Ask-A-Wench — Movies and TV

Anne here, and today we’re responding to the question: “What have the wenches been watching lately?”

Andrea said: I have been binging through ‘Lewis,’ a wonderful British police procedural spin-off of “Morse.” (Lewis was his sidekick.) It’s based in Oxford, with the mysteries always involving members of the university, so the plots are often cleverly erudite and tie into some arcane academic element. I find the ambiance, the scenery and the twists a lot of fun. I also really enjoy the chemistry between Lewis and his sidekick, Hathaway, who is a bit of an odd duck, (apparently both on and off the screen.) Hathaway is pretty tightly wound and adds an interesting edginess to the series. It ran for nine seasons . . .and I’m getting sad that I’m working my way closer to “THE END.”

Given the the political and cultural turmoil in this country right now, I also was moved to re-watch the amazing Ken Burns PBS documentary series on The Civil War. It is extraordinarily well-done, using letters and vintage pictures to tell the poignant story of the conflict. it really brings home the horrendous suffering and death on both sides caused by passions that sparked into hatred and extremism. It’s incredibly sobering and a chilling reminder of the awful consequences of violence.

Christina here. I’ve been in the mood for some very light entertainment and I found the perfect thing on Swedish TV when visiting my mother  – Hudson & Rex. It’s a Canadian crime series/police procedural drama set in St. John’s, Newfoundland, which is an unusual and very beautiful setting. Detective Charlie Hudson solves murders and other crimes with the help of his canine sidekick Rex, a very clever Alsatian/German Shepherd.

Naturally, Rex is the one who finds the best leads and helps Hudson figure out who the criminals are using his nose and ears. He also acts on his own initiative at times, and if a victim needs comforting, he’s there putting his head in their lap and looking all sympathetic. Adorable! There’s a cast of secondary characters who play their part and a romance developing over the series between Hudson and one of the team members. It’s all a bit twee but if you’re in the mood for a non-gory crime series, this one should appeal. I have to mention that the real name of the dog who plays Rex is Diesel vom Burgimwald – how posh is that? More info here.
(Anne adds — this sounds like a modern remake of the very popular German series Kommissar Rex  (Inspector Rex) from the 1990’s.).

I’ve also been enjoying Pompeii: The New Dig on the BBC, a series about a new part of Pompeii in Italy that’s just been excavated in the most extensive dig for over a generation. We get to follow archaeologists and historians as they uncover a new block of the town bit by bit and try to interpret the finds. And what finds they are! Spectacular frescoes on the walls and all sorts of artefacts, as well as the sad remains of a few individuals who didn’t manage to escape the eruption of Vesuvius in time. Fascinating!

Susan here: I love a good historical on the page and on the screen too, and a recent delightful surprise in our house has been Renegade Nell, Disney’s new series set in 1705 centered on the escapades of a female highwayman. Starring Irish actress Louisa Harland (who played quirky Orla in The Derry Girls, a brilliant comedy and one of my favorite shows ever!), the story centers around tavern keeper’s daughter Nell, widowed and returning home to her father and younger sisters to make amends. When an unexpected highway attack has Nell fighting for her life, a surprising strength and skill comes over her. As events unfold, Nell finds herself on the run and resorting to highway robbery–with help from a mysterious fairy or guardian angel who pops in randomly. Nell has no idea who he is and no time to figure it out — she’s running from the law, protecting her adorable sisters, and encountering a powerful dark force among aristocrats in Queen Anne’s court. High energy, beautifully produced (costumes, settings, acting, all outstanding), it blends history, whimsy, action-adventure, and the supernatural in a great romp. Renegade Nell is exciting, clever, nailbiting, and we are loving it. Two seasons in, with hopefully a third in the works. Here’s a trailer.

And now for Nicola: We always seem to be way behind in getting around to watching shows other people are raving about and so many people have recommended the series Slow Horses to me that we finally watched the first season last month. Like so many things I want to watch it’s on a streaming channel, in this case Apple TV, and I don’t usually have a subscription. Anyway, the series is based on the spy novels of Mick Heron, and it revolves around an office called Slough House (an in-joke as Slough is generally considered to be the least attractive town in England) where MI5 agents who have made some catastrophic mistake in their careers, such as sleeping with an ambassador’s wife or punching their boss, are sent to sort paperclips in lieu of being sacked.

The misfits of Slough House are a great bunch of disparate characters led by Gary Oldman in fabulous form as Jackson Lamb, the washed-up department head, whose rudeness to his staff fails to disguise the fact he cares about them all. The series is like a reverse James Bond, not at all glamorous, but gritty and with very tense, twisting plots. Naturally the no-hopers at Slough House always manage to win the day and have you cheering for them as the underdogs, especially against the other MI5 departments who are always looking down on them. It’s fun with great characterisation and clever plotting.

