Sunday, May 15, 2005

British Mysteries ...

... Particuarly on Television


Many years ago now, I was introduced to Dick Francis, a British author who, for a long time, churned out a novel every year. Francis, a former jockey, developed each plot, at least in part, around the British horse racing scene. One didn't have to be a fan of the races to enjoy his novels.


I believe them to be the first British mysteries that I read. Since then, I have read quite a few British mystery authors: Elizabeth George, Martha Grimes, PD James, Peter Robinson, Deborah Crombie, Ruth Rendell, Anne Perry, Ann Granger, and Reginald Hill. Strangely enough, two of the authors, George and Grimes, are American, and Robinson was British born but lives in Canada. They set their mysteries in Britain (at least George has said something like this I believe) because the backdrop for a mystery set in Britain is richer and much more intriguing.


In reading Bill Bryson lately, particularly Notes from a Small Island, he extols the wonders of British telly compared to American television. From what I have seen, I must concur, for at some point along the way, we saw our first television version of the British mystery genre. I believe that it was Cracker, starring Robbie Coltrane. What fantastic television! Vastly superior to anything North American in my opinion — or almost anything. Since then, we have loved Morse, Frost, Prime Suspect, Wexford, Dalziel and Pascoe, Silent Witness, Dalgliesh, and Inspector Lynley. We have just this past week discovered a new (for us) series, called Judge John Deed, played by the same actor who portrays Dalgliesh in the newer episodes.


As I have watched the latest renditions of Silent Witness, Inspector Lynley, and Judge John Deed, I have, once again, been tremendously impressed by the quality of the programming. The plot, pace, and acting are universally superior. In fact, I find the typical episode to be better done than the average gazillion dollar, North America, movie blockbuster. The Brits don't dumb it down at all. They assume their audience to be intelligent and not desperate to witness an improbable stunt every thirty seconds in order to maintain focus.


While A&E once carried many of these British mysteries, we now generally see them on BBC Canada. I don't know if there is a BBC America or not. If there is, and if you want to see some quality television for a change, give these British shows a try.


 

7 comments:

blue2go said...

I've seen a few of these great shows on PBS, otherwise normal US television doesn't have them. Maybe cable or dish does, but I don't have either of them.

Lynn said...

I agree with what you say about British vs. U. S. TV, but remember the U. S. has Desperate Housewives!

Guinevere Meadow said...

We have BBC America, but I don't think it's available through all cable/satellite companies. We love watching British TV. Haven't caught any mysteries, though. Lots of Monty Python's Flying Circus and The Thin Blue Line. Those are fun. :)

Dale said...

Coronation Street gets my vote. Well-written. Intelligent. So different from North American soaps!

Bill Bryson is a wonderful writer. Have you read his "Walk in the Woods" account of his trek along America's Appalachian Trail? Hilarious!

Mel said...

Love Dick Francis novels, never watch British t.v. . . . but I will take your word on this topic!

Julana said...

We are also Dick Francis fans. His output seems to have slowed down the past couple years. I also re-read Agatha Christie this winter. Elizabeth George's books got too psychological and violent for my taste. We have BBC America in our area, but access depends which cable company you have.

Anvilcloud said...

To Julana

Just in case you come back. I understand what you are saying about EG. I think that Peter Robinson's are a good read without getting into the same amount of character angst.