An excellent Charles Dickens adaptation, given the full BBC treatment in mini-series form. Well acted, well shot and well written, this comes close to, if not surpasses, the wonderful Bleak House adaptation BBC did in 2005. The set designers, art directors, and costumers did such a good job that I really did feel as if I was transported to 1800s London. The story revolves around a young girl, nicknamed “Little” Dorrit since she is her family’s youngest, who holds the key to her family’s hidden potential. Nominated for a plethora of awards (Emmys, Golden Globes, etc.), this adaptation lives up to the long standard the BBC has set in filming famed classics for the small screen. A must!

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If you ever are tempted to commit a crime, watch this. I say this, because this British mini-series is, I would say, the strongest piece of material I’ve ever seen or heard of that covers each aspect of the criminal justice system…from police station to trial. But, the accused here, Ben Coulter, does NOT commit a crime. He, which you know from the beginning so I’m not ruining anything, is an innocent victim. Yes, he had a one-night-stand with a strange lady he had just met. Yes, he drank WAY too much. And yes, passed out in her kitchen after having consensual sex with her. After he wakes up and finds her stabbed to death, he panics and flees the scene, has a car accident, where the police are called and eventually find out Ben was the one in the dead girls’ house. We (the audience) know he did not do this. But, the police, lawyers, judges, fellow inmates, and even his parents are not so sure. The evidence is overwhelming. The coincidences are just too insurmountable. He just HAD to have done it, right? Well, step-by-step, each of the pieces is chipped away as the wheels of Lady Justice roll on. Even though the story is set in England, the same principles apply…justice, for all its merits, moves slowly and is not above imperfection.

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An excellent, compelling British drama about what-ifs: what if I had left the restaurant two minutes earlier…what if I had taken a different road…what if I had gone slower. All of the what-ifs here pertain to a car crash on a motorway, as the British call them, and the people who were all involved in it. Told in flashbacks all stemming from the present where a senior and very troubled police detective is investigating the crash…its origins, its causes, its motives. One of the drivers fled the crash scene and there is an abundance of confusing evidence of why and how the crash began, so the detective has a lot to sort through. And, as he does, he “imagines” or flashes back to what might have been going on at different points, with the passengers of the different cars of the crash. These flashbacks really do the job of immersing the audience into the lives of each of the drivers and passengers. We get attached to these people. We want them to be good. We want them to survive…both figuratively and literally. Excellently acted, this is one of the strongest television dramas I’ve seen in a while. A must see!

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As an Anglophile, I guess my most deep, dark fantasy (no, NOT that kind) is that I will find out that I was switched at birth…and that my real parents are British! Trust me…this is not an insult to my American parents. They would be MORE than happy to trade me to an unsuspecting couple across the pond. But, alas, my fantasy is just that…fiction. Well, in this novel, the first by stand-up comedienne/actress Alison Larkin, the main character, Pippa, is raised by British adoptive parents in England but finds out that her biological parents are truly American. This immediately makes sense to Pippa, since she’s always considered herself something of an American-phile but most importantly, she is NOTHING like most the British people around her. This information propels Pippa on a quest to find her true identity and the reasons for all of her non-British idiosyncrasies. Larkin, herself, is a biological American and adoptive Brit, so the story resonates very true. Larkin’s writing style is sharp and witty and Pippa is a truly engaging and highly enjoyable character. We want her to be happy…whether in America or England. For me, I will just keep searching for that one day when I find my true parents…and I’m able to go home where I belong…England! Sorry mom and dad.

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Another slam-dunk performance by Malkovich! Here, he plays probably his most quirky, unusual yet…a combination of different characters…all pretending to be Stanley Kubrick. What???? Yes, you read me right. Malkovich’s character plays a man named Alan Conway…who is obsessed with being known as Stanley Kubrick. Well, in addition to Kubrick, Conway is also obsessed with NEVER PAYING FOR ANYTHING, which he is able to get away with MUCH easier as Kubrick, than as Conway. Set in London in the 1990s, the tag-line for this film is “a true-ish story.” And, that would be pretty accurate…since there WAS a man in London in the late 1990s pretending to be Stanley Kubrick. But, that I believe is where the truth ends. All of Malkovich’s characters I would say are originals. If the imposter really did do some of the things Alan Conway gets away with, I would want to shake that man’s hand. Because Conway does and gets away with the more ludicrous things…they have to have been conceived in the mind of the screenwriter, right? But, then again, the idea of someone posing as a famous film director is pretty much out there already.

