52 Movies: Week 30 - A Majority of One
The Lodger: Have a Little Faith In People

Those British Crime Dramas Just Keep Coming

Seems I should get tired of these--but they're just so very well done, especially the acting. As we were discussing in the comments on some other post recently, most of the characters are truly believable as real people, and this is partly because they aren't Hollywood-beautiful. Frequently the women in American productions who are playing supposedly tough action-oriented characters somehow manage to convey to me the sense that they're way more concerned with how they look than with being the character. 

Anyway, I have four to recommend:

Happy Valley, which really exemplifies what I was just talking about. This is not a mystery, but a cop show. The cop is a middle-aged woman, Catherine Cawood, played by Sarah Lancashire. and she is utterly convincing, as is another important character, Catherine's sister Clare (Siobhan Finneran). The valley of the title is, as you might expect, not at all happy; it's a rather depressed area of Yorkshire. There are two series of six episodes each, and each series is a complete story. My only hesitation about recommending it is that the subject matter is pretty grim. There's not much explicit violence, but there's disturbing psychological stuff.

Shetland and Vera are both based on mystery novels by Ann Cleeves. I knew nothing about Cleeves until my wife read one of the novels featuring Deputy Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope and found out there was a BBC series featuring her. Vera is a female variant of the traditional gruff-but-basically-kind-hearted cop, a rather dumpy, plain, and unfashionable middle-aged woman who is of course brilliant at solving crimes. She's a great character, wonderfully portrayed by Brenda Blethyn.


Shetland is almost as good. The biggest difference is that the detective, Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall), is not as vivid a character as Vera. It's set in the Shetland Islands, which means you get many glimpses of great scenery. (Vera, set on the coast of Northumberland, also gives you a good bit of that.) And by the way if you wonder about "Perez", as I did: Spanish Armada.

Endeavour is the somewhat unlikely attempt to portray Inspector Morse, of the famous novels and late-'80s/early-'90s TV series, as a young man. In my opinion it works very well for the most part. Shaun Evans plays the young Morse. It's a lot to ask of a young actor to play a role in which he's expected to resemble one (John Thaw) playing an older version of the same character, but Evans is at least plausible. I notice that he uses a certain pained grimace-smile that Thaw often used. The series is set in the mid-1960s, and of course for someone my age that's interesting. Also interesting for fans of the old series are the characters who are the younger versions of characters from the old series. I especially like young Max, the pathologist (James Bradshaw). Also of interest to fans of the old series is that John Thaw's daughter, Abigail, has a small but recurring role as a journalist. 

Also worthy of mention, I think, so far, is The Tunnel, although I don't like it as well as the others. It's currently being broadcast on PBS. We're about halfway through ten episodes. Like Happy Valley it's one long story, and the individual episodes are only forty minutes or so long. It's a joint Anglo-French production, featuring a beautiful and eccentric (mildly autistic, or something of that sort) young French policewoman played by Clémence Poésy. I thought she looked slightly familiar: turns out she played  Fleur Delacour in one of the Harry Potter movies. It's very well done (as usual), but be warned that it is much more grim, violent, and generally disturbing than any of the others. It's based on a Swedish series called The Bridge, which I have not seen.

And be advised that I don't really care that much about the plausibility and coherence of plots in crime stories. That's definitely a fault in some of these, especially I think some of the Endeavour episodes. But it's the characters and the way their moral choices play out that keep me interested--in addition, of course, to the basic what-will-happen-next appeal of a good story.

All of these except The Tunnel and probably the current season of Endeavour are available on Netflix.


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The characterization on Endeavour is satisfactory as are the period sets, but the scripts are de trop. They need to simplify their story lines and bring it back toward the more cerebral spirit of the original. (Shoot outs between competing police forces and the precinct captain dispatching a tiger in a boxwood maze not credible).

Mlle Poesy created a character too repellent to care about.

Hinterland set in Wales is more satisfying.

In Foyle, the plot is often ridiculous, but it doesn't matter.

Thanks for this. I will try Vera.

O it seems I can get Endeavour Season 1 on amazon prime!

In Foyle, the plot is often ridiculous, but it doesn't matter.

The WWII veteran in my family was a devotee of it when it was first broadcast.

Some of the plots are offensive (the local grandee who kills a child evacuee with an explosive booby trap about plumbed the depths of vicious stupidity).

I like Endeavour a lot. Watching it back and forth with Inspector Morse I see a lot of Morse mannerisms. Is there a new series that's watchable?


Ive never watched Morse but I dont think it will mattet

No, it won't. It's just a bit more fun if you have.



I think y'all will like Vera.

I agree about some of the Endeavour plots, Art.

