Friday, June 16, 2006

British TV

Now that 24 and Lost are on vacation, my viewing lineup seems more British than ever. Christine and I have always enjoyed British mystery telefilms. They are often more novelistic than American mysteries. She's reading her way through the Poirot novels this summer, so when she finishes a volume we watch for the TV version to air.

But this summer, even with probably more good shows on American television than ever --because average doesn't draw a thimble full of audience--programming from across the pond is drawing me in more and more.

Midsommer Murders
It's the best, pushing 10 years of two-hour installments. At its most average it's superior. At it's best it's intricate, clever and enthralling. Inspector Barnaby--played by John Nettles, who brought British television into the modern era with the detective drama Bergerac--solves murders in quiet little villages prone to agrarian festivals and dark secrets. I agree with TV Guide's jeer to A&E for dumping it to The Biography Channel. It deserves better placement and a bigger U.S. audience. Of course, it's on DVD. Check out installments "Dead Man's 11," "Ghosts of Christmas Past" and "Hidden Depths" as some of the best of the best. It's on Sundays.

BBC America has at lost brought this British Buffy to our shores. Set in a boarding school that's darker than Hogwarts or perhaps the Hell Mouth, it's paced a little more leisurely than Buffy but with an engaging style that eventually draws you into its mix of ancient evil and modern adolescent infighting. Oh, and there's a lesbian ghost.

As devishly clever a series as you'll find anywhere. Robert Vaughn is the American mentor to a group of Brit con artists. It's fast-paced, and each episode unfolds like The Sting with elaborate setups, twists and slight of hand. Remind me to tell you about the time I interviewed Vaughn, but in the meantime, watch this on AMC. Really. Make time.

BBC America Mystery Monday
Even British Lifetime movies just play out better than ours do. Of late their Monday programming has consisted of miniseries that are cut from the Lifetime telefilm thriller cloth, but with a little more panache than your average Jaclyn Smith vehicle. Secret Smile recently featured a quietly menacing David Tennant (Doctor Who). The lineup actually is like a tour of current and ex-Doctor's other roles. Paul McGann turns up periodically as shady and mysterious characters.
Which brings us to -

Doctor Who
Catch it while it's still on here. Sci Fi Channel has only one more marathon to go, but the DVD is out in July. The marathon unfortunately doesn't include the episodes most likely to hook Americans, but Series 1 should be watched in order for the full effect. Get over the fart jokes and open your eyes. It's Brilliant. It has hidden clues like Lost, special effects to rival Trek and yeah Harlan Ellison was right all those years ago in his introductory material for Who novelizations. It's better than Trek. And I love Trek.


Charles Gramlich said...

Doctor Who is better than Trek? We'll have to get together over sushi sometime and argue the merits of SF TV. That show "Hex" sounds interesting, though. How could you go wrong with a lesbian ghost?

Sidney said...

I'll throw any time in a Doctor vs. Trek debate. I am also open discuss such perplexing questions as: Who could beat up more people at the same time, Capt. Kirk or James West from The Wild Wild West.

Charles Gramlich said...

Hum, that last IS a perplexing question. I believe James West would win on style points but as for numbers I'm not sure.

Sidney said...

West tended to fight on a couple of levels, and by that I mean he'd fight a few people on the first floor then swing by a beam up to the second floor gallery and beat up a few there. Kirk on the other hand had a better drop kick I believe, which I guess does go more to form than quantity.

MsDemmie said...

DR Who wins every time in this hosuehold.

blue turtle said...

West Vs Kirk

Oh. That's funny -- those shows had something about them that was so much more interesting than what we see today.

Andy said...

Doctor Who is better than Trek because the new format provides a million surprises. Wait until you get Series Two. I recommend the episode Love and Monsters as arguably one of the best sci-fi stories ever shown on TV. And I said that about Dalek and Father's Day.

I dropped by to say thank you. You know why. x

Sidney said...

I'm hopeful that we'll get Series 2 on DVD if not broadcast pretty quickly. No annoucements so far. I thought Father's Day was great too.

Andy said...

I am led to believe Sci-Fi Channel in the US has signed up for Series 2 and 3. I think I read it in Doctor Who Magazine.

You've heard Billie leaves end of series two? Only three more episodes to come...

And oh, wait until you see the Cybermen, who, incidentally, on the whole Star trek debate thing, were ripped off to become the Borg. No doubt about it. x

Andy said...

Forgot to add, try to get to see Life on Mars before a US network does a Stateside version. Can't remember who's bought the rights but it's on its way and the UK series is so original, I really don't want it to be aped. It's just come out on DVD here, so maybe where you are too if not now but soon? Brilliant premise, excellent performances and a whole lot of fun looking back at the positively primitive 1970s UK policing tactics! x

Sidney said...

I hope that's true about Series 2 and 3. I haven't read it yet, but I will watch for annoucements. Sci Fi was slow in promoting Series 1 even after it was annouced they would be showing it.

We'll be getting the original "Life on Mars" in July I believe on BBC America.

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