The second installment of the McGregor/Boorman world trek via motorcycles was even more exciting than the first (Long Way Round). This time, most of the episodes were devoted to the trip…rather than all of the preliminary work. Sure, the first few episodes cover some of the pre-trip stuff, but it felt like it moved along faster this time. And, once they got on the road, it was pure enjoyment. Though parts of Europe and then the entire length of Africa, Charley and Ewan ride gravel roads, sand highways, and rocky passages, all while we follow along. Not the most action-packed fun you can have, but for travel buffs who can never get the wanderlust out of their systems, this is a great way to do some good armchair traveling.

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What is there to say about Hyacinth Bucket???? She’s very fashionable. She’s cultured. She’s meticulous. She’s clever. And she drives people CRAZY! Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet, please) is a married woman living in what she feels is a superior home in an inferior area. She drives her neighbors to insanity, her husband to drink (well, not really), her sisters and brother-in-law to drink (really), the postal worker and the milk delivery person to hide, and everyone else around her to run in the opposite direction when she’s in the vicinity. But, is Hyacinth aware of all of this? No…she thinks she’s loved and admired — for her class and her breeding and for her impeccable taste and for her Royal Doulton with the hand-painted periwinkles and her INFAMOUS candlelight suppers. Patricia Routledge excels here as the ever-perfect, ever-annoying Hyacinth. She is able to make this over-the-top character likable even though it’s usually hard to love Hyacinth. She’s the woman you hate to love, but just can’t help it. And even though it’s the writing that creates a character, the actor is the one to pull it off seamlessly, which Routledge definitely does here.

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Like Detective Inspector Jack Frost of the A Touch of Frost series, Chief Inspector Morse is grumpy. He’s what I would call a curmudgeon. But, somehow, we love him. He loves classical music…especially opera, drives his classic Jag, loves the ladies but is a confirmed bachelor, and most of all loves his beer. Along with his trusty and more passive sidekick, Detective Sgt. Lewis, Morse travels about the Oxford area solving crime and frequenting pubs. The crimes and cases are all top-notch…almost perfectly constructed. Each episode is filled with so much information and so many details that if you blink, you miss something. The chemistry between Morse and Lewis is strong…Lewis is less cultured and more agreeable and Morse is extremely set-in-his-ways. But, the two of them make a great crime-solving team. And, like some shows, Morse does not “instantly” solve the crime…like some shows that have the detective be almost psychic or superhuman with their investigating skills. Here, the cases are all solved methodically and with great effort. Sometimes, it’s nice to know that even a great detective gets stumped.

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These are pretty conventional mysteries — you have the brooding, troubled inspector and the quick-witted side-kick, who this time happens to be a woman. It’s like Sherlock and Watson for the 20th Century. And, like most of the Holmes’ mysteries, these are intelligent without being too convoluted. The pacing is not more than the audience can handle…which for me is very important in murder mysteries where there are sometimes are too many characters to keep straight. Here, all of the stories begin with the murder/crime and then the police come in…it works to set a certain standard. Also, the thing that sets this one apart from other detective shows is the chemistry between Lynley and Havers. There are obvious times of attraction but they never seem to be at the right moments. The “do they/don’t they” question adds even more “mystery” to these already strong stories.

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For a British detective show, this one is fun. Having LOVED Patricia Routledge in her acclaimed British comedy Keeping Up Appearances, I was at first hesitant to try this show. I mean, Routledge will always be Appearances’ Hyacinth Bucket to me and watching her play anything else would be silly and pointless, right? Well, Routledge’s acting skills are such that, shortly after I began the first season of Hetty, I soon forgot about Hyacinth and Appearances (at least for the time being). Routledge’s Hetty is a spunky, determined woman who is desperate to fight off senior citizenship for as long as she can. Her husband recently retires and he figures they will live a life of quiet, peaceful rest but Hetty is cagy and unfulfilled by the thought of lazing around in her Golden Years. Instead, she takes a job at a post office branch and while working, she begins to investigate some potential frauds. One thing leads to another and she is well on her way to solving crimes. She enlists the help of a young, wandering teenaged boy who becomes her “assistant” and eventually moves in with her and her husband. Unlike some detective shows where there is a strong “gimmick” factor…the gimmick here being a senior, former housewife detective…the crimes and plots are pretty strong and convincing. The cases she takes on are not fluff, but also in the same token, they are not so unbelievable that no one would ever be able to solve them…not to mention an inexperienced P.I.