The only one on our local Netflix is Happy Valley. Having just come back from a holiday on the Northumberland coast, I was rather keen to see Vera, but the only option for that round here seems to be dvd.

About the plots--as far as I can, see it's not just Endeavour, it's most of the crime dramas I have watched. Maybe it's just because my brain no longer functions well enough to keep up with a lot of plot twists, but maybe they just don't work. I don't know. However, for me it's more the characters and their relationships that determine whether or not I like the shows.

My father used to love puzzles. Not the kind you put together on the dining room table, but things like the little triangles with pegs that are on the table at Cracker Barrel, or 3d puzzles--and I did too. When the Rubic Cube appeared on the scene, I took him one and he said, "I used to like things like that, but I don't enjoy them anymore." It completely crushed me. It was more than the fact that he no longer enjoyed something he had before. It was the whole concept that when you get older, you lose things like that. So now, I don't enjoy them either. I think I could figure them out, but they aren't worth the trouble anymore.

That's the way it is with crime dramas. I might be able to follow the plot better, but it's not worth the trouble anymore. I still have a pretty good knack for pegging the criminal, but that's more from an ability to recognize red herrings.


The Bridge (orig. Danish version) is excellent; the American remake just okay. The plot is very similar but the difference is in the acting and writing. Sofia Helin, who plays the lead character, the female detective with Asperger's Syndrome, approaches the role much more sympathetically than the actress does in the American. In the latter the character comes across as more annoying than anything else, while Ms. Helin's performance is quite striking. The show isn't quite as good as the Danish Killing, which is up there in Broadchurch territory imo, but it's close.

The first season of Happy Valley was very good; haven't seen the second yet.

I've kind of given up on Endeavour, as the plots have become increasingly unbelievable. Which is a shame, as I like the actors and the characters quite a bit, and I'm a huge Morse fan.

I can recommend the Irish series Single Handed, about a honest young policeman in a somewhat corrupt area of rural Ireland. Good acting, nice setting, believable stories -- dark, but not terribly so.

And ranging further afield, I'll put in a good word for Salamander, a Belgian mystery/political thriller about a cop who stumbles onto a murderous plot to blackmail government officials when he investigates an unusual bank robbery. The plot is fairly typical of this sort of thing, but the main character, Insp. Paul Gerardi, is an extremely likable hero -- an old school, honest cop played very well by Filip Peeters.

I'm going to see if I can get Vera.

Thanks for these recommendations Rob! I will look up The Bridge and Single Handed.

I thought the Killing was fantastic. I watched all three seasons non stop every night for 40 days. That was back in 2015. I watched Broadchurch on Mac's recommendation, and another one on Netflix - River, which was also very good.

Vera is dvd-only here, too. And I think it must be more popular than they expected, because for the second time we've had Netflix send us an alternate dvd when the next Vera was at the top of the list. They do that when the wait is expected to be lengthy.

Regarding the puzzle aspect of mysteries, Janet: I confess with a little embarrassment that I've never put any effort into figuring them out, either with books or movies/tv. I just watch them unfold. Lazy, I'm afraid. I do sometimes guess whodunit, but as you say you can make a pretty good guess on those sometimes without actually trying to solve the puzzle. Sometimes you can just pick out a person who seems to be harmlessly puttering around in the background, who in the climax is revealed as having a forty-year-old grudge against the deceased, etc. As a rule you can eliminate the apparent likely suspects right off.

Rob, is there actually an American version of The Bridge, or are you referring to The Tunnel? If there's an American version that would make three. Which surely would be enough variants on that plot. The Bridge (original) is on Netflix and I put it on my queue but was wondering whether having seen The Tunnel would spoil it somewhat.

I've been watching for the Danish The Killing to appear on Netflix for several years now, since you raved about it here. It continues not to do so.

There's a pretty good series about an Irish cop-gone-to-seed who still gets involved in solving crimes: Jack Ryan, I think is the name of the cop and the show.

Art, Netflix has been recommending Hinterland to me for quite some time and I plan to give it a try eventually.

I like Foyle's War. Not as much as some of the others. No particular reason for that, just a matter of taste.

I tend to pay a bit more attention with the books, and the fact that I seldom read anything but older mysteries helps--the 4 Queens--noir--that's about it for me.

I like the business about getting another film when they don't have the one you want because sometimes it result in our having 1 or even 2 more films at a time than we pay for.


There's a The Bridge with the murder on a bridge on the Rio Grande (although I'd have thought the Niagara Bridge would be more the thing for Nordic Noir). I almost watched it once but then didn't for some reason.

