Broadchurch Outshines Almost All Other Crime Dramas In Its First Season

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Crime dramas are all the rage on American television. Each one of the “Big 4” has more than its fair share of gritty crime dramas. Even the cable networks are becoming overloaded with their own crime dramas. Even PBS has its own crime drama series in the forms of Endeavour and the newly resurrected series Inspector Lewis. Considering all of this, it goes without saying that fans of the crime drama genre have more than their share of shows from which to choose. The problem is that save for perhaps PBS’ Inspector Lewis and Endeavour, the majority of the crime dramas that fill the broadcast spectrum today are relatively formulaic. Now thankfully, eOne has offered American audiences a series unlike any other crime drama out there today, including those on PBS. And that is saying something. The series in question is Broadchurch. The series’ first season is available now on DVD. And this debut season of the British import is nothing short of spectacular. Yes, it is a serial. But the show’s writing more than makes up for that. That’s just the beginning of what makes this first season a hit. The use of original music at the right moments will keep viewers’ just as much on the edge of their seats from episode to episode. The same can be said of the acting on the part of the cast. This includes not just lead actors David Tennant (Dr. Who) and Olivia Colman (The Iron Lady, Hot Fuzz, Locke), but to the cast in whole. Their acting, along with the wisely used music and even smarter writing together make Broadchurch: The Complete First Season a truly surprising first impression from this British import. And it gives quite a bit of hope for the series in its second season. Audiences that give this season a chance will largely agree with that sentiment when they purchase or order the box set for themselves.

Broadchurch is not the first imported drama or even crime drama to make its way to America’s shores. The series, as a matter of fact, has been adapted for broadcast on the Fox network this fall. Before audiences even begin to watch that Americanized ripoff, they would do well to check out Season One of Broadchurch if only for the show’s writing. That is the most important factor to the success of this season. Any viewer that is the parent of a small child will agree that this season’s story hits hard because of its reality. It’s a sad reality that children die in this country (and other nations) every single day at the hands of rather sick individuals. That reality gives so much depth and believability to this season’s story. Fair warning, it’s difficult to watch and will make any parent want to hold their child even closer by the season’s final minutes. Even more so, any viewer that is left dry-eyed after watching this season’s story simply isn’t human. Even this critic will admit to tearing up quite a bit by that time.

The emotional depth and believability of the writing is just the starting point of what makes the first season of Broadchurch such a surprise of a series. Audiences will appreciate just as much the twists and turns that are included over the course of this season. They are just enough that they will keep viewers watching on the proverbial edge of their seats right to the season’s end. The twists don’t just include the characters, either. There are minute details on which the camera focuses at random points that keep viewers thrown off the track right up to the shocking season finale. The finale won’t be given away for the sake of those that have yet to see Season One. But it is most definitely unexpected, though sadly very much a reflection of life. To that extent, it makes this season’s story all the more gripping and worth the watch.

On an even deeper level, the writers responsible for bringing Broadchurch to life are to be applauded for the manner in which the series’ first season was constructed. Rather than have eight separate episodes, the writers used the model from Fox’s 24 in establishing each episode. Whereas each episode of 24 is one hour, each episode of Broadchurch’s first season is a continuation of the previous episode. So, all eight episodes of this season comprise just one storyline. And each episode has been written so well (unlike 24), that audiences won’t be left feeling like they need a program to figure out what’s going on. It’s the final touch to the series’ writing that makes the writing the cornerstone of this first season.

The writers behind Broadchurch are to be highly commended for the painstaking efforts put into making this series’ first season the gripping first impression that it proves to be in the end. Just as worthy of applause in Season One are those responsible for the show’s music. Yes, the music in this series plays just as important a role in its success as the writing. This is hardly common in most American television series. Audiences will note in the series’ first season that unlike so many other shows out there, it doesn’t rely on popular songs or music put in just to be there. The music incorporated in Broadchurch: Season One plays directly in to the series’ writing. The smart use of dynamics and overall placement from scene to scene within each episode heightens each episode’s emotional depth. Whether it be the season’s more pained moments as when Danny’s mother saw him lying dead on the beach, or even the more tense moments of the search for the killer, those charged with music placement went above and beyond the call of duty. It’s one more factor that makes the debut season of this gripping British crime drama worlds better than its countless American counterparts.

