A Guilty Pleasure – British TV Mysteries

October 26, 2010 § Leave a comment


Photo: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I liked them before I spent a year living in the UK.  MI5 (Spooks across the pond) got me started stateside.  Then, after a year in Southeast London, with only five channels on the television, and little time to watch (too many books to read to make the grade), I became very focused in my viewing.  And the British mystery/crime/detective series became a staple.

In the U.K., serials always run consecutively – often consisting of only six to nine episodes with no repeats.  Even the American programs ran for a full 13 weeks without interruption (a revelation for an American TV viewer).  Overall, I found that British crime dramas addressed current themes and issues head-on, and were stocked with smart, interesting characters who were a bit grittier and real than their U.S. counterparts.  Add to that, the British accent – so endearing to the North American ear – and that dry, witty sense of humor that always seemed to accompany the rather morbid task of identifying victims and time of death and murder weapon.  Sigh…

To prove my point, here is a list of my favorites (many available here on BBC America, PBS, or on DVD): Midsomer Murders; Prime Suspect; The Inspector Lynley Mysteries; Silent Witness; Waking the Dead; and Wire  in the Blood.

And now there is Law and Order U.K. , about which I am on the fence at the moment, and Luther, which I rather like after one episode.

As for the BBC’s new Sherlock Holmes rendering, “Sherlock” on “Masterpiece Mystery!” courtesy of PBS, I can say that I’m a raving fan.  Set in the present day, this current incarnation of Sherlock Holmes is edgy, eccentric, brilliant, and slightly antisocial.  Dr. Watson is a military doctor who recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan.   The New York Times review claimed, “The appeal is elementary: good, unpretentious fun, something that’s in short supply around here.”  I couldn’t agree more.  Although, one American series, “The Good Wife,” which coincidentally features Alan Cumming, host of “Masterpiece Mystery!”, is a pretty bloody excellent show as well.  If you’re not watching, you have no idea what you’re missing.

The same is true of all of the above.  Happy viewing!


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