Acorn TV always have a great selection of murder and mystery-filled series from Britain. Here are some of the latest to check out.
Suspects – on Acorn.tv now
A gripping new police procedural following three London detectives as they move through crime investigation, arrests and follow-up called Suspects moves well, the stories are consistently interesting and the gritty feel is real and natural.
And guess what? The actors improvise.
They’re given scene beats and goals and go from there, furthering the narrative in character and as part of the ensemble. The result is raw and real, and it creates a naturalistic world. Much of each episode is focussed on the narrowing down to the criminal based on information from others, from learned histories of police work, psychology, and some intuition.
Each of the detectives operates in his own way, bringing particular gifts to the mix, enhancing the work. There are occasional crossed wires between them but the organic working body is formed by a strong sense of duty and teamwork.
Episodes are shot over two day periods and according to Acorn, some scenes have been shot in single takes in just 18 minutes. It’s an experiment in television that has paid off; it’s well worth a 2 Season binge.
Mayday – on Acorn DVD March 15
Mayday is a chilling murder mystery set in a sweet little English village that isn’t so benign when looking behind closed doors. A smiling blonde girl of 15, wearing a flowing costume and crown of blossoms cycles towards the village common where she will take her seat as The Queen of the May in the annual parade.
She passes male after male, all of them dressed in bizarre pagan costumes, and eyeing her with lust and hunger. She notices but prefers to concentrate on her big day. She drinks in the sun and smiles as she rides to town.
Cut to a teenaged boy running from local bullies and into his home where his father awaits, hostile and probably high.
We meet other villagers living out their own private dramas then return to the May Queen’s bike, spinning its wheel by the side of the road, abandoned. She’s gone.
Eighteen hours later the villagers spread out to search the nearby forests and fields and gradually come revelations about their lives and what brought them to the search. Land deals gone sour, dissolving marriages, suspicion and lies, abuse and treachery.
They wear false faces because it’s the pagan May Day celebration and the beginning of summer and let’s pretend all is well.
The series is shot in Surrey, in the UK, a beautiful bucolic place that soon reveals itself as claustrophobic and frightening. It’s not just the dark, menacing woods inhabited by “faeries” and natural danger. It’s the interwoven mess people have made of their lives.
It’s the pall that settles over the district. Everyone is at a tipping point as emotions and paranoia reach the boiling point. Who could have killed the May Queen?
Mayday isn’t for sensitive viewers, its strong stuff, and the characters caught in its web aren’t at their best. Tragedy and fear brings out the worst in them. It’s intriguing and at times so scary you might have to pause it and breathe.
New Tricks Season 12 – on Acorn DVD March 15
It’s an all new world in Season 12 of New Tricks. The final remaining original cast member Dennis Waterman has flown the coop to drive his red ‘stang through America.
So we have a newbie, openly gay and old style copper Ted Case crashing in – almost literally – to one of the TV’s tightest groups – the UCOS team led by DCI Sasha Miller with Steve and Danny.
The beloved series is an unusual mix of police procedural and comedy, humour coming from the interaction of the hardened cops, each with distinct personalities and methods as they bump up against one another forcing Miller to separate them like children or read the riot act.
The members are out to prove themselves in the post-retirement gig and we find that while their methods are different, together, despite the bickering they are a highly effective policing unit. UCOS focuses on cold cases, made more difficult to solve because of elapsed time, long gone witnesses and reluctance by superiors to spend money and time on long ago crimes. But by Season 12, UCOS’ many successes has earned high regard and staying power.
The crimes side is interesting enough but for my money, the pleasure is in the relationship between these colleagues who have enough experience to do what they do and have a bit of a laugh from time to time. And its assurance that there is life after retirement!
The Trials of Jimmy Rose – on Acorn TV
The fierce actress Amanda Redman who preceded D.I. Miller on New tricks is a force of nature. She is a powerful screen presence and a tough act to follow. She’s gone in another direction as the wife of a mobster in The Trials of Jimmy Rose while retaining her tough-as-nails persona.
It would take an actress like Redman to stand up to the hardened criminal play by Ray Winstone, who has just been released from prison after a 12 year armed robbery stretch. The family isn’t especially delighted to have him home again but throw a half-hearted welcome party.
Much has changed and they have benefited from a life without the stresses brought by a man like him. Redman walks a thin line between loving and fearing him and restarting reluctantly, her old life.
Much of the action takes place in their upper middle class home, bedecked in gilt frames and gewgaws, a nouveau riche hellhole in which tensions mount to unbearable pitches.
Jimmy wants to walk the straight and narrow and avoid the mob life but his granddaughter’s drug habit soon has him back in that world.
It’s a tough story but fascinating in the family’s varying responses to the new Jimmy and their places with him. The performances are terrific.