The music and the writing behind the first season of Broadchurch are by themselves integral parts of the season’s overall success. Together they make Broadchurch a fully gripping and engrossing series in only its first season. There is still one more aspect of this first season that proves Broadchurch to be the standard by which so many other dramas should model themselves. That final factor is the acting on the part of the cast. That applies not just to lead actors David Tennant and Olivia Colman but to the entire cast. Each member of the show’s cast expertly interprets the show’s script, making it even more difficult to figure out who is the killer until said person is revealed in the season finale. On the other hand that expert acting also pulls in viewers on a deeply emotional level, too. That expert acting on both sides of the coin adds one more level of depth, thus making this season of Broadchurch even more gripping. That final factor, set alongside the season’s writing and music, makes the presentation whole and wholly of the best first impressions from any new series in recent history. It makes the first season of Broadchurch one that any fan of dramas must see at least once this year.

Broadchurch: The Complete First Season is available now on DVD in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Broadchurch-Season-1-David-Tennant/dp/B00HGE90Z4/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1403311459&sr=1-1&keywords=broadchurch+the+complete+first+season. More information on this and other releases from Entertainment One is available online at entertainmentone.com/home. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

No Mystery Here, Inspector Lewis Series Set Could Be One Of 2013′s Best Box Sets

Courtesy:  itv/PBS

Courtesy: itv/PBS

Masterpiece Mystery! Inspector Morse: Pilot Through Series 6 is a wonderful reward for fans of this imported British crime drama.  The box set boasts all twenty-seven of the series’ episodes on fourteen discs as a starter.  This is just the start of what fans will appreciate from this potential contender for a slot on this critic’s list of the year’s best box sets.    Also for audiences’ enjoyment, they are treated to a bonus interview with series star Kevin Whately (who played Inspector Lewis) as well as a bonus “Making of featurette that takes audiences behind the lens of this hit crime drama.  The full series run and the bonus content collectively make this box set well worth the time and money for any fan of Inspector Lewis.  One can’t ignore the set’s packaging.  It plays just as big a role in the set’s overall presentation as the aforementioned aspects of the box.  Together with those factors, it makes a solid case for a potential spot on this critic’s list of the year’s best box sets.

American TV shows that run twenty-seven episodes are generally considered to be not that successful.  In American television, twenty-seven episodes is generally the equivalent of perhaps a season and a half for a show.  However in the case of a show such as Inspector Lewis, that’s actually quite a bit considering that each episode ran roughly ninety minutes.  That equals out to roughly forty point five total hours of programming, or a total of two thousand four hundred and thirty hours of programming.  It would take nearly forty-one hour-long episodes of an American crime drama to equal this.  Add in the fact that Inspector Lewis survived through six seasons/series because of its solid writing and audiences get even more reason to pick up this box set.  Unlike American television, its writers didn’t rely on sex appeal and overt violence to drive its episodes.  This is such a welcome change of pace for those that want more than just a bunch of eye candy and blood.  And this was the case from the pilot all the way through the series’ beautiful ending.   It really serves as a monument to crime drama writing done right.

