Tag Archive: BBC


Today we’re continuing our annual year-end round-up with the Best TV Series of 2021.  If you missed it, check out our review of the best Kick-Ass Heroines of 2021 here.  We watch a lot of television, and probably love a good series even more than a great movie.  We preview hundreds of series, but outside big franchise content you want to know about, we only review what we recommend–the best genre content we’re watching. The theory?  If we like it, we think you may like it.  The best shows have a compelling story, great characters, tremendous action, a sharp use of humor, and all kinds of well-executed genre elements that satisfy and leave viewers feeling inspired.  It’s even better if we see richly detailed sets and costumes.  And the very best series get usually get canceled at the end of their first season because network execs will never figure out what we genre fans love.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:

Best Borg Series, Best TV BorgCowboy Bebop (Netflix).  Mustafa Shakir’s Jet Black expanded on the anime series to create a space pilot and bounty hunter as cool and real as anyone from the Star Wars universe.  His cyborg implants made him incredibly powerful–necessary in his dealings on behalf of Spike and his family.

Best Sci-Fi TV SeriesBest Western TV Series, Best Space Fantasy Series, Best Retro Fix, Best TV Soundtrack, Best TV Costumes – Cowboy Bebop (Netflix).  Only one science fiction series really knocked our socks off this year.  The stylish look and music, and the fun of the crew of the spaceship Bebop made us want to speed through this series.  For viewers looking for the next Firefly, this is it.  For fans looking for the best futurism, space realism, and the next Altered Carbon, this is it.  Its writing, direction, cast, and overall production values made the series this year’s series to talk aboutRunner-up for Best Sci-fi TV Series: Blade Runner: Black Lotus (Adult Swim), great sci-fi, faithful to the source material.  Honorable mention for Best Sci-fi TV Series: Resident Alien (Syfy) Alan Tudyk’s fish-out-of-water story and his alien story pulled us back to the roots of classic sci-fi with humor and drama as a bonus.

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At last!  Season 5 of the detective/police procedural Shetland arrives in the U.S. today, via streaming service BritBox.  This is speedy for the U.S. airing of Brit TV–Season 6 arrived on BBC One and iPlayer only days ago on October 20, more than two years since we last caught up with Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall)–thanks to the world’s nemesis, Covid-19 and surrounding delays.  Call it Scotland Noir or Nordic Noir, in its fifth season viewers were treated to a satisfying wrap-up to the year’s six-part mystery of human trafficking, murders, blackmail, dead bodies in the ocean, and cheating hearts.  Shetland may have pulled off its best scene of all in the final minutes of the season finale.  How can they keep coming up with such good police drama in such a small and desolate setting?  In the season opener, Perez and trusty right arm Alison “Tosh” MacIntosh (Alison O’Donnell) take on their next crime: the murder of one of Shetland’s most prominent individuals… on his doorstep.

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Bommar Guilt

Review by C.J. Bunce

It arrived in Scotland and the UK in 2019 before the pandemic, then took its time getting to the States.  In the interim it won top honors in Scotland for the darkly funny and thrilling series and show director Robert McKillop, with nominations for its actors and writing.  It’s BBC’s Guilt, featuring the amazing, award-winning co-star of Shetland and Unforgotten, Mark Bonnar.  Fans of UK television have seen Bonnar as both well-meaning and outright guilty before, but not quite like the compounding weight placed upon his character in Guilt.  And the result is a performance of multiple facets of the human condition that at times is laugh-out-loud funny.  Bonnar co-stars with Jamie Sives (Doctor Who, Game of Thrones) as brothers who run over and kill an old man while driving home after a wedding.  Their world falls apart when the dead man’s niece arrives from Chicago.  She’s played by Irish actor Ruth Bradley, who played the stellar, tragic cyborg DI Voss on BBC’s Humans.  Guilt is now airing on PBS Masterpiece, with its entire four-episode first season streaming now on PBS Passport.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Just when you thought Nicola Walker′s (Collateral, Law & Order: UK, Luther) compassionate cop Detective Chief Inspector Cassie Stuart is fed up with humanity–with the criminals that have gotten away with murder literally for decades and the antics of her family at home–they keep pulling her back in, with two more seasons in the works, and the fourth season hopefully arriving in the U.S. this year.  We reviewed the first season of the BBC’s Unforgotten here at borg just last month, and we’re happy to report the series only improves in the next two seasons.  The first three seasons are on BritBox via Amazon Prime, and if you want your fill of red herrings and surprise villains in your modern British crime drama, look no further.  With its fifth season currently in production, PBS is also now streaming the first three seasons as part of its Passport membership, a chance for U.S. viewers to get caught up on the show before the new episodes arrive.

