Tag Archive: Shetland


Review by C.J. Bunce

The best British police procedural series of the past decade is back for what was long believed to be its final season.  It’s the seventh season of Shetland, and the cast and writers seem to have breathed some new life into the show, as BBC One shared that stars Douglas Henshall and Mark Bonnar will not be returning for an eighth season (which begins filming in 2023).  So fans of the much-awarded series have six episodes to get their fix of Henshall’s Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez over the next five weeks.  Perez and his small police unit in the close-knit Scottish island hit the ground running with its first episode, now available on BritBox via Prime Video.

When we last left Perez, he was about to get removed from the police force and his best pal Duncan (Mark Bonnar) was going to jail, all resulting from a frame job courtesy of the suicide of twisted murderer Donna Killick, played by Fiona Bell.  (Some spoilers from episode one follow).

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Don’t turn around, Der Kommissar’s in town. 

Marc Warren is a rock star.  Or at least he looks and acts like one.  He’s starred and guest-starred in dozens of series and in each one he’s a stand-out, most famously in Doctor Who and Life on Mars, State of Play and Band of Brothers, and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, just to name a few.  As a Dutch detective on a stylish crime series created by British network ITV, TV audiences will meet the next Sam Tyler, Aurelio Zen, John Luther, and Jimmy Perez.  Warren plays Commissaris Piet van der Valk, Amsterdam’s best detective, on the series Van Der Valk, which saw its first season of three movie-length episodes make its way to the U.S. in 2020.  The first episode of the second season is coming to the States in September on PBS Masterpiece.  So who is this crime fighter from Amsterdam?

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The star of the original Life on Mars returns today for his second season as another great detective solving crimes in the BritBox original series from IPT, Grace John Simm, known for his run as a detective unstuck in time as well as the key villain of Doctor Who, plays Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, a cop sent down to desk duty a few years ago for embarrassing the bureau by bringing in a psychic to help solve a crime.  Only last year television viewers got to meet the next great TV detective with the airing of the show’s first season, and this year he’s joined in the second season opener by former Doctor Who star Arthur Darvill.  We at borg named it the runner-up for best new TV series of 2022 (see our review here).  The second season of Grace begins in the U.S. today, exclusively here on BritBox via Amazon.

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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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Ten years!  That’s ten years reviewing TV series in the decade that streaming services began to dominate TV viewing– and binge-watching was born as Netflix began releasing entire seasons at once in 2013.  How do you pick the best series?  As with yesterday’s list of movie recommendations, our theory from the very first day of publishing borg has been reviewing only those things we like, things we think are fun, imaginative, or just plain cool—because if we think they’re cool, maybe you will, too.  What makes a great TV series?  Great writing—great storytelling.  Also we looked to difficulty level and technology innovation—TV productions tend to get a fraction of the budget of big-screen features, so what they do with their time and money is critical, and some television series in the past decade were all-out feats.  The third factor we looked to is re-watchability—we’ll be watching the best series for years to come.  The big difference between ranking movies and TV is the change between seasons, that force that inevitably causes most shows to decline with each season.  So consistency is a factor.  Finally, as with movies the most important factor is the fun—why would you devote so many hours of your valuable time if you’re not going to have a great time?

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One more thing: Ten years is a long time so we narrowed the series we’re including to those recommendations that fall primarily within the ten-year window.  We covered several fantastic, re-watchable series that cemented their status in reruns or syndication, many beginning before borg began publishing and finishing in the years after, including Burn Notice, White Collar, Warehouse 13, Leverage, House, MD, In Plain Sight, and three landmarks among the best pop culture-packed series of all time, Chuck, Psych, and Community.  We were disappointed that some of the best series were canceled and left to only a single season, otherwise they may have gone on to fare better against our top recommendations, shows like Jason Isaacs’ psychological police procedural Awake, Sarah Shahi’s all-for-fun Fairly Legal, Lauren Cohan’s action/spy series Whiskey Cavalier, the Doctor Who spin-off Class, the adaptation of Max Allan Collins’ popular noir novel series Quarry, the slick animated series Tron: Uprising, and the cyborg future-world Almost Human starring Karl Urban, to name a few.

Grimm

So here are the Top 40 series we recommend, spanning 2011 to 2021.  These are our favorites.  How should you use lists like this?  If you like what we talk about at borg, you’re probably going to like these shows.  If you’ve missed any, odds are you have some new series to take a look at.  Let’s start at #40 and move our way to #1.  As with everything borg, we’re stressing genre series.  Title links are to one of our previous borg reviews.

Let’s get started!

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Grace d

Review by C.J. Bunce

The star of the original Life on Mars is back as a detective solving crimes in the new BritBox original series from IPT, Grace John Simm, also known for his run on Doctor Who, State of Play and other British dramas plays Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, a cop sent down to desk duty a few years ago for embarrassing the bureau by bringing in a psychic to help solve a crime.  When a former colleague rises up the ranks and pulls D.S. Grace in to a high-profile case, viewers get to meet the next great TV detective.  The first episode of Grace is now streaming in the U.S. exclusively here on BritBox via Amazon.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Something wicked this way comes–or at least is coming by way of Tasmania, an island off the southern coast of Australia.  The stark beauty of Tasmania is the best feature of the first episode of the new Starz original series The Gloaming (which means twilight or dusk), from mountain tops to rolling weather changes to waterfalls.  But that’s where the beauty ends as a detective from Melbourne is called in to join a woman from his past who is also a cop, both to investigate a murder tied to the death of his girlfriend long ago.  It all takes place in a part of the world most Westerners will find entirely curious and new.  Written and directed by Victoria Madden (The Kettering Incident), The Gloaming begins this week with a slow-paced introduction that explains little and throws a lot at the viewer.  This isn’t a travelogue for Tasmania, as each image seems connected to some kind of evil lurking around the next corner, like a new take on The Wicker Man.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

British television series that make their way to America tend to be refreshing in that each new show is incredibly different from the last.  No matter how many times Americans catch the latest Brit/Irish/Scot police procedural, it’s nearly impossible to follow how each level of government polices, and manages the policing, of its citizenry.  That quirk doesn’t get more pronounced than in the opener to The Salisbury Poisonings, a four-part series airing Monday evenings on AMC.  The series will likely mean less to those on this side of the pond, although the real-life attempt on the lives of a Russian spy and his daughter living in Salisbury was international news in March 2018, victims of Vladimir Putin’s spy network.  But the first episode has the kind of TV writing that should bring the show to the attention of anglophiles.

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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, and the new Hugh Laurie four-part star vehicle Roadkill may not be the Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes, Hinterland or Shetland, Marchlands or Lightfields, Derry Girls, The Woman in White, Mr. Selfridge, Zen, Quirke, or Sherlock, but it’s better than most of the UK series that have made it to the small screen in the past few years.  Airing in the UK on BBC One this past Fall and first in the U.S. as part of PBS’s Masterpiece series, it is now available on Amazon and DVD (still the PBS choice platform for British productions).  A lucky show that finished production before the pandemic kicked into full force, Roadkill will be a must-see for Laurie fans, and its angle on politics and telling a politician’s personal story should be enough to keep other anglophiles interested.

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