The writing that spans all six seasons/series of Inspector Lewis is a triumph for fans that have followed his character since the days when he worked with Inspector Morse.  To that extent, audiences will appreciate the bonus “Making of” feature included in this new complete Inspector Lewis box set.  That’s because while it does offer some behind the scenes information on this series, it also offers a rather in-depth history of how Inspector Lewis came to be his own person after Inspector Morse ended.  It’s interesting to note that between the two series, everything really came full circle by the end of Inspector Lewis.  The “Making of” featurette shows how Lewis went from being the young, cocky sidekick in Inspector Morse to being the cranky old detective that was Inspector Morse.  Keeping that in mind, one could even argue that Inspector Lewis was less its own series, than a continuation of Inspector Morse in its own right.  That makes this series box set even more valuable for anyone that has followed the career of Inspector Lewis from his earliest days with Inspector Morse.

The bonus “Making of” featurette is quite the interesting addition to this new box set.  It’s not all to which fans have to look forward, either.  Also included as a bonus, is a first person “interview” with Kevin Whately.  Whately discusses in his “interview” what it’s like to play Robbie Lewis and what made it so fun to play his character. He also discusses the expectations from Season 5, and much more.  It is slightly dated being that Whately is discussing a previous season.  But Whately’s thoughts on playing Robbie Lewis for twenty years makes up for that and makes his “interview” another nice addition to this set.

There is so much that can be said of Masterpiece Mystery! Inspector Lewis: Pilot Through Series 6 as one can already tell by now.  But a proper look at this set wouldn’t be complete without looking at the set’s packaging.  On the outside, it is a relatively large box.  But even if the set had been released on Blu-ray as well as DVD, the set still would have been relatively large.  It still would have consisted of at least ten discs if not more.  Audiences will appreciate that that packaging was not even larger when looking at how the discs were packaged inside the set.  All fourteen discs are contained within three cases that make up the box.  In order to keep the number of cases as small as possible, each disc was placed smartly inside each case.  They are placed on their own spot on “plates” inside the case.  Not only does this help to conserve space inside the case, but it also protects the discs from one another.  So to the credit of itv and PBS, this was again a very smart way to package the set.  It would have been nice to see the set released on Blu-ray.  But as is, the DVD packaging combines with all of the aforementioned factors to easily make this set a contender for a spot on this critic’s list of the year’s best new box sets.  It’s available now and can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=23286606&cp=1413205&ab=Aspot10off49&parentPage=family.  More information on Inspector Lewis and other Masterpiece Mystery! programs is available online at http://www.facebook.com/masterpiecepbs and http://www.pbs.org/masterpiece.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Endeavour Just As Impressive As Its Forerunners

Courtesy:  PBS/itv

Courtesy: PBS/itv

PBS has proven time and again throughout 2013 why it is such an important addition to any family’s viewing schedule each day.  The network offers so much enjoyable programming for viewers of every age.  That includes its imports of itv’s recently ended series, Inspector Lewis and its new replacement, EndeavourEndeavour brings itv’s whole story started with its hit Inspector Morse series full circle as it brings viewers the story of how the famed detective got his start.  Television today is overly rife with crime dramas across the Big 4 and even across the cable spectrum.  That raises the question of what makes Endeavour stand out.  Endeavour stands out first and foremost because of its writing.  Tied directly in to the show’s writing is the overall lack of overt sex and violence.  In connection to both of the aforementioned factors of the show’s success is the acting on the part of the cast.  All three of these factors together make Endeavour stand out among the endless masses of crime dramas that currently pollute American television.

Writing is everything in any movie and television show.  Far too few people pay attention to writing as the source of a movie or television show’s success or failure.  In the case of itv’s Endeavour, the writing behind the show’s first five episodes is an example of writing done right for a crime drama.  Much as was the case with the two series the preceded this prequel to the Inspector Morse series, the writing behind this show will keep any viewer guessing all the way to each episode’s end.  There are just enough twists, turns, and red herrings to keep viewers engaged despite the roughly ninety-minute run time of each episode.  The crimes in each episode aren’t all that viewers will appreciate from this new series.  One of best examples of those twists and turns is the episode, “Fugue.”  Anyone that remembers the 1999 movie, The Bone Collector or the movie that inspired it, 1935’s The Raven (which itself was remade in 2012 with John Cusack in the starring role) will see the obvious influence of both movies in this episode.  It’s definitely one of the best episodes from Series One.

