Better TV (Update)

I don’t know how many of you have cable on-demand as opposed to Netflix. Haven’t heard from any On-Demand subscribers yet, but that’s where the current BBC series Ripper Street, Whitechapel, and The Hour are to be found.

Guy’s Netflix list was correct but incomplete. The Da Vinci Files and Murder in Suburbia are there too. Some other good series are on Netflix as well, a little older perhaps but worth calling out separately. In no particular order then:

Waking the Dead. A London cold case unit, heavy on forensics and psychological profiling. Multiple seasons of six movie-length episodes. Superior cast headed by Trevor Eve, Sue Johnston, and Holly Aird. One of our favorite all-time shows.

Wire in the Blood. A Brit antidote to this year’s idiotic Hannibal series. Robson Green performs wonders as a psychologist who goes deep, too deep sometimes, into the minds of the ultimately evil. Multiple single-digit-episode seasons, usually great with a few clinkers, most notably lousy a one-off movie set in the American southwest. (Just don’t watch that one.) He works with the police, who think he’s nuts, which he is. Bizarre plots, crimes, and outcomes, with some excellent chemistry between Green and the female detective inspectors who slowly come to trust him.

Foyle’s War. World War II Britain, not London. A somewhat elderly inspector who does not drive deals with crimes that frequently wind up involving the military and the intelligence community. He has a plucky young female driver of whom he grows discreetly fond, as for a daughter he never had. Fine understated performance by Michael Kitchen as a scrupulous policeman who simply doesn’t care about the politics of the war. He solves crimes with a mild relentlessness that’s worth the slow pace. Multiple seasons.

George Gently. Another somewhat elderly detective inspector, set this time in the sixties, who is exiled from London to the northern hinterland. He is smart, thorough, experienced, and wise if not brilliant, and he is saddled with a callow, ambitious sergeant who wears every common prejudice like a flag. Their relationship is both funny and sad, energized by the skillful acting of Martin Shaw and the unexpectedly endearing Lee Ingleby. Slow and uneven but mostly worth it. A couple short seasons.

Doc Martin. A snooty and brilliant surgeon flees celebrity practice for a small coastal town filled with eccentrics and lunatics. Why? He can’t stand the sight of blood. He also has zero people skills. Less than zero, maybe. With Martin Clunes in the title role it’s absolutely wonderful FOR ONE SEASON, the first. After that, drop it like a hot potato. A one-joke premise that can’t be sustained.

Annika Bengtzon, Crime Reporter. Swedish and subtitled. But wait. It’s actually really really good. Annika is a grownup archetype of Swedish beauty, though usually harassed and makeup free. Unlike most Scandinavian drama, the show is packed with action and quick-paced. She is an indefatigable reporter, fearless to the point of folly, and struggling with a home life and children who always get short shrift when she launches herself into a story. You’ll forget the subtitles in a few minutes, I swear. Maybe six episodes total. One I’d never have found without my wife, who also likes a Scandinavian antiterrorism series called the Eagle that puts me right to sleep.

And, yes, there may be more than these. But that’s enough for now.

3 thoughts on “Better TV (Update)

  1. Yep, looks like I missed Murder in Suburbia, though I still can’t find the Da Vinci Files for the life of me. Added some more titles from this list to my future viewing plans…

    • Saw Da Vinci listed a couple weeks ago, but it’s true that Netflix cycles shows in and out. If gone, it will probably return.

  2. E and I got into Doc Martin on the suggestion of her parents. You’re exactly right! I couldn’t believe that they reset the whole show back to square zero (with the main love interest), booted out the original secretary (thank God), and changed around the fat plumber and his son’s lives… and then just ran the same show again. Doc makes me laugh, though… reminds me a lot of my father in law, actually.

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