Friday, July 7, 2017


So the Fourth of July is kind of a downer for me; as an Anglophile, I daydream about what it would be like if the colonies were a part of the Commonwealth, like Canada.  (JUST KIDDING - sort of. Since this year, less on the kidding, more on the wishing.) But for me, the 4th has never lived up to the hype surrounding the holiday. I can't really sum up what's missing, but it's always been anticlimactic for me, especially now that I don't live in Boston anymore.

The most hilarious part of that holiday was receiving the above text message from my friend SJ. She cut the cable/TV cord long before I knew her, but I keep forgetting that and just assume she is in the loop about all the Sunday night PBS shows (which she watches through PBS Passport or other streaming services). The last time I got a similar text was a couple of months ago when she missed the most recent series of "Sherlock".

So for all the folks who cut the cable cord (I WISH I could be one of you), here is my list of Sunday night British PBS shows you should be watching either live, On Demand, or through your streaming service of choice (Amazon Prime, Netflix, PBS Passport - which by the way, is worth the donation - ALL the seasons and masterclasses of the Great British Baking Show. Love it!)

Image result for Poldark1. Poldark: Captain Ross Poldark creates a boatload of drama when he returns home to Cornwall, England. Wounded in the American Revolutionary war, his family thought he was dead, and life has gone on without him: his father has died; the family home is in disrepair and the fortune is depleted; and worst of all, his beloved is about to marry his best friend/cousin. It is up to Ross to rebuild his life, making his fortune while helping out the tenants/miners who are living on his land. He starts a new business venture mining for copper, makes a formidable enemy of the wealthiest businessman in the area, outruns the revenue men while free trading, and finds a new, steady love in his very own kitchen. (Yay, Demelza!) This drama is based on books by Winston Graham and was originally filmed for television back in the 1970s, but this new adaptation is really engaging and has some lovely scenery, both of Cornwall and of the dreamy Aidan Turner ("Being Human", The Hobbit) who plays Ross Poldark. One word: ::scything:: You can thank me later. Series 3 will be starting on Masterpiece Classic on Sunday, October 1, 2017.

Image result for grantchester cricket episode
2. Grantchester: After seeing action in WWII, Canon Sidney Chambers seems to enjoy his quiet life in his small Cambridgeshire village of Grantchester, albeit one complete with whisky and jazz, much to the chagrin of his prim and proper housekeeper, Mrs. M. However, his life is turned on end when he gets involved in a murder investigation, and after that Sidney finds himself entangled in more criminal cases. His ability to listen to people and his compassion for their problems make him an excellent investigator. Unfortunately, he is not as discerning in his own life - the man has a full plate: his attraction to both Amanda, who is engaged to another man, and the intriguing Hildegard, a German widow; instructing his new curate Leonard; house training Dickens, his Labrador; and writing his sermon for Sunday. And whatever will the Archdeacon say about Sidney's new sideline in detecting? More Bakewell tart, anyone? Series 3 is currently running on Masterpiece Mystery.

3. Home Fires: It is the eve of war in the Cheshire village of Great Paxford. In the uncertainty wartime, Joyce, the chair of the local Women's Institute, proposes that the group disband until the end of the conflict, but is opposed by Frances, who realizes that the WI is a lifeline for many of the women in the village. Relaunching and expanding the WI to be more inclusive of class and station, Frances and her friends do their bit for the war effort and bring together women in their community in a way that they had not been united previously.  So if the show is about women, why the picture of the RAF flyer? Because Wing Commander Nick is LOVELY! Series 2 just concluded running on Masterpiece Classic. Sadly, this is the final series because ITV didn't commission a 3rd series, but the official story will continue in eBook form from Amazon. (I have just started reading!)

 4. Prime Suspect: Tennison aka Prime Suspect 1973 is the origin story of Jane Tennison's career at the Metropolitan Police. Viewers of the original "Prime Suspect" mini-serieses know Jane (played by the great Helen Mirren) as one of the first female Detective Chief Inspectors at the Met; this series goes back to her very first murder case at the Met while she is still a probationary WPC. The show is dark, which is typical for Prime Suspects, and there are a number of times where you may find yourself yelling at the television. One thing I liked about it was the little ways in which the young, naive, and idealistic Tennison from this program starts to become the more hardened character we know from Prime Suspect. The series just concluded running on Masterpiece Mystery; sadly, it is just a one off.

5. Endeavour is another origin story: this time of the Oxfordshire police's Inspector Morse, a character made famous by John Thaw. Shaun Evans plays Police Constable Endeavour Morse (it's just "Morse" to you and me), a smart, introverted music lover and Oxford drop-out who learns quickly when he joins the CID that he is going to need all his smarts to solve crimes in the circumspect academic community in Oxford of the swinging 1960s. DI Fred Thursday recognizes that Morse has a lot of potential, taking him under his wing as his "bag man", becoming both Morse's mentor and friend, solving crimes together over a pint and a bagged lunch in the pub. Series 4 has its premiere on Sunday, August 20 on Masterpiece Mystery.

1. While is it great to watch these shows streaming on your own, it's even more fun if you take part in the live Tweet that goes on when the shows air on Masterpiece on Sunday. It's great to read and to join in! The hashtags are usually the showname and then PBS, eg. #PoldarkPBS
2. PBS does shorten episodes so that they can have their sponsorship bits at the beginning and end of episodes. This is most noticeable on Endeavour. Well, at least it is to me, but then again I just rewatched the whole series on Amazon. I caught a bit of a series 2 episode on PBS this past weekend and realized they skipped a very small subplot that had no impact on the mystery.   

All photos from the Masterpiece website
* text message from S-J

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