The writing behind the episodes’ primary plots will be highly appreciated by anyone that appreciates a true mystery.  There is another aspect of the writing that audiences will appreciate in the secondary plot that runs through Series One.  That secondary plot involves the bond that forms between the young Endeavour Morse and his partner of sorts, Fred Thursday.  The bond between the pair grows throughout the course of each episode.  It grows to the point that Thursday becomes a surrogate father of sorts, considering what eventually becomes of Morse’s own father.  This plays into the first series/season’s finale.  There is in fact one point in which Thursday does something that makes him more of a father figure to Morse than ever before.  It is a short moment.  But it is also a very moving moment for any viewer.  It’s one more element of the expert writing that makes Series One a wonderful introduction to what will hopefully be another long running series from itv.

The solid writing does so much to make Endeavour’s first series an impressive reintroduction to the world of Inspector Morse.  Tied directly into the show’s writing is the general lack of sex and violence throughout the first series.  This is a standard established throughout both Inspector Morse and Inspector Lewis.  By comparison, the amount of sex and violence that permeates American crime dramas is stunning.  Yes, the crime scenes sometimes can be a tiny bit unsettling.  But that unsettled feeling of said crime scenes is extremely minimal at best again by comparison.  And those people within the police department aren’t big, muscle bound men and women with….shall we say overt amounts of cleavage showing.  Both men and women are dressed in full dress.  The men wear suits.  The women’s attire is just as classy.  It’s a nice change from what viewers are exposed to on the Law & Orders and CSIs and others across American television.  Keeping that in mind, it’s without a doubt, one more positive that audiences will appreciate from Endeavour: Series One.

The writing and general content included in Endeavour: Series One play very prominent roles in the show’s success.  One would be remiss to ignore what is perhaps one of the most important factors of all: the cast’s acting.  The acting of both Shaun Evans (who plays the young Inspector Morse) and Roger Allam (his mentor Fred Thursday) is just as solid as the writing itself.  The pair has such incredible on-screen chemistry. Throughout each episode, the two work so well together, whether in investigating crimes or building their personal friendship.  On another level, audiences will be just as appreciative of the acting on the part of Jack Laskey in the role of DS Peter Jakes.  Jakes is wonderfully despicable opposite Evans as Morse’s antagonist.  Jacks really makes audiences hate him.  That is the sign of top notch acting.  And along with Evans and Allam, his acting and theirs becomes the icing on the cake that is an excellent new crime drama from itv.  It is an equally wonderful addition to PBS’ lineup for audiences that have gotten so accustomed to the high standard set by this show’s forerunners.  It is available now on DVD and Blu-ray and can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=20427326&cp=&sr=1&kw=endeavour+series+1&origkw=Endeavour+Series+1&parentPage=search.  More information on this show and others from PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery programming is available online at http://www.facebook.com/masterpiecepbs and http://www.pbs.org/masterpiece.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Series 6 A Solid Send-Off For Inspector Lewis

Courtesy:  itv/PBS

Courtesy: itv/PBS

It looks like the end is here for Detective Inspector Robert “Robbie” Lewis and his partner Detective Sergeant James Hathaway….or is it?  If the final scenes of the third and final episode of Inspector Lewis: Series Six are any indication, it would seem that this show that debuted just over seven years ago has come to an end.  Though, the rumor mill is buzzing that this may not be the last that audiences see of Inspector Lewis after all.  If it is in fact the end for the fan favorite pair of detectives, Series Six is a fine send-off for this hit show.