Mary Jo here.  While the Mayhem Consultant happily channel surfs things like the History Channel, the Smithsonian Channel, the Weather Channel, and more, I’m not much of a TV watcher.  But several nights a week we like to kick back and watch something together.  Any series we watch needs to be smart and well written, with some humor and not overall too dark because if we want dark, we have newspapers.

We’re fond of a number of British style mysteries. I echo Andrea’s suggestion of Lewis, not only because it’s good but because I lived in Oxford to two years so I love the setting.  We subscribe to the Britbox and Acorn streaming services because they carry material from Britain and Commonwealth countries like Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.  Among others, we like Sister Boniface, which is set in England and features a crime solving nun who drives a Vespa.  Death in Paradise is set on an Angle-French island in the Caribbean, and Brokenwood Mysteries is a terrific New Zealand production.

Plus, since our high priced internet doesn’t stream well on Saturdays, we have DVD sets of series we particularly enjoy.  Perhaps our all time favorite is Madam Secretary.  Elizabeth McCord is a former CIA agent turned political science professor at the University of Virginia when her former CIA boss, who happens to be the current President of the United States, drafts her to be his new Secretary of State.  Besides dealing with constant international crises, Bess has a great husband who is a former Marine pilot turned Professor of Theology and they have three teenagers, so never a dull moment!  The characters and writing are wonderful and there is humor laced through the drama. We’re watching it the second time through. (Trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zy4C2NYE19Y )

Another series we’re rewatching is Castle in which a smart/outrageous bestselling mystery writer called Richard Castle starts shadowing a brilliant, beautiful, no nonsense New York City homicide detective called Kate Beckett.  The series is clever, often funny, and there’s a satisfying slow burn romance that runs through from beginning to end. (Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjrObBtzGYg ) Both Madam Secretary and Castle can be watched or bought on Amazon.

Anne here. I haven’t watched many new shows — I’ve been working hard, and so have watched quite a few old favorite shows. I also endorse Lewis, and there’s another spin-off from that original Morse series, called Endeavour, which takes us back to when Morse is a new young copper. It’s excellent and well worth watching.

Another UK show I’ve enjoyed is McDonald and Dodds, a gentle police drama set in the beautiful city of Bath. The two lead characters are McDonald, a hot shot young female detective from London. She’s hoping to prove herself and get promoted back to London. She’s paired with Dodds, a quiet, diffident older man who has been stuck behind a desk for the last decade. Their superior is hoping to force him to retire, but Dodds turns out to be a surprise card. He’s totally out of date with modern things, he researches in the library, but he’s sharp and he notices things, and between the two of them, they solve the murders. I really enjoy it and am waiting for series #4 to come out.

A non-crime show that I found thoroughly delightful is Ghosts — the original UK version. (There is a Nth American version, which I haven’t seen but I highly recommend the UK version.)

A young couple inherit a grand but dilapidated house in the country, not knowing it’s haunted by nine ghosts (not to mention a whole other crowd in the basement) all from different eras in history. An “accident” causes Alison to be able to see and talk to the ghosts. The various characters are brilliantly portrayed, from Julian the sleazy disgraced politician, to Thomas the Regency poet, Robin the “cave man”, Lady Fanny the very proper Victorian matron and many more. If you can find it, watch it. It’s a joy.

So now, over to you, wenchly readers: What have you been watching lately?

20 thoughts on “Ask-A-Wench — Movies and TV”

  1. Tick to all of these! I particularly love GHOSTS ❤️ Inhave added Nell to my must watch list.
    I’ve just finished watching Shardlake on Disney – an excellent adaptation of the first of CJ Samson’s books. Sean Bean as Thomas Cromwell!

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    • Thanks, Alison. I haven’t seen Shardlake — or read the books — but certainly Sean Bean is an enticement to watch it.
      And yes, Ghosts is wonderful, isn’t it?

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  2. I love TV – I really do – but there hasn’t been much new that interest me lately. Laughing is good medicine for me so I look for comedies. There are the oldies but goodies like Seinfeld and the newer ones like Young Sheldon which is coming to an end. I do like documentaries and search them out. I like anything that Ken Burns has done. TCM is another favorite channel for me. I especially like the old movies from the Thirties.

    I recently saw the Barbie movie (on HBO) that everyone was so excited about, but I don’t know what the big deal was. It wasn’t awful, but it was only ok with me. Barbie was a little after my time so I didn’t feel that nostalgic pull. It did make some statements about the sexes, but nothing I haven’t seen or heard before.

    Loved this post.

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    • Thanks, Mary — when Andrea first mentioned the Ken Burns series, I immediately remembered watching it many years ago. Wonderful stuff. I also recall a great documentary called “Eyes On The Prize” which was powerful and brilliant.
      I saw Barbie and wasn’t thrilled with it either. I went with two friends and two of us were unimpressed and the third loved it.
      I’m a fan of old movies too, but I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like.

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  3. I recently loved and hard -laughed to the Kdrama romcom Our Beautiful Summer. Now listening to the soundtrack.

