As autumn begins to descend summer activities are winding down and the kids have returned to school. You may find yourself with a bit more time on your hands or, like me, you’re just always looking for a telly fix.
Whatever your excuse, as your telly blogger I have been tasked with finding shows that are newly arrived or on the horizon to satisfy your British TV cravings.
On BBC America
I’ll begin with the obvious. You all probably know that the Doctor has returned with great fanfare over at BBC America.
Did I detect a bit of a Malcolm Tucker rant there, perhaps? Without the swear words, of course! Series eight is set to run into mid-November, so we’ll have to see if the praise for Peter Capaldi and company continues.
Just from the titles of the upcoming episodes, it appears the Doctor will be encountering Robin Hood and a mummy. One episode is entitled ‘Listen’. Could this be the new ‘Blink’?
PBS has some familiar faces returning as well. Our favorite crime solving spinster Miss Marple (Julia McKenzie) is back. Masterpiece Mystery will be airing a double feature of ‘A Caribbean Mystery’ and ‘Greenshaw’s Folly’ on Sunday, September 21st.
The final episode of this series, ‘Endless Night’ will air the following week.
What I enjoy most about the Miss Marple mysteries is the guest appearances. You’re bound to see a few familiar faces in every episode. In series six, look out for Peep Show’s Robert Webb, Call the Midwife’s Judy Parfitt and Hugh Dennis, the frazzled father from Outnumbered just to name a few.
On September 28th, series two of The Paradise returns. A year has passed since John Moray (Emun Elliott) left Katherine Glendenning (Elaine Cassidy) at the altar in favor of his true love, ambitious shop girl Denise Lovett (Joanna Vanderham).
Since then the owner of The Paradise, Lord Glendenning (Patrick Malahide) has died and the store has changed hands to his daughter Katherine and her new husband, Tom Weston (Ben Daniels). While Denise remains at The Paradise, Moray has been banished to Paris.
Will Denise and Moray be reunited? What of the rivalry between Denise and scheming shop girl Clara (Sonya Cassidy)? And what will become of the financially beleaguered Paradise itself? Who knew retail was such a melodramatic business?
Let’s move on to what’s coming on those increasingly popular video streaming services. Who hasn’t seen this Netflix advert yet?
Granted Happy Valley debuted on Netflix on August 20th; however, seeing as the only British TV series reportedly being added to the entertainment site in September is Sherlock: Series 3 (which I’m fairly sure we’ve all seen) this new crime drama is the most worthy of mention.
Created by Sally Wainwright, the writer of Last Tango in Halifax and Scott & Bailey among others, Happy Valley takes place in a community where drug use is prevalent; a prominent businessman’s daughter gets kidnapped; the police are under threat every day and, in the center of it all, Sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) is just trying to hold it all together.
After watching Happy Valley I think it deserves all the hype it got when it was broadcast in the UK last spring. While it’s not a mystery per se since the viewer is a witness to the crime all along, it is a compelling crime drama from the perspective of a police officer who is also living with the consequences of a tragic family incident. Despite the cheery title, Happy Valley can be disturbing and quite violent at times, but the edge-of-your-seat narrative and the excellent cast makes it must-see TV in my book.
Hulu is my constant companion. Every day I watch at least an episode or two of their British television collection. However, they are sneakier about when they actually add new programming. Unless it’s a show to which they have exclusive US streaming rights, they don’t really make a big fuss promoting it.
Lately I have noticed quite a few new titles pop up on Hulu’s carousels of offerings. Here’re just a couple of the programs the site has added to their ever-growing selection of UK produced telly.
Ambassadors stars comedy partners David Mitchell and Robert Webb as British Embassy employees in the fictional Asian country of Tazbekistan. Mitchell plays the newly appointed ambassador while Webb is his more experienced Deputy Head.
For those familiar with Peep Show and other Mitchell and Webb collaborations, Ambassadors has a more dramatic tone overall with some humorous situations set around it. My favorite storyline is the second episode when spoiled Prince Mark (Tom Hollander) comes to Tazbekistan as a trade envoy.
Bluestone 42 is a sitcom that follows a British Army bomb disposal unit in Afghanistan. They are led by ATO Captain Nick Medhurst (Oliver Chris), the guy who wears the suit and actually defuses the IEDs. He’s good at his job, but off duty he’s something of a womanizer and gourmand.
Medhurst’s team is strictly business when lives are on the line as well, but when they blow off steam you might wonder why anyone would ever hand them a weapon or allow them around explosives at all.
While Blackpool first aired in the UK almost a decade ago, I’m excited to see this genre bending series on Hulu. Starring David Tennant, David Morrissey and Sarah Parish, this musical murder mystery is the type of endeavor destined to be considered a cult classic. I can’t explain it any better than this clip.
On Acorn TV
And finally, if you have a subscription to Acorn TV’s on-line service, they will be streaming series two of James Nesbitt’s medical drama, Monroe starting September 1. I thoroughly enjoyed this program and have been waiting almost two years for its return. I literally squealed with happiness when I saw the news.
Monroe is a brilliant neurosurgeon with more than a few problems at home. He also has a tendency to irk some of his colleagues at the hospital, specifically the head of cardiology, Dr. Jenny Bremner (Sarah Parish). I’m eager to see who the charming Mr. Monroe will annoy this time.
That’s it for this installment, but I’ll be back next month with a whole new list of British telly alerts. In the meantime, happy viewing!
Carmen is an American wife and mother of two college students who live away from home. With her yellow lab Malcolm by her side, she watches and writes about British television for her own blog Everything I Know about the UK I Learned from the BBC. Read more of Carmen’s posts here.
Disclosure: Carmen received a free account with Acorn TV Online in exchange for blogging about Acorn TV and she is a regular contributor to Telly Visions, a blog associated with Washington D.C.’s local PBS station, WETA.