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A crusty police detective who is close to retirement age relocates to a small North England town from London, where he still continues to work as a police inspector and gets a new partner instead of retiring. One of the reasons he cannot retire is that he is continually haunted by the brutal murder of his wife…back when he was living in London. Set in the 1960s, the George Gently character seems, at first, like all of the other grumpy, old British police detectives and this will be like all of the other British police series…ala Frost, Morse, etc. But, Gently has an edge that carries through all of the episodes and makes this one stand out among the crowd.

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There are just some things that make people laugh. And, no matter how many times I watch it, Fawlty Towers is my thing. I finally had to buy the set since I don’t think I’ve ever really seen an episode uninterrupted since I’m always in fits of giggles. Shot in the mid-to-late 1970s in England, this show is a true cult classic…still on public television late at night sometimes and still has a VERY loyal, avid fan base…both in Britain and around the world. The premise all stems from the B&B in Torquay, England run by a husband and wife team, Basil and Sybil Fawlty. There is the flighty receptionist, the temperamental chef, and a whole cast of guests who are not exactly getting the best service possible. Only 12 episodes were produced but each of them is funnier than the next. Yes, humor is relative so what I find funny, you might not. But, give this one a try. Chances are, you will, at the VERY least, find it entertaining.

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In the world of show business, there is a lot of material for comedy. And The Office (the British television show) creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant use every last one of the opportunities for humor until the well is dry and until the audience is laughing so hard they cannot get off the couch to put the next disc in. Again, Gervais acts in the series also, as he did in The Office and his comic timing is just brilliant. He plays a struggling actor who makes a living as an extra in movies and TV. Unlike most extras, his character sees all of his “extra” roles as small, bit parts which will lead to larger and better roles. Naturally, this is not always the case, which adds to much of the humor. A series of “real” famous actors as guest stars helps make this comedy series a real winner.

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It took me a little while to get into my first season of Cracker Mysteries but once I did, I couldn’t stop. Robbie Coltrane is simply perfect as the highly-flawed psychologist, Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald. I mean, he’s smart and good at “seeing” into people’s minds and souls to help solve cases, but this guy really has a messed up life. He drinks too much, he gambles uncontrollably and his marriage is usually on the rocks (because of the gambling and drinking). But, somehow, someone that is that messed up can really pull it together when it comes to solving crimes. And he not only is able to help the police find the right man or woman, but he also helps the criminals themselves by being able to help them work out their demons. After all, Fitz knows a lot about inner demons…he has more than his fair share himself.

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Before you assume that this review is about that silly American television show that came and went in 2003, think again. This is the British BBC show that gave us silly Americans the idea for our paltry version. My guess on the reason the American version didn’t fly (aside from the fact that it just was not good): prime time network television. Like HBO’s raunchy and sexual Sex and the City, Coupling revolves around what 30-somethings do or don’t do in the bedroom. American TV is not ready for something like this to be shown on a major network in prime time. Thankfully, Americans now have the chance to see the BBC comedy on DVD. Coupling is a smart, risqué, show that challenges any viewer to think about her or his own relationship(s). There are six major players, all of whom deal with their own battles of lack of sex, volume of sex, fears of commitment, worries about never finding their soul mate…etc. The men have one view and, of course, the women another. Together, they clash sometimes and get it right others. Unlike Sex and the City, this show is more about talking about sex, rather than showing it. But, the conversations alone, given how sharp and witty the dialogue is, provide for enough humor to go around…with some left over to spare.

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