:


—> Humans (British): exceptionally good and creepy, plot unfolds rather slow, requires patience and appreciation for some awesome physical acting.  Takes place in a UK that has developed highly lifelike robots (“synths,” for synthetics, colloquially called “dollies”) to do all manual labor.  Some of the synths begin gaining consciousness.  Do they deserve human rights?  Realistic touches everywhere (the anger of Niska, the sex-worker robot, is awesome, as is the insight that children would start to imitate the synth look and mannerisms).





(Have a favorite show, especially a detective series or speculative fiction one, not reviewed above?  By all means let me know!)

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