Posts Tagged ‘Charles Dickens’

Sherrylee and I got tired of CSI–regardless of the city! Don’t the Survivor-type reality shows start running together for you too? When you’ve reached your limit—like we did a few months ago—try something completely different! Try British TV  series! We get them through Netflix, but I know that they often show on PBS channels as weekly series.

Just last night we finished Bleak House (2005 TV series, Rated PG), and, I must say, although I am not a big fan of Charles Dickens, this plot and these characters captured me completely.  In this fifteen-episode series, a string of memorable characters appear with fanciful names like Lady Dedlock,  Mr. Krook, Mr. Guppy, Mr. Tulkinghorn. Say these quickly and with a pronounced British accent and the playful names reveal clues about each character.

Set in the first half of the nineteenth century, the plot revolves around a legal dispute (Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce—but sounds like “jaundice vs. jaundice) over a large inheritance that has been in the courts for many years with no likelihood of being resolved.  Three young people and their guardian of the upper crust mix and mingle with some of the most treacherous and/or despicable characters that Dickens ever created.  Murder, secret love, stolen identities, family shame, even small pox all make their way into a plot that moves quickly and is never boring.

Well acted—especially Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock–and interestingly edited, Bleak House should be on your watch list. If you have a drop of anglophile blue blood at all, you’ll love it.  I even plan to read the book!

Doc Martin (2004 TV series, Rated M) is a universe away from anything similar to Bleak House. Doctor Martin Ellingham (Martin Clunes) is a renown London surgeon who develops a phobia for blood. He leaves London and takes a post as a general practitioner in the seaside village of Port Wenn in Cornwall. Here he meets all kinds of eccentric small town personalities, each of which presents him with very comic complications because the doctor himself is extraordinarily socially dysfunctional.

Doc Martin is rude, abrasive, insensitive, and kicks dogs—but the town takes to him anyway—especially the local schoolteacher Louissa Glasson (Caroline Catz) whom the town adores. Their attempts at romance carry a good many of the episodes.

Doc Martin is not another Dr. House. He is not edgy or cynical; rather, he is a brilliant and dedicated doctor, but one equally oblivious to his own handicap and naïvete about people in general.  The supporting characters—and I do mean characters—are equally brilliant (as the British are prone to say!) and entertaining.

The Mature rating is likely because of some mild sexuality and perhaps some British swearing—I don’t always catch all of their words!

For a slightly different series, try Monarch of the Glen (2001 TV series, Rated G). Set in modern Scotland, the ancient MacDonald clan tries to hold on to its vast estate Glenbogle by making the only surviving son Archie the newest Laird of Glenbogle. He is reluctant to assume this responsibility, so his elderly father and devoted mother use their wiles to win his attention.

The estate includes a whole community full of tenants, servants, employees, and families, so not only does Archie try to apply modern business techniques to rescue the ancient estate fiscally, he is also compelled to settle disputes, to hire schoolteachers, and to marry!!

The series ran in the UK for seven seasons, the final episode seeing Glenbogle facing foreclosure. Of course, help arrives. The cavalry comes over the hills in Scotland as well.

It’s fun, interesting, comic, romantic, and not silly. Once you get the feel for the Scottish brogue—which isn’t all that easy at first—you’ll wish you could hop right over to Glenbogle and hang out with the MacDonalds.

Finally, and I’ve saved the best for last, Foyle’s War (2002 TV series) is an incredible series! Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle, a detective for a small town on the south coast of England in 1939-40, which feels threatened daily by the clouds of the European war. Foyle’s unquestionable integrity drives him not only to solve the local crimes of theft and murder, but also to delve into the murkier crimes that arise out of greed, passion, and local attempts to profit unlawfully from the war.

Each episode in the seven-season series has the prerequisite crime that Dectective Foyle investigates and solves, but the series so much more about the people than about the crimes. And I mean about what it is like to know the German army is just across the waters from you, to watch your sons and daughters join the RAF, knowing that only a small percentage will survive, about good people who are corrupted by war, or crippled, or deprived . . . .

From the first episode as war with Germany looms until the conclusion of the series at the end of WWII, each episode is a story of a country at war and what ordinary people do during war!

Michael Kitchen is terrific, as are Anthony Howell and Honeysuckle Weeks, his supporting  characters for most of the episodes. You will be sorry to see it end—and you won’t be alone. The series actually concluded in 2007, but popular demand brought in back in 2008. The most recent episodes aired in 2010.

You can get all of these through Netflix, but if you don’t subscribe, watch for them on your PBS channel and then set your DVR to record them weekly so you don’t miss even one!

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