Tag Archive: British series


Review by C.J. Bunce

BritBox may not be the #1 streaming service around, but thanks to the pandemic its subscriptions have reportedly doubled this year.  And you’d think that would give a series like Wild Bill the possibility of a second chance.  Wild Bill was a 2019 British series in the great tradition of police procedurals featuring coppers with attitude starring the unlikely lead in a British series, Rob Lowe.  It’s probably Rob Lowe’s best personal performance to date, and certainly his most mature role, yet the series was canceled by production company ITV after the first season.  And that was a scrawny British season of six episodes, not 10 or 13 like we’d find on this side of the pond, which makes it doubly unfortunate to lose a series with so much promise.  Since American viewership has brought a new life to all things British TV, you’d think that might mean something, but apparently British television studios don’t like making money over here.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

We’re always on the lookout for the next great British/Irish/Scottish/UK police procedural or mystery series like Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes, Hinterland or Shetland, Marchlands or Lightfields, Zen or Quirke, or, of course, Sherlock.  The 2019 British series A Confession is streaming on BritBox in the U.S. via Amazon, and it may not be as good as any of these, but it does eclipse recent series like Dublin Murders, The Silence, The Five, The Missing, Thirteen, Broadchurch, and CollateralIt is based on the real-life story of the murders of two women in 2003 and 2011, so the drama is dark and real.  And it offers up a cast of familiar genre actors that will make you want to take a look.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

We’re always on the lookout for the next great British/Irish/Scottish/UK police procedural or mystery, after the next Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes, Hinterland or Shetland, Marchlands or Lightfields, Zen or Quirke, or, of course, Sherlock.  So the pay-channel Starz releasing a late-year mystery series called Dublin Murders was going to get our attention.  Filmed in Belfast and Dublin, with a noir sensibility–dark places, mysterious characters, and murder–the series has the potential to be a good detective series.  Billed as an “eight-part mystery series with a taproot that drops deep down into Ireland’s past, foreshadows the present and brings insight to its future,” the story follows Sarah Greene as Cassie Maddox and Killian Scott as Rob Reilly, homicide detectives on the trail of the murderer of a school girl.  The murder was similar–too similar–to a murder in the city’s past.

Maddox and Reilly appear appealing enough at first.  They share a secret of the past that would get them fired had anyone found out: Reilly isn’t really Reilly, but the alter ego of the sole survivor of the crime years ago that resulted in two missing friends, never to be found.  Unfortunately he’s a witness who can’t remember, and by all accounts he shouldn’t be involved with this investigation because of his clear conflict of interest.  Merged with his pursuit of the person behind the missing kids and the recent murder is a story of Maddox’s history catching up with her.  As a child her parents were killed in an auto accident, and to deal with it mentally she invented an imaginary friend she named Lexie.  As an undercover cop, she took on the name Lexie as her alter ego.  Now she and one of her former colleagues stumble upon another murder, a woman who looks just like Cassie.  And surprise: her name is Lexie.  Always waiting for the possibility that we’ve stumbled into an unreliable narrator series, ultimately that’s not the case, the woman was real and not something we’re seeing through Maddox’s imagination.  But the series stumbles for other reasons.

Based on the first two novels of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad novels, In the Woods and The Likeness, a key problem is combining the stories from two books to make into one season of television–stories that have little to do with each other.  Both cops have these common stories involving dual personas so it’s easy to see how someone thought it might work.  But it doesn’t.  The first three episodes develop the characters, but suddenly they lose their personalities.  The quiet, likeable, and sympathetic Reilly becomes a jerk, a supremely angry and mean protagonist pushing away Maddox and everyone else and leaving the audience with little to care about from his plot thread.  Maddox has the same collision of character–once admirable and mostly by-the-book, she turns into a nasty character, bitter and horrible to those who care about her.  As Reilly becomes trapped in a development of his own making, Maddox agrees to a job with her former colleague, a preposterous undercover operation impersonating the deceased Lexie in order to discover her murderer.

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Lightfields generations

So far the Gothic and ghostly Marchlands and Lightfields series have only aired in the UK, available to U.S. audiences only if you buy a European boxed set for an international DVD player from a source such as eBay or Amazon.co.uk.  We did just that and reviewed the superb first series in our review of Marchlands here earlier this year.  This past February the next installment of the multi-generational ghost story set in a common British manor, Lightfields, introduced a new cast of characters, new time periods and a new home as setting.  The new five-installment series is certain to please fans of the first series, adding a more intricately woven plot and plenty of surprises.  No word yet when these series will make it to the States, but when they do you’ll know to program the DVR accordingly.

As with Marchlands, Lightfields follows three sets of families in a manor house, all interconnected by a common event in the past.  For Lightfields it is 1944, 1975, and 2012.  In 1944 we meet the Felwoods, a typical British rural family during wartime.  A girl named Eve (The Golden Compass’s Dakota Blue Richards) has come up to escape from the London blitz, befriending the seventeen-year-old Felwood daughter Lucy (Antonia Clarke).  One year Lucy’s senior, Lucy flaunts her maturity prompting Lucy to be drawn to an American serviceman (Neil Jackson, Quantum of Solace, White Collar, How I Met Your Mother, Stargate SG-1) looking only for a fling while on R&R.  Lucy is at the core of the ghost story, dying in a barn fire at the beginning of the series.  Why she was in the barn, who else saw what happened, and who caused the fire are the questions ultimately revealed in the well-plotted mystery of Lightfields.

Lightfields Henry Mills as young pip and Dakota Blue Richards

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