Acorn TV serves up arresting season of European crime dramas

The Disappearance
French drama The Disappearance tells the story of a missing teenager

British TV lovers, take note. Acorn TV released its latest schedule of murder mysteries, police procedurals and original series featuring the best of Agatha Christie, Foyle’s, Poirot, a period Western set in the wilds of Yorkshire, a stunning, one-of-a-kind police series and a French miniseries that will send a chill through parents of teenaged girls.

The French crime drama The Disappearance concerns a pretty blonde teenager who heads off to a music festival to meet friends and doesn’t come home.

Eight episodes examine the harsh realities of living with horror and fear, the guilt her mother feels because of the argument they had before she left for the festival, the gruelling efforts by police to find her, the tabloid media storm and trial that surrounds her disappearance and the toll it takes on everyone in her life.

Her father suddenly falls under suspicion because parents are the first suspects but also because he was seen as being “too close” to his daughter.

Her best friend, who spent the night with her boyfriend and may harbour resentment, is acting strangely, her remote and secretive older brother and his mysterious friends look like deer caught in the headlights, and her uncle and boyfriend are taken to the police station where they undergo brutal grilling.

The family’s pushing for answers but police aren’t talking about the dark things they’re learning. The Disappearance is subtitled in English, beautifully shot, well-acted and well worth the time. There’s universality about it, as young girls – and boys – go missing with alarming regularity.

Call the Midwife’s Jessica Raine stars in Jericho, a romantic period drama series about a woman seeking a new life when she is suddenly left widowed and penniless.

Annie Quaintain had been well-to-do but her husband’s debts ate up the estate and all of its furnishings; she and her children have nothing but the clothes on their backs.

They walk to Jericho a work camp in Yorkshire, where a massive railway viaduct is being constructed over a valley, an expensive and bold feat of design that brings welcome money to locals.

Its dangerous work and conditions are shanty-town at best and the workers, w***es and wanderers at the site make life complicated for a well-bred woman. But Annie has hidden reserves of steel that come to the surface in her time of need.

She rents a cottage, sets up a boarding house and starts to earn real money and the respect of the camp.

Culverdale Valley looks like the American Wild West with its temporary shacks, on raw land, the campfires and standoffs between the good guys and the bad guys.

Fevers threaten to wipe out the town, people sometimes aren’t who they say they are, unexplained construction accidents happen and a murder or two is on the books.

This is gripping drama with sympathetic leads in Raine and Hans Matheson as Johnny her lodger.

Being Poirot– Sept. 6 is the definitive documentary for the fans, hosted by Stanley Tucci exploring the man, the myth and the magic of Hercule Poirot, as played by David Suchet in the long running series Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

Christie’s grandson, Matthew Prichard teams up with Suchet to inform and entertain fans still recuperating from the show’s cancellation after thirteen seasons.

Through interviews and candid moments, insights into his character, light is shed on the logical, brilliant and popular fictional Belgian detective, created 100 years ago in Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

Behind-the-scenes footage of the final days of filming, visits to Christies’ Devon cottage, to Poirot’s Belgian birthplace and in depth interviews with Suchet about creating the brilliant, dapper detective are illumination and entertaining.

Foyle’s War Revisited – Sept. 6 Foyle fans won’t be left behind either! Michael Kitchen has just the thing to fill the gap left when the long running series ended- a DVD collection of interviews, behind-the-scenes mini-docs and extra materials for the FW hardcore.

Frasier’s John Mahoney, who starred in a first season episode, hosts Foyle’s War Revisited with portraits of Kitchen, Honeysuckle Weeks, Anthony Howell and Daniel Weyman, the stars of the amazing series that took viewers through World War II and up to the Cold War from the perspective of London-based policing, intelligence, international espionage, historical context and drama.

The characters are vividly defined, the cases smart and grounded in realism. The writing’s terrific and it looks sumptuous.

Contemporary London sets the scene for police investigations in Suspects Series 3 and 4 –Sept 13.

Fans of Seasons 1 and 2 know that this is an absolutely fresh approach to the well-worn police procedural. Dialogue is improvised. Actors Damien Molony, Clare-Hope Ashitey and Fay Ripley know their scenes and what’s to be accomplished but how they get there is up to them.

It’s a tight knit investigation unit that moves as one and the intimacy of improv seems to lend efficiency.

The show looks at the crimes they’re solving and also at what motivates them over the course of an investigation, their constant proximity to one another, their personal lives and context of time and place.

Its shot cinema vérité style which adds immediacy and aims at a naturalistic build of tension and its often claustrophobic, shot in the tiny, rabbit warren office they share and that barely contains them and their purposeful energy.

The show’s fast paced, the talk is fast, it’s not for the sleepy late night viewer, and it’s the least American-style, glossy TV drama imaginable. My favourite moments are the post arrest interviews; they go off the rails sometimes!

Visit Acorn TV for more.

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