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BBC war of the Worlds b

Review by C.J. Bunce

Back in 2018 we celebrated the 120th anniversary of the publication of H.G. Wells’ genre defining science fiction novel, The War of the Worlds here at borg We’ve also reviewed several adaptations and retellings over the past decade.  The latest historical adaptation is a 2019 three-part BBC series now streaming here on Amazon Prime.  Director Craig Viveiros’ The War of the Worlds may be the best yet at blending the old and the new–the end of the 19th century with the demands of modern viewers.  Suspenseful, consistent with H.G. Wells’ Edwardian themes, this short series is chock full of very British characters and concepts taking on several science fiction cautionary paradigms: warnings of the dangers of new technologies, the cost of hubris, prejudice, and colonialism, and the adventures, fear, and trials that come with the unknowable future.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A worn-down cop that looks like Johnny Fever (from WKRP in Cincinnati) with a partner that looks like Korg (from Thor: Ragnarok) with a tough-as-nails front desk gal who evokes Janine Melnitz (from Ghostbusters), and a human adopted by a dwarf fresh off a hike to the big city (like Elf in Elf), encounter a rebel woman who wants to make a fantasy world act like our real world… with the aid of a dragon.  It’s a little bit The Librarians and very much Vagrant Queen.  And it’s filled with characters out of the Tolkien fantasy world and adapting characters from a Terry Pratchett series of novels.  It’s the light-hearted fantasy series The Watch, airing Sunday nights on BBC America in the States.  You can catch the first episodes this morning on BBC America, and the third episode tonight.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

With the 1868 novel The Moonstone, author Wilkie Collins created what is widely considered to be the first modern English detective novel, creating the key beats that would thereafter make up the framework for the genre.  In his earlier work, the 1859 Gothic “sensational” novel The Woman in White, Collins created a suspense thriller that stands up to rich classics including his contemporary Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and Bleak House, all while steeped in the realities of being a 19th century woman documented a decade earlier by Charlotte Brontë in Jane Eyre, and later, Daphne du Maurier in Rebecca.  The BBC 2018 adaptation of The Woman in White, streaming now via Amazon Prime, rises to the top of recent British mystery series, a compelling execution that will keep you guessing until the final scenes.    Continue reading

The BBC and HBO revealed a new trailer for the second season of His Dark MaterialsDafne Keen is back as Lyra Belacqua, with Ruth Wilson as the vile Mrs. Coulter and Lin-Manuel Miranda as the friend to polar bears everywhere, Lee Scoresby.  The Great War is brewing as Lyra and Will (Amir Wilson) begin to explore their new worlds.  With season one roughly following the events of the novel The Golden Compass aka Northern Lights, the characters are now aligned to reveal the secrets of The Subtle Knife.  Mrs. Coulter has a new wardrobe and style, everything is getting a bit bleaker, and we at last get to see more of those steampunk dirigibles in action.

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

One of the news items from this weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con was a push of completed Disney and Fox movies out several months to insure full movie theater returns for the studio, while pushing out the door in advance of a full audience return films like The New Mutants and Kenneth Branagh’s follow-up to his adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, now arriving October 23.  Those of us excited for the next all-star Hercule Poirot adventure can be glad that at least means a home release sooner than later.  In the meantime Amazon Prime has a brilliant BBC production of a classic mystery novel, previously adapted by Alfred Hitchcock, and adapted most recently in 2013, of The Lady Vanishes.  

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Last year at San Diego Comic-Con we got our first look at season one of His Dark Materials, BBC and HBO’s adaptation of Philip Pullman’s popular fantasy novels, so it’s no surprise the second season trailer premiered at this year’s Comic-Con@Home.  Logan star Dafne Keen returns as Lyra to lead a cast including Ruth Wilson, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ariyon Bakare, Andrew Scott, Amir Wilson, and newcomers to the series this season, Terence Stamp, Jade Anouka, and Simone Kirby.

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