The Rise and Fall of John Stonehouse - an enjoyable BritBox political romp
BritBox’s Stonehouse is an entertaining 3-part mini-series that delves into the life and times of the disgraced politician who faked his own death in the 1970s. Matthew Macfadyen stars as the ambitious and determined Labor MP who hatches a daring plan to escape his mounting financial woes and political scandal.
Cold Call revenge is sweet when you scam the scammers
Acorn TV’s Brit drama Cold Call really should come with a viewer warning. This miniseries is a million times more scary than most horror movies, purely because it focuses on the deepest fear of many people today. With phone scams, email phishing, identity theft and bank fraud becoming ever more prevalent, I had palpitations just watching the first episode. But our inner dread is what makes Cold Call so relatable as well as compelling - as the main character finds her bank account wiped out in an instant, we can all share in her desire to take down the fraudsters. Big time.
The Responder - dark, dismal and depressingly good
BritBox’s new cop drama makes absolutely no attempt to glamorize police work. The Responder centers on the seedy side of Liverpool after dark via the nocturnal shifts of a first responder beat bobby answering late-night emergency calls. This is certainly not the sort of job young rookie police recruits ever dream of. Instead, it’s a miserable picture of modern day Britain; inadequate social care, broken, overloaded and underfunded systems, those living on the edge of society and a drug culture that’s out of control. Be warned, dear viewer: The Responder is very sweary, drug-centered, grim, raw and totally depressing. But while it shows Merseyside at its very worst, this story of a demoralized police officer on the edge of despair is, in many ways, just too painfully realistic not to watch.
At last, a hard-hitting TV drama without the usual hard-core cursing. Who knew murder could be so refreshingly clean?
I may be a bit late to the party, but I just discovered one of Acorn TV's hidden gems. London Kills is a brilliant British detective drama that dares to be different, in that it’s surprisingly non-sweary.
Brideshead’s back - but as we’ve never seen it before
Photo credit: BritBox, used with permission
For those of us of a certain age, Brideshead Revisited will always have a special place in our hearts. The beloved TV adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel was a phenomenal success when first shown in 1981. And now, in honor of the 40th anniversary of its original broadcast, on October 12 we too can revisit Brideshead, Charles, Sebastian and Aloysius (the teddy bear) as the iconic series has been beautifully restored, remastered and re-worked in glorious 4K high definition by BritBox.
Whether you’re an American anglophile or one of us expats missing our Brit telly from home, you’ve no doubt heard of Acorn TV and BritBox. But the big question is - which one’s best? Ever happy to oblige, I’ve included all you need to know about both streaming services... and even asked some Brit telly fans which one they prefer. You're welcome!
July is Mystery Month on BritBox, and one of the highlights for me is definitely The Fall - a gripping Anglo-Irish psychological thriller that’s much more of a mystery “whydunit” than your typical police crime-solving drama. If you haven’t seen it yet, a word of warning - this series is super scary too. When my lovely (single) friend Higgi told me she was looking forward to bingeing The Fall, I pleaded with her, “Please make sure someone else is at home before you start”. Even though I’d watched while clinging tightly to poor hubby’s arm, I still had to keep checking under the bed for weeks after.
Time to brush-up on the cop-shop lingo - Line of Duty is back
The most exciting drama on TV (ever) returns for season 6 this week, streaming exclusively in North America on BritBox. Along with Superintendent Ted Hastings (“As in the battle, ma’am” - what a great line) and our favourite “mates” Steve and Kate, the latest series features the usual acronym overload we’ve come to expect from Line of Duty. So if you can’t tell your UCO from your OCG, now is a good time for a refresher.
The best telly doesn’t only happen at the weekend. Starting this Monday, with perfect timing for St. Paddy’s Day, Acorn TV presents a gritty Norn Irish crime thriller from the bloke who brought us Line of Duty and Bodyguard. Having enjoyed a sneak peek ahead of broadcast (thank you Acorn for the press screening) I can reveal Bloodlandsis more of the intense, nail-biting stuff we’ve come to expect from a Jed Mercurio production.
I’ve long been singing the praises of BritBox for bringing brilliant Brit telly to America, but the BBC/ITV streaming service is getting even better. Not only does it offer an extensive collection of classic TV favourites (from Dad’s Army to Downton Abbey) but BritBox is also broadcasting even more current content from the UK right now, under the title of erm, “Now”. Pretty handy for keeping up with all the latest telly gossip from back home.
TV treasure - another Toby Jones hidden gem that’s pure gold
Quirky roles that evoke gentle humor, tenderness and compassion, silent suffering and a fair share of pathos too - these are a few of my favorite things about Toby Jones (see my earlier reviews of Marvelous and Don’t Forget the Driver). And so I’m thrilled that Acorn is streaming all three series of the BAFTA-award winning Detectorists, co-starring Mackenzie Crook (Gareth from The Office) who also wrote and directed this hidden gem.