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  4. Y’all like some of the same series I have liked – but I read more than watch TV except for sports…..Love Sports.

    Brokenwood – that is a wonderful series. And so many you have mentioned are some of my favorites. But, most of all, thanks for giving me new titles to find.

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    • Thanks, Annette — it’s good to get recommendations, I agree. I almost never watch sport, not because I’m not interested, but because sometimes (eg tennis and cricket) it steals whole days of my time.

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  5. Well I definitely have to watch Renegade Nell! Call The Midwife is one of my favorites. The current season just ended on my local PBS so now I have to wait for more. Hubby & I just started Daisy Jones & The Six. I read the book but this is one of the few times I think the screen adaptation is better. We also just watched the three seasons of Robin of Sherwood – my all time favorite Robin Hood show. It’s the 40th Anniversary this year. There’s a convention in Chepstow this week. Wish I could have gone.

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    • Thank you Jeanne. I watched the earlier episodes of Call the Midwife and agree, it’s a wonderful show. I read Daisy Jones & The Six back when it first came out and loved it, and you say the screen version is better? Wow! I’ll have to watch it.
      I don’t think I’ve seen Robin of Sherwood, but I can’t be sure, as I’ve seen so many Robin Hood shows. I’ll check it out.

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  6. I’ve seen nearly all the shows above. I love Lewis and have watched it many times and as mentioned above Endeavour was an excellent addition to the franchise. I don’t watch a lot of tv anymore, I mostly read except for sports, (like someone else above) I watch a lot of sports.
    I couldn’t take to that Nell show at all. Watched most of the first episode with my daughter but we gave up.
    I also watch Foyle’s War another English drama set in WWII but Foyle is a policeman. I can rewatch any time. It’s brilliant.

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    • Thanks, Teresa. I’ve also watched Lewis and Endeavor so many times it’s like catching up with an old friend. I also love Foyle’s War and have rewatched that so often as well. I also don’t watch a lot of TV so when I do, I like to guarantee the quality so turn to reruns. I also don’t like shows with a lot of violence, which a lot of the newer ones have. Which is why McDonald and Dodds was such a treat.

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  7. Definitely second endorsements of Morse, Lewis and Endeavour – and there was also a brief series about Hathaway, but that didn’t seem to catch.
    Just finished watching the Castle series after finding the DVDs for the whole series at our local swap shed!
    Also recently re-watched the Miss Fisher mysteries (but I’m always frustrated at how abruptly the series ended); the David Suchet Poirot series; and, my all-time favorite, The Duchess of Duke Street, which aired in the US in the late 1970s.
    The Duchess stars a young Gemma James as a late 19th century cook, Louisa Trotter, who becomes, briefly, mistress to the Prince of Wales, then opens a hotel. Each episode is a separate story, but there are threads that continue throughout the series, including a wonderful love story between Gemma James and the also young, and devastatingly handsome, Christopher Cazenove. Re-watching it is also a treat because so many actors who became famous later appear in various episodes.
    And, on an entirely different note, at my husband’s request, watched The 3 Body Problem – didn’t expect to like it at all, too sci-fi for me, but found it extremely entertaining!

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  8. I have become less of a TV watcher since streaming came in. I used to buy UK import dvds but the cost has gone up and sometimes the coding is iffy (watch out for Disney) and they can’t be played despite my having an all region player. Many of the series mentioned here I have as dvds, which I still prefer, as they have subtitles and British sound work is not always of the clearest. I had kept them for a future rewatch but now I find they do not satisfy. The exception is Scott & Bailey, which I have watched through several times.

    Mostly I flip around for a movie that I like or haven’t seen before – usually an older one – or an old original Perry Mason episode that I haven’t seen recently. On dvd right now I am rewatchng the Peter Capaldi episodes of Doctor Who. I like his version of the Doctor and some of my favorite characters are in them – as well as some of my least favorite characters, to remind me why I haven’t rewatched them before. Recent TV series seem over the top preachy to me in some respects and they just don’t entertain. It’s baseball season so I watch that a lot as well.

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  9. I LOVE Derry Girls and was so happy when they finally completed the series. I will add Renegade Nell to my list. I’m a sucker for British crime shows – my favorite by far is Vera. I’m currently rewatching Luther since they added another season and I wanted to, uh, refresh my memory.

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    • Hi Elena, yes! Derry Girls is SO good! We’ve watched the first two seasons more than once and we’ll have to find time to watch the third season again (opening episode with Liam Neeson was just the best!). I loved Luther too in one sense, loved him, though in later seasons it got a little too dark for me. And Vera is a favorite in our house, we’re watching the newest season as the episodes come up. You’ll love Renegade Nell!

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  10. I enjoyed this post even though I only rarely watch movies/programs on the screen. My husband is more of a watcher though, so I appreciate having heard about some shows that he might like. Happy reading and watching all!

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