Oh yeah, I see that now. I'm pretty sure three is plenty. By the way the tunnel in The Tunnel is the Channel Tunnel. Serves the same plot purpose.

I read that the actor who plays the male Danish detective in The Bridge has left the show. Too bad because I thought the best part of the series was the interaction between him and the female Swedish detective with Asperger's.

I like Foyle's War too, although I agree with Art about the plot with the boy.

"In Foyle, the plot is often ridiculous, but it doesn't matter."

I hadn't noticed, I just like the show. (Sometimes I'm so dumb).

"I confess with a little embarrassment that I've never put any effort into figuring them out, either with books or movies/tv. I just watch them unfold. Lazy, I'm afraid."

Me too.

Btw, I was very proud of myself for working out one day that the composer for Foyle's War also did Midsomer Murders.

Ive never puzzled out whodunnit

When I've succeeded it's been not by puzzling it out but by "hmm, he/she really looks suspicious." :-)

Yes, there are three. The Danish one is the original, then the American/Mexican and British/French. I started to watch the American remake but just didn't like the way the actress played the detective with Asperger's, compared to the Danish one.

Mac, do you mean Jack Irish, the one with Guy Pearce? That's actually an Aussie show, and a pretty good one.

No, definitely Irish...let me look it up...Jack Taylor, not Ryan (is Jack Ryan that Tom Clancy character?). That's the title of the series as well as the name of the cop. Very miserable-Irish but still pretty good. Only somewhat anti-Catholic--at least there's a priest who isn't wicked.

In Broadchurch, were you just waiting for the priest to be evil?


Pretty much, yes.

Btw, yet another series, but this time at best only a mild recommendation: Grantchester. Main character is an Anglican priest. Kind of disappointing but not just horrendous. Could have been really good. It does at least treat the vocation with respect, but with an anachronistic twist. Usually ends with one of the lamest sermons you ever heard.

The actor who plays the Anglican priest in Grantchester is the same one who plays the horrid rapist-killer in Happy Valley. I didn't realize it until after just watching the second season of Happy Valley, so different did he look and act.

I agree about Grantchester having had the potential to be good. The first few episodes did look somewhat promising but then it just dwindled away into pretty much nothing, and left me wondering what the heck it all had to with his calling as a clergyman.

I know (about the actor, James Norton). I also had a belated recognition of that, and it was something of a shock. Especially since one of my complaints about him as the Grantchester priest was that he was too much of a pretty boy. He's evil and scary in Happy Valley.

" wondering what the heck it all had to with his calling as a clergyman."

Not very much, really.

"No, definitely Irish...let me look it up...Jack Taylor, not Ryan (is Jack Ryan that Tom Clancy character?). That's the title of the series as well as the name of the cop."

Don't know that one, but yes, Jack Ryan is the Clancy character. So we have Jack Irish, who's an Aussie, Jack Taylor, who's Irish, and Jack Ryan, who's American, but with an Irish name. It's all very confusing! ;-)

I've orderded the second series of 'Single Handed' and the first of 'Hinterland' through the library.

Let us know how you like them.

The original of The Killing remains stubbornly unavailable on Netflix. I should check Amazon.

I've completed the 2nd (final) set of 'Single Handed' and liked it very much. The whole series is comprised of six 100 minute stories, each broken up into two episodes. While each mystery plot is self-contained, the overarching story of the policeman, his family, the town, etc., is also a feature, so it wouldn't make sense to watch this one out of order. What I really liked about this series is the fact that it's a bit more character-driven than some of the other whodunits we've discussed, while still maintaining an engaging mystery element. Acting, writing, etc., are all very good. All in all it's a bit less flashy than some of the others, and quieter, but by no means "cozy."

I've also watched the first two episodes of 'Hinterland,' the Welsh detective show. So far, very good -- I really like the main character (the actor reminds me a little bit of Anthony Hopkins). This one so far is dark and a bit spooky at times, but not particularly violent or sordid. Acting, script, direction are all top notch. And while the mysteries have both been solid, I like the way it makes the human element prominent, like Broadchurch and The Killing do. There are moments in both stories that are genuinely moving.

What I wish we had was a list of all these programs we talk about, so I can remember them when I'm looking for something. I don't suppose there's a way for us to do that without Maclin having to do all the work.


what I do is, I put everything in my amazon cart and reserve it to buy later. Then I can have a lot of stuff in my amazon cart which I have not got a clue why it is there

Still, that is a good idea. And not having a clue why something is there doesn't bother me. I never have a clue what anything is for any more.


I keep a list as a "draft" in my email account. I update it when I hear of something good to read / see. Like Grumpy, the result is that I have a long list of things and can't remember why.