Series Six is a fine send off for Inspector Lewis and his partner in these supposed final episodes.  The show’s writers have crafted a trio of stories that are some of the finest that audiences have seen over the course of its seven-year run.  This series takes Detective Inspector Lewis and his partner into the world of parapsychology in its opening episode, and then onto the very twisted trail of a drug smuggler before investigating the death of a man that was killed by someone with his own car shortly after being released from jail.  The murder victim had himself been jailed for accidentally killing another person in a wreck.  The three stories together offer just enough mystery to keep audiences fully engaged throughout this series’ four-plus hours.  The most deeply engaging of the episodes included in this new set is the series’ second episode, “The Ramblin’ Boy.”  This episode is a long, in-depth episode that starts with an unidentified body being found in a ditch.  Through all of its twists and turns, it eventually leads to a plot by an associate of Lewis who is running a complex drug smuggling scheme.  The story gets deeper and deeper as it progresses.  But it’s not so deep that audiences will get lost in everything.  Those audiences that allow themselves to be fully engaged in this episode will thrill in the way that the writers tie everything together.  Those audiences that do so will see that this is just one example of how rich the writing in this series is.

 The writing in “The Ramblin’ Boy” is just one example of what makes Inspector Lewis: Series Six so enjoyable.  Audiences will be just as impressed as Inspector Lewis and Detective Sergeant Hathaway investigate the death of a man who claimed himself a clairvoyant.  The pair is drawn into the world of the paranormal after two people are killed by a mysterious individual, and a third person’s life is at risk.  The writing in this episode is just as solid as the series’ second episode.  Again, it offers just enough twists and turns to keep viewers engaged through the entire ninety minutes.  It’s not all that will keep viewers watching whether in this episode or either of the other two.  Audiences also have expert acting on the part of Kevin Whatley and Laurence Fox.

The scripts of the episodes on Series Six are just as expert as any of those in previous installments of this hit itv/PBS crime drama.  Solid scripts do plenty for any show.  But they can only go so far without proper acting on the part of the cast.  Thankfully for audiences, the acting on the part of Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox far exceeds expectations.  Having played their roles as long as they have (Whately has played Lewis since the late 1980s in the former series, Inspector Morse) the pair has learned each other.  Because of this, they gel better than ever on screen.  One wonderful example of this is seeing Lewis’ slight insecurities at working with someone other than Hathaway. “The Ramblin’ Boy” shows a rare side of Lewis when his partner goes on vacation, and he is forced to work with someone else temporarily.  It shows just how comfortable Lewis had become having one partner and how truly vulnerable he is.  It’s little intricacies such as this that makes this allegedly final series so wonderful.  Audiences finally see Lewis’ romance with Dr. Hobson (Clare Holman) revealed once and for all.  The reaction on the part of Chief Superintendent Jean Innocent (Rebecca Front) is classic.  It will leave any viewer, new or not, laughing.  His embrace with Hobson is another one of those moments that shows a more human side of Lewis.  Those moments really make Lewis so much more believable.  And they exemplify once more Whatley’s skill in front of the camera.  It’s just one more factor that makes this allegedly final series so enjoyable.  Though, there is one more factor that makes this final series so much better than any American crime drama.  That factor is something most audiences don’t take into account.  It’s the show’s costume department. 

American crime dramas are a dime a dozen.  Just as common as the mass of crime procedurals on American television is their overt objectification of both male and female characters alike.  The exact opposite is the case with both Series Six of Inspector Lewis and its previous series.  The characters in this long-running series aren’t exactly “the beautiful people.”  That’s probably a big part of the reason that it isn’t largely popular among young American audiences.  The lack of overt sexuality in this latest series (and every series before) is one of the most subtle but important factors in the series’ success.  It forces the writers to write a compelling story, rather than rely on sexuality to drive it. It’s such a welcome change.  And along with everything else already noted, it makes this series one a wonderful jumping on point for new viewers, and equally wonderful for those who have seen this show through from its beginning.  Inspector Lewis: Series Six is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.  It can be ordered online direct from the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Inspector Lewis Series 5 kicks off with a “masterpiece” of a mystery

Courtesy: PBS

PBS’ hit series, Inspector Lewis returns for its fifth season July 8 with four more brand new episodes every Sunday through the month of July.  And it all starts with the season premiere episode, “The Soul of Genius.”

