Becoming British at television time

Sherri Gardner HowellBlount, Farragut, Kitchen Table Talk, West Knoxville

I decided to leave the kitchen table this week for the short walk to the family den and the “TV couch.”

My after-work days beginning in March were in danger of mirroring my at-work day, only instead of Zoom, Word and Publisher on the screen, it was Hoyle Hearts, Candy Crush and Microsoft Ultimate Word Games.

Early on, my husband and I realized that a pattern like that was not only hard on the eyes, but very isolating. As I don’t do well in isolation anyway, we resolved to find some television that we would both enjoy.

That turned out to be a TALL order. First, Neville and I are seldom on the same page as to what we like on television. When we agree on a show, it becomes a “must,” but they are few and far between. “Big Bang Theory,” “Survivor,” “Amazing Race,” “Blacklist” and “NCIS” pretty well cover the lists. After the run of “The Amazing Race,” we were dead in the water, and it was only June.

Sheer luck led us to “MI5” on Amazon Prime. This British spy drama was called “Spooks” in Great Britain and “MI5” in the U.S. Neville and I were mesmerized not only by the show, but by the way British television series are structured. Leading characters are NOT safe, and cliff-hangers are truly filled with surprises. It ran for 10 seasons, and we watched every one, then watched the movie they did after the series had ended. It’s good television.

Even with the spies filling a couple of hours each night, I found myself with time to fill after my early-bird husband went to bed. I was burning through books pretty quickly, so I started searching for some television that would make me happy.

Being a HUGE fan of British and Australian television and a fan of crime dramas and Agatha Christie-type mysteries with good human stories woven in, I found some good television in that genre through PBS, Acorn TV, BritBox (yes, I have too many subscriptions for someone who only watches television a few hours at night) and, of course, Netflix and Prime.

These are not “Downton Abbey,” but then, nothing is. They are series and a mini-series that I found held my attention, had good story lines and good actors. The added glimpse of British and Australian villages and lifestyles – at least as portrayed on television – was a bonus.

One word for those of us “of a certain age:” I turn on my closed caption and often find myself Googling British phrases and words.

Try some of these:

  • “Broadchurch” – Three seasons, 24 episodes, Netflix. The death of an 11-year-old boy is at the center of this crime drama in the small seaside town of Broadchurch. Season one involves the search for the killer; season two, the trial; and season three, a different murder with familiar investigators.
  • “Grantchester” – Five seasons with a new one expected in 2021 with each season having six episodes, on PBS and Amazon Prime. A vicar and his Detective Inspector friend solve local crimes/mysteries. The show is set in the 1950s in the village of Grantchester. I liked the first vicar, Sidney Chambers, better than his replacement, William Davenport, but Davenport is growing on me.
  • “Endeavour,” “Inspector Morse” and “Lewis” – Almost as iconic to British television viewers as “Dr. Who,” which I just cannot get into, is the whole Inspector Morse series. It started back in 1987 with “Inspector Morse,” which ran for eight seasons, 33 episodes. First spin-off was “Lewis” in 2007, which ran for nine seasons. Newest one is “Endeavour,” which is a prequel as it is Endeavor Morse at the start of his career. “Endeavour” is my favorite, and you don’t have to watch the others to get into the prequel. There are seven seasons in the can and promises of more. Shaun Evans as the title character is wonderful.

Hope this fills your time while waiting for “The Crown,” season four, on Nov. 15.

Sherri Gardner Howell has been writing about family life for newspapers and magazines since 1987. She lives in West Knoxville, is married to Neville Howell and has two sons and three grandsons.

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