Actually, I also use some specialized tools. For books I have a "wishlist" that I maintain at LibraryThing.com, and for movies I have a wishlist at Letterboxd.com. But I keep an email draft for things like CDs I'm interested in hearing, or television programs (which I don't think I've ever watched any of them), audiobooks, and that sort of thing.

Some of these I don't have to remind myself about because Netflix keeps suggesting them to me. My version of the "what is that doing here?" problem is with my Netflix queue.

Which reminds me: I asked this question in a comment on the Undead Thread a couple of weeks ago and didn't get an answer, but it didn't stay visible for very long so I'll ask it again. Does anybody remember recommending a movie called Seraphim Falls?

I have separate lists on Amazon for books, TV shows, and movies. It's generally only stuff I'm fairly sure I want to buy that I leave in the actual cart, under 'saved for later.'

re: Seraphim Falls. I may have mentioned it at some point but I wouldn't have recommended it, as I didn't like it much.

Well, that's too bad, because you were my prime suspect. It floated to the top of my Netflix queue recently, after a period of years. Neither my wife nor I knew anything about it. *Somebody* must have recommended it to one of us, and I thought this group the most likely source. Here's what I posted on the Undead Thread:

Does anyone recall recommending a movie called Seraphim Falls to me? It got to the top of my Netflix queue without my noticing, and I seriously considered sending it back unwatched, because neither I nor my wife have any memory of putting it on there or knew anything about it. But watched it and it's pretty good: a Western revenge story. My wife bailed out at a fairly gruesome scene early on, so be warned--it's not the only one.

I figure someone recommended it to me, probably years ago. But I just searched the blog and my email account and can't find any reference to it. Seems most likely a Rob G recommendation, if anything.

I don't know if I've mentioned the MHz TV network here before, but it shows only foreign TV series. I came upon it while living in D.C. just before moving to New Zealand. Just checked its website and it now has a streaming video service, MHz Choice, available as well, which looks pretty good.

I wonder if they have the original of The Killing...?

Finished 'Hinterland' (1st season) and would definitely recommend it. If Broadchurch and The Killing are our reference 10/10 series, this one's a solid 8 or 8.5

We watched Arthur and George which I mentioned before, and really liked it. It's based on a true story, and from what I read in Wikipedia (who knows?), it's not too far afield, but rather embellished. I do not believe that Arthur Conan Doyle, who is the Arthur of the title, actually chased down the criminal, but he was definitely involved in the investigation. George was an Indian man who had been wrongly accused of a crime, and who after being released from prison, wanted to have his name cleared so he could continue in his profession as a lawyer.


I have Vera, by the way. Hope to watch it tonight.


Ah, I see. Hinterland is the one that begins with a bathtub full of blood.


Yes, and thankfully that's about as gory as it gets. When watching that first bit I was thinking, "Man, I hope the whole thing isn't like this." And it wasn't.

Oh good. Well maybe I'll give it another look.


Not a crime series, but I just finished watching the recent British mini-series Doctor Thorne, and enjoyed it very much. It's based on one of Trollope's Barsetshire novels, and is very well acted and written. Plus it's got nothing objectionable whatsoever, so it makes for good family viewing, if you're looking for that kind of thing.

A friend of mine watched it a month or two back and said, "It's good, but quite tame." Now after having seen it I want to say, "Well, yeah -- it's flipping Trollope!" For me, after all the darker and grittier stuff I've watched it was like a breath of fresh air.

It only runs about 2 1/2 hours (three 50-minute episodes) so it's not a big investment of time either.

I watched that last month and really enjoyed it. I had read the book years ago when I read tons of Trollope, but I had forgotten most of the story. It came back little by little as I was watching it.


Sounds good.

We finished the last episode of Hinterland a few days ago. It's good, but I didn't like it as well as some of the other entries in This Sort of Thing. Found the detective somewhat annoying. I liked DI Rhys better. Was bugged by things like the way time and time again he walked into someone's potentially dangerous house, often at night, without knocking or even calling out. If it had been set in the U.S. it wouldn't have had very many episodes because he would have been shot early on. Still, I'll watch the third series when it comes out.

Sure makes Wales look like a grim place, too. Did you know the Welsh title is Y Gwyll? The Dusk.

Sure makes Wales look like a grim place, too. Did you know the Welsh title is Y Gwyll? The Dusk.

Wales, Cornwall, and Strathclyde were the territories the ancient Britons were able to salvage from the Anglo-Saxon invaders. Don't suppose the Anglo-Saxons gave priority to capturing the less fertile portions of Britain. Most of the population is exurban, small town, and rural. About 18% live in cities of dimensions similar to Mobile's.

