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Acorn’s latest great British offerings

Acorn have an ever-growing selection of great British television shows for you to watch at home.

Here are some of their latest offerings, including Janet King and Vera Series 6, which are both available at acorn.tv until their release on DVD later this year.

Meanwhile, A Place to Call Home Season 3 along with And Then There Were None were recently made available on DVD.

A Place to Call Home, and Janet King

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A Place to Call Home, one of the two new Acorn shows starring Marta Dusseldorp

Versatile Australian actress Marta Dusseldorp stars in not one but two terrific series currently available via on Acorn, both set in Oz and in which she plays women of self-confidence, mental might and a highly evolved sense of what’s right.

In A Place to Call Home Dusseldorp is Sarah, determined to make amends with her mother whom she abandoned twenty years earlier by running away to Britain with a man.

Sadly, he dies in WWII and Sarah’s stricken with guilt about her mother. She leaves fort Australia to reconnect and settle but her embittered mother rejects her.

Sarah’s new life begins onboard the ship making the journey to Oz as she becomes entangled with a wealthy family, saving the life of their suicidal young heir. Mystery surrounds the family and her compassion and curiosity are piqued. The young man’s father hires her as a live in psychiatric nurse.

But things become increasingly complicated, both in her strained attempts to reconnect with her mother and in the rarefied environment of her new charges. The series widens to include a larger circle of connections each with his own story and arc.

The series touches on hot button issues of the fifties, including racism, materialism, sexism and economic classism. It was a time of social turbulence and she becomes a symbol of new thinking and bold action. A natural feminist she ruffles feathers in her new environment.

Dusseldorp is also outstanding in Janet King, as a top prosecutor working in a high profile firm in New South Wales. King is principled and disciplined, but her intellect and preparations can’t protect her from the grim things she witnesses in the job.

It’s important to show her vulnerabilities, how she feels when she comes home after a day on the job, changing the course of people’s lives, always aiming for justice and finding reality.

She is one of the most feared prosecutors in the country but it’s not much help when she and her female lover quarrel or their baby is ill or a threat comes to their doorstep.

Supporting characters are well defined and authentic. They aren’t safe from reality either and provide riveting subplots. Terrific storylines and exceptional performances make this one to watch. It’s a gripping, entertaining and fully fledged series that’s especially addictive.

Marta Dusseldorp, you rock, woman!

Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None

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The BBC adaptation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None

Agatha Christie’s imaginative tales still hold us in a vice-like, but welcome grip forty years after her death. She left a rich legacy of intriguing murder mysteries that show her wit, whimsy, imagination and laborious research. She knew how to use poisons, ropes, candlesticks, and her brain to provide us with satisfying and authentic stories.

Christie’s sixty-six detective novels and fourteen short story collections are an industry in their own right, inspiring movies, television series, plays and radio shows and video games.

Her signature detectives Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Parker Pyne, Harley Quinn/ Mr. Satterthwaite and Tommy and Tuppence Beresford follow the classic murder mystery structure Christie set in place that is still religiously followed by writers today.

Typically Christie’s stories concern seemingly ordinary people in superficially appealing villages where everyone knows everyone else and where murders happen with alarming regularity.

The formula is familiar: someone is murdered; multiple suspects conceal secrets that are eventually uncovered by deduction and discovery of evidence. Towards the end, the story is further complicated by sudden plot twists.

And Then There Were None is Christie’s best-selling novel, with 100 million sales making it the world’s best-selling mystery ever and one of the best-selling books of all time. The BBC’s 2015 version is one of the darkest adaptations of any Christie story to date.

It is deeply grim, gory and dark, and contemporary while retaining the perplexing and old- fashioned pleasure of puzzle solving. The dark thrill of “murder most foul” and the gruesome details are pure escapist adventure.

The three part series is set in a stately mansion on a desolate island in the Irish Sea, a flat, weather whipped isle that drop off into rocky cliffs and certain death.

The plot is well known. Ten strangers are called to a remote location where one by one they are murdered leaving the survivors to search for the killer before it’s their turn to die. The remaining guests are driven to near madness by their inescapable condition. It’s terrifically entertaining and often copied.

Then There Were None stars Aidan Turner, Maeve Dermody, Sam Neill, Miranda Richardson and Noah Taylor. It’s the first time the ending is based on Christie’s novel – and not her stage play – in an English-language production. It may seem unfamiliar but it packs quite the punch.

Vera Series 6

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Brenda Blethyn as DCI Vera Stanhope, who enjoys a drink or two, in Vera

Vera is one of the consistently great series around especially for fans of noir British drama. Brenda Blethyn’s DCI Vera Stanhope is the woman to beat on television.

Shrewd, iconoclastic, sweet and sour, Vera is a naturalistic depiction of a middle aged woman, gifted with significant intellect and instinct, who challenges the status quo.

Vera is a canny lass, a brilliant creation of author Ann Cleeves in her series of novels. Unprepossessing in her appearance, her uniform is a sloppy raincoat over drab clothes and a colourful scarf. She tops it off with a fishing cap, and reminds me of Columbo.

And like Columbo, her mental agility is usually misunderstood in people she meets. She’s written off when in fact, she is the smartest person in the room, and the definition of bravery, calculation and humanity.

Sure Vera enjoys a drink or two, but living on a remote farmhouse with no partner and no real friends, it’s understandable.

She feels deeply the pain of the victims and families she encounters and that’s an emotional burden that’s hard for an outsider to understand. She’s seen dark things.

Vera also has great compassion for the perpetrators, engaging them and putting them in the way of confession and soul cleansing. She knows how to speak to them and gets results in a clean and honourable way.

Vera’s relationships with her Detective Sergeants Joe Ashworth (David Leon) and Aiden Healy (Kenny Doughty) are maternal and familial.

She makes them part of her intellectual landscape and develops close bonds with both, even as she puts a subtle private distance between them.

In one extraordinary sequence, she overcomes Healey’s fixed idea of middle aged women in smart fashion. Fortunately he learns his lesson. Neither of them can get too close to her though as she is a loner, but on the job, she is an inspiring leader.

Season Six brings more fascinating, well-crafted mysteries that play out in the remote seaside region in their own, sweet time. It’s compelling stuff. Season Seven is in the works!


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