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To be honest, I’m not a Dickens fan. His stories are too dark and his characters get weighed down with a lot of murky dialogue and subplots. So, when I heard about all of the attention the 2005 BBC version of Bleak House was getting, I was apprehensive. After it was nominated for a slew of Emmys, I decided to give it a try. And, I sure was surprised…pleasantly so. At over seven hours total (each of the three discs contains five, half-hour (or so) episodes), I started out being daunted by the time commitment alone. But, the episodes flew by as I became more and more entrenched in the world Dickens’ created in 19th Century England. In this case, though, Mr. Dickens probably deserves only a share (a large one) of the credit. The filmmakers of this production do a superlative job of keeping the storylines straight and making sure we know all of the characters, from their dispositions to their importance in the story, right from the start. It’s also shot so we can spot a place where “bad” things are destined to happen…places filled with little light and black, gray backgrounds are filled with evil characters doing evil deeds. For example, the law offices of Mr. Tulkinghorn are shown often during the day but there is a somber, grayish tint, matching the dastardly ways of the man who works there. The story is pretty simple (though that is usual for a Dickens novel)…two “wards” from a family which has been long embroiled in a messy, complicated court battle head to the country house of their guardian, along with a companion. Ok, there is more to it than just this case, but everything in the story…every character, every revelation, every death…stems from the this lawsuit. Trust me, once you start watching, you will be riveted and feel compelled to give Dickens (his novels, that is) another try. Don’t blame me when you do!

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Ray Winstone embodies what all police want to be. He’s good at what he does. He’s great with the ladies. And he looks cool while doing it all. Vincent is an excellent show that really gets into the persona of the detective. Many cop shows brush on it…but this one gets inside. Winstone is an appeal, loveable yet slightly worn character that makes you wonder why he does what he does. But, when he starts solving crime, it all makes sense, since the puzzle pieces fall into place for him with such ease. A great show!

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A well-made British show about a vice cop who just cannot leave his work at the office. His passion for getting girls off of the streets consumes him…ruining every aspect of his personal and private life. Well-written and extremely well-acted by Ken Stott, who is best known for his work in another British show, Rebus. A must see for anyone crime TV aficionado!

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What a wonderful, eccentric detective Detective Inspector Frost is. He’s a whip-smart guy who never lacks that witty comeback or that well-timed pun. He loathes paper-work and patronizes his boss whenever he has the chance. All in all, a perfect British crime solver. The seasons I watched were (1 and 2, I believe) filled with good mysteries. Ones where you don’t see the outcome right from the beginning, which is good because with those predictable ones, you’re bored a third of the way through. But, regardless of the crimes, Frost would be entertainment on his own. In season one, his wife is ill and eventually passes away. But, during even this tragedy, Frost holds onto his famed “edge” never leaving a missed opportunity for a quick, snappy remark. Some would call that in bad taste. I just call it funny. I mean the character is set-up so you never really do take him THAT seriously. Why would he let us down by getting all serious when his wife is ill. He is serious, though, as a crime solver. That is when he shapes up and means business. But, then again, he does find ample chance to “stick” quips to the criminals. Don’t you worry….

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Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison is one tough lady. She does not give up…no matter what the odds. She stands by her convictions and her beliefs no matter who tells her she is wrong or that she “can’t” do something. Basically, police do not come any stronger than she. In Prime Suspect 1, Tennison has been passed over several times for big cases, something she believes has to do with her being a woman. So, after a male counterpart dies at the beginning of a big murder investigation, Tennison insists on taking over the case. Once she gets what she wants, most of the men under her are quite a bit upset. But, she does not in anyway let that discourage the ferocity at which she handles the case. I mean, she gets discourage and even loses a live-in relationship because of her long hours and stress level. But, for the most part, she is able to keep it together enough to get her suspect, so to speak. If you like British detective shows, this one is a must.

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