See, I liked the detective a lot, and I liked the way that the humanity of the characters and their situations was worked into the plots.

As far as the "dark houses" thing goes, I wonder if that has to do with the fact that there are fewer handguns there. I've noticed the same thing about other European detective shows at times. You see fewer incidences of police entering situations like that with pistols drawn.

Re: Trollope, I've only ever read The Warden, which I liked, but for some reason never moved on from. I've remedied that by deciding to read Framley Parsonage, which is the next in the series after Doctor Thorne.

There are several series, and characters from one series are mentioned or show up in others. Most the of the novels are intertwined in some way.


"I liked the way that the humanity of the characters and their situations was worked into the plots." Yes, I liked that, too. In that respect I don't think it was either worse or better than similar shows.

Yes, re just walking in, as I mentioned, they wouldn't have written it that way if it had been set in the U.S., because somebody might have shot him. But what got me most about that was that often he didn't even knock or announce himself, just appeared. That seems unlikely even in a trusting rural environment.

Re the grimness of Wales: the shabbiness, disrepair, and general mess of the man-made environment reminded me of the American South.

Re the grimness of Wales: the shabbiness, disrepair, and general mess of the man-made environment reminded me of the American South.

I hadn't noticed that. The thing is, the locations are chosen by the directors for a particular mood. What they cannot manipulate is the landscape itself.

Wales is the least affluent part of the UK, in part because dispersed populations are anywhere (ceteris paribus). In general, inter-regional differences are more intense in European countries than they are here, where the least affluent state has 1% of the total population (Wales has 5% of the UK population) but personal income levels about 75% of the national mean.

The parts of the South I know best are not shabby at all. They're damaged by bad urban planning (ergo gruesome mall development everywhere).

I meant to be more specific: the *rural* South. The helter-skelter dilapidated buildings and junk all over the place are all too typical.

All or at least most of these two Hinterland sets seem to have been shot in winter, which added to the dismal feel. Also I think there's a certain deliberate washing-out or un-saturation of color.

Btw DI Rhys's red parka apparently has a following of its own on the internet.

I've noticed on several British TV shows that Wales and the Welsh are often spoken of disparagingly. Often with a sort of humorous twist.

"the grimness of Wales: the shabbiness, disrepair, and general mess of the man-made environment reminded me of the American South."

It resembles certain parts of the rust-belt North as well, such as are fairly common in rural W. Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio. You've got a lovely natural landscape but much man-made degradation.

Maybe it's just American, alas.

Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall makes sport of the Welsh.

And then there's that famous line from Man For All Seasons: "But for Wales?"

I meant to be more specific: the *rural* South. The helter-skelter dilapidated buildings and junk all over the place are all too typical.

Sounds like St. Lawrence County, NY, ca. 1977 (or ca. 1987, while we're at it).

Another series y'all need to add to the list:
The Night Manager, a John LeCarre spy thing with Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, and Olivia Colman. A mini-series of six one-hour episodes. Well-acted, well-written and very suspenseful.

Yes, I've seen it and have been meaning to recommend it here.

I was also going to recommend the book. I used to be a very big fan of LeCarre, and had picked up a copy of the book from a used book sale years ago and never read it. This series caused me to pick it up, just out of curiosity to compare the two. It is *really* good. I'd forgotten just how very, very fine a craftsman Le Carre is. At the level of scene, character, dialog, etc. I think he's probably as good as anybody in recent decades. There's an unsavory quality underlying his work that keeps him out of the top rank, but still very much worth reading.

And by the way the series is a pretty good adaptation of the book, though it departs significantly, especially in the latter half. The book spends a whole lot more time developing Jonathan's character and the process of building his "legend."

I don't think I've ever read any Le Carre -- if I did it was 30+ years ago. I've liked most of the film adaptations I've seen, though.

If you have the least bit of a taste for espionage fiction, you really should read him. As a novelist he's head and shoulders above anybody else I've ever read in that genre. I'd recommend either Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or The Spy Who Came In From the Cold. The former is arguably his best book overall, including criteria like character development. The latter is less complex and closer to genre, but perfectly executed and very powerful. Both of those have been dramatized very effectively, and I gather you've probably seen the Tinker one. The other is a movie with Richard Burton absolutely perfect in the main role.

Le Carre's major theme from the beginning has been the moral conflicts inherent in espionage, and by implication in war in general, and he poses very difficult dilemmas.

The "unsavory" part I mentioned has to do with sex. He also has a bit of a sex obsession and although it's not explicit or pornographic it always strikes me as...I don't know, just unhealthy.

But then he can do romantic love pretty well, too.

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