Some of the best television mystery comes from Great Britain. Perhaps it stems from Agatha Christie, or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, or maybe Charles Dickens. It might be the genetic influence of William Shakespeare.
There have been some wonderful television mysteries, some of which Americans have enjoyed courtesy of viewings on PBS, where many of us get the occasional shot of culture. Back in my day, Alistair Cooke was the familiar face bringing us a variety of British programming including many mysteries: Masterpiece Theater.
Through the years, here are some of my favorite British imports. Thankfully, most are available for streaming or purchase. Besides PBS, Britbox and AcornTV offer viewing of many past and current programs.
For me, it all started with The Saint (1962-1969) and The Avengers.
British detective shows listed on IMDB.com
Lovejoy is a BBC TV comedy-drama series (1986, 1991-94) based on the books by Jonathan Gash, about an antiques dealer, who dabbles in crime solving and is a bit of a rascal. The show starred Ian McShane as the lovable antiques dealer, who was known to be always short on money and commitment with women. Also starred Dudley Sutton, Phyllis Logan and Caroline Langrishe. A total of 73 episodes were filmed. Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement were responsible for this wonderful television series.
Cracker (1993-1996) Starring the late Robbie Coltrane as Dr. Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald, a forensic psychologist, who consults with the police on cases. Fitz is a rather unlikable person, his own life is a disaster, but he brilliantly gets to the core of the case in his profiling expertise. Coltrane is superb in these 23 episodes, as you may not understand the character, but you root for him to fix his life before it totally crashes.
New Tricks (2003-2015) A senior detective for the Metropolitan Police leads the Unsolved Crime and Open Case Squad which utilizes retired police detectives. The initial cast was my favorite. The series mixes some lighter moments with investigating cases. At first, the squad had to prove itself against some police management resistance, but they obviously did that to stick around for so many seasons. A changing cast through the years.
Death in Paradise (2011-) Now in its 12th season, a series of English and Irish police officers have sent on-loan from London to the sunny Caribbean island of Sainte Marie to lead the local police office in solving crimes. There is usually a culture clash between the detective sent to the island and the locals. A drama with a bit of fun.
Agatha Raisin (2014-) The lovely Ashley Jensen stars as the public relations expert who moves to a quiet village, of course filled with quirky characters, and becomes a sleuth. Based on the books by M. C. Beaton, a fun show, especially the first two seasons. Jensen was the star of a wonderful series called Love, Lies and Records.
An honorary addition to the list, from Australia:
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012-2015) A version of the series was updated to current times, running for a couple of seasons. Phryne Fisher is an investigator in 1920s Melbourne. Based on a series of historical mysteries, Miss Fisher is a glamorous, well-off, intuitive young woman who solves crime, somewhat with the approval of the local police detective.
I have just started viewing Broadchurch and have plans to explore a few more series. Watch for a Part 2 of this blog.