 In Series 5′s premiere episode, Inspector Lewis and his partner DS Hathaway (Laurence Fox) investigate the death of Murray Hawes, after his body is doscovered buried in a shallow grave in a forest near the Oxford campus. Hawes’ body is discovered by botanist Liv Nash when she is out in the forest with a group of conservationists.  She and another woman are digging up a bush when Liv uncovers Hawes’ body.  As Inspector Lewis and Hathaway investigate Hawes’ death, they notice that Hawes had quite the obsession with author Lewis Carroll’s work.  They find a map of the Oxford Botanical Gardens in their investigation.  They also discover that Hawes had paid $200,000 for a copy of one of Carroll’s books.  He apparently wanted to crack the code of the Snark.  Along the way, Lewis and Hathaway discover that a supposed secret society at Oxford called “The Wednesday Club” might have a tie to Hawes’ death….or might it? 

Courtesy: PBS

The deeper the pair gets in its investigation, the more surprises show up.  By the end of the episode, audiences will get a twist that nobody ever would have expected.  That’s part of the mastery of PBS’ crime dramas.  Audiences think they know what to expect, only to have those expectations turned on their ears.  And Inspector Lewis Series 5′s premiere lives up to that bar.  The end result will leave both seasoned fans and new audiences anxious for the next episode.  That shows yet again, the value of PBS’ programming. 

Inspector Lewis Series 5 will be available July 24th both on dvd and blu-ray.  It can be picked up in store or online at http://www.shoppbs.org.  

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can also keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Inspector Morse prequel is a successful “endeavour”

Courtesy: PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Crime procedurals are among the most popular shows on television today, next to “reality television.”  All four of the “Big Four” have their own share of crime dramas.  NBC has at least one show remaining in the Law & Order franchise.  CBS has NCIS and a handful of others.  Even ABC and Fox have their shows, as do the cable networks.  But what most audiences might not know is that PBS also has its own hit crime drama in the Inspector Morse series.  The Inspector Morse series is just as gripping as any of the shows that are all over cable and “The Big Four.”  And now, fans of Inspector Morse are getting a special new treat with a prequel to the series titled, “Endeavour.”

“Endeavour” will air on PBS this Saturday, July 1st.  And then it will be available on both dvd and blu-ray July 24th.  Whether one is new to the Inspector Morse franchise or a seasoned fan, “Endeavour” will pull audiences in and hold them through its entire ninety-minute run time.  The movie opens with a young Constable Morse writing his resignation letter from his police department.  He is going to turn it in until a young teenage girl goes missing.  That missing persons case turns into a murder investigation that would become the biulding block of Morse’s career. 

Morse starts investigating the girl’s murder.  And the more he invesitgates, the bigger the web of deceit grows.  Not only does Morse have to face off against suspects in the case, but also fellow members of the police force.  One member of the force in particular would seemingly do everything in his power to keep Morse from making any progress on the case.  And the reason why is later revealed.  It plays its own role in the ultimate outcome of this well written mystery.  The story has just enough twists, turns, and red herrings to keep even uninitiated audiences watching right up to the end without losing track of what’s going on along the way.  When the person behind everything is revealed, it’s so shocking that no one will have even suspected said person.  Even Morse himself didn’t suspect the criminal in question behind it all at first.

The Inspector Morse franchise may not be as popular as the crime dramas that populate network and cable television.  Chances are that’s only because it’s on PBS.  But if anything can be said of “Endeavour”, it’s that much more proof of the value of PBS.  It proves that PBS’ programming can be (and in many cases is) as powerful and entertaining as anything on standard network and cable. 

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can also keep up with the latest reviews and news at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.