Feb 14, 2011

Murder and Afternoon Tea

One thing I realize now is that maintaining a blog is definitely hard work.  It’s been a while since my last post and after seeing the activity on some of the blogs I follow I feel a bit ashamed of my laziness.  Here we go then.  My wife and I have been taking advantage of Netflix online streaming recently and we’ve been sucked into the wonderful world of British TV crime drama and let me say that it’s not just about the accents, charming country villages, or suspicious butlers lurking in the background (although those are all a pretty big parts!).  The Brits have got some really good stuff and it’s a nice change from our American crime procedural dramas.  The actors are superb and I’m amazed at how seriously they take their profession, not that we Americans don’t, but seriously, I swear some of the bit players in these shows could run circles around our superstars.

As a result, I’ve compiled a list below of some of my favorites and if you haven’t seen any of them would encourage you to check them out.

Sherlock

The first name says it all and you know this will be about Sherlock Holmes.  I first heard about this show on National Public Radio when it was still in production and wasn’t quite sure about the premise of presenting Holmes and Watson in modern-day London.

After the first episode I was hooked and they’ve done an incredible job of believably bringing the characters and stories up to date.  The fact that Watson is once again returning from active military duty in Afghanistan really rings true Mark Twain’s, “History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”  Martin Freeman plays the good doctor with a down to earth likeability that is infectious.

Of course the show is about arguably the most famous detective in modern history and Benedict Cumberbatch succeeds at pulling off the role in every way with a performance that is genuinely his own (Jeremy Brett fans can heave a sigh of relief).  He weaves Holmes’ eccentricities into the storyline with surprising ease and we immediately buy his interpretation.  He’s a pain in the ass at times and incredibly arrogant, but that makes him even cooler as his intellect ends up justifying most of his behavior.

Fans of the original stories and past versions of movies and television shows will not be disappointed as the writers have taken some of Doyle’s ideas and characters and reworked them to suit a modern setting.  It’s a shame there were only three episodes in the first season.  No worries through since Sherlock has been renewed for a new season by the BBC and is due out in the fall of 2011.  “The game is on, Watson!” 

Waking the Dead

This show’s a bit more intense and similar to American crime procedurals, following a team of London Metropolitan Police officers as they investigate cold cases.  Their fearless leader, Detective Superintendant Peter Boyd played by Trevor Eve is an intelligent and capable investigator, but you get the feeling he’s been shoved off to the side with cold cases to keep from causing trouble with fresh high-profile ones.  Boyd’s not afraid to bend or break the rules when it suits him and has a habit of verbally abusing his team, sometimes to the amusement or bewilderment of the audience.  I’ve found myself more than once thinking, “geez, this guy’s a real ass,” but he doesn’t push the line enough to make himself unlikeable.

The cases tend to deal with unsolved homicides from years past and are presented in a two-episode format.  Perhaps it’s the nature and stories of the cases, but I’ve gone to bed more than once after watching the show feeling a bit freaked out.  London can be a creepy place and the show mashes the atmosphere and music well with the storyline.  You have to give each case a bit of time, but eventually you’ll get sucked in with helping the team solve the case and you’ll finish the second episode in each story arc ready to watch the next pair.


Dorothy L. Sayers Mysteries

Wouldn’t it be a tremendous inconvenience to stumble across a dead body while you’re on vacation or attending a college reunion?  It always seems to happen to the capable and independent Ms. Harriet Vane, a fictional mystery writer never far from the watchful eye of Lord Peter Wimsey, the gentleman amateur sleuth from whose novels the show is based upon.   

The stories hearken back to the romanticized 1930’s in an age of tuxedoed parties, English valets, and monocle eyeglasses.  Edward Petherbridge plays Lord Peter and this fine gentleman is the embodiment of Sayers’ character, portraying a charming, humorous, sophisticated gentleman with a taste for solving crimes and a habit of continuously proposing to Ms. Harriet Vane despite being repeatedly turned down.  Ms. Vane is played by the splendid Harriet Walter and shares a great on-screen chemistry with Petherbridge.  The Dorothy L. Sayers Mysteries prove that one can solve the most dastardly of murders and still have time for afternoon tea.