It’s summer in SoCal and the weather is finally hot enough to prove it. As much as I love living in a Mediterranean climate, I’m always secretly glad when Cali’s June Gloom lasts through July. I always think that maybe—just maybe, by some cosmic intervention—we’ll somehow skip the heatwave and get snow for Christmas.
Then August arrives in all 80-plus degrees of its Fahrenheit glory. Sweaty palms. Sweaty pits. Sweaty privates.
Ordinarily, we’d be coping with these indignities at the beach. Running away from the waves. Getting embarrassing sand wedgies.
Marveling that sunscreen actually works. Waking up a magnificent shade of lobster.
But not this year. This year, we’re stuck inside with people who we can’t remember why we love. The way they chew. The way they snore. The way they blow their nose. The way they don’t blow their nose.
Why are other people’s faults always so much worse than our own? Why can’t they cultivate faults that we actually admire? You know, like resolutely standing by their guns in a fight and then being able to admit that we were right (as we always are) all along.
We may not be able to reform every unfortunate that we live with, but we can minimize negative interactions by watching as many films and TV shows as possible. For those of you who “hate old shows” and can afford to pay for Netflix and Hulu, whoop-de-freakin’-do for you. The rest of you might appreciate the following recommendations, which are currently available for free on YouTube.
Note: The en dash (–) means “through,” not “to,” when referring to the seasons of the shows. “Good” quality means fullscreen with no flashing background; “great” quality means the picture is also clear. Personally, I haven’t had to watch many ads/commercials on my iPhone 6 Plus, but larger, newer devices may be different.
Agatha Christie’s Marple (2004–2013)
Based on the famous “Queen of Crime’s” popular mystery novels, Geraldine McEwan (Seasons 1–3) and Julia McKenzie (Seasons 4–6) star as unlikely amateur sleuth Miss Jane Marple, a softspoken but sharpwitted “old dear,” whose keen observations on human nature are anything but fluffy.
@MarcoAntonioCamacho and @SargentoNascimento have equally good uploads, but they both use Portuguese subtitles that I wasn’t able to turn off. Fortunately, subtitles aren’t as distracting when you can’t read them, and the show is good enough that you’ll probably forget they’re there.
Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime (1983–4, 2015)
Based on Christie’s “Tommy and Tuppence” whodunits, this sassy series follows the espionage escapades of Mr. and Mrs. Beresford. James Warwick (1983) and David Walliams (2015) play Thomas, whose failure as a scholar and a soldier is offset by his success as a spy. Francesca Annis (1983) and Jessica Raine (2015) play Prudence, the incorrigible daughter of a country archdeacon, who supports her husband through thick and thin.
You’ll have to do some sleuthing for the best quality uploads, but decent ones do exist. You’ll have better luck with “Tommy and Tuppence” than with “Partners in Crime.”
Agatha Christie’s Poirot (1989–2013)
This long-running series details the cases of private detective Hercule Poirot (David Suchet), a dapper, courteous little Belgian whose cleverness is only exceeded by a comical degree of conceit. His notorious “little grey cells” are often aided and abetted by his friend/assistant/colleague, Captain Arthur Hastings (Hugh Fraser), and his much cleverer secretary, Miss Felicity Lemon (Pauline Moran). Zoë Wanamaker makes intermittent appearances as mystery/crime writer Ariadne Oliver, in a sly nod to Dame Agatha herself.
@KarlMarx has the best quality uploads, followed by our friends @MarcoAntonioCamacho and @SargentoNascimento, whose subtitling sprees continue with the best intentions in the world.
I’d watch “Curtain” last, for reasons that you’ll understand later. The order of the other episodes doesn’t really matter, but Wikipedia has chronological lists for most shows, if you want to knock yourself out.
Unlike the Agatha Christie’s, the following shows are labeled in English with each episode appearing pretty much consecutively, which makes them easier to watch in order.
Inspector Morse (1987–2000)
This successful series is based on the books by Colin Dexter. It stars John Thaw as Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Morse (whose first name is one of the mysteries) and Kevin Whately as Detective Sergeant (DS) Robert “Robbie” Lewis. If you’ve been to Oxford, you’ll enjoy running into places that you know.
@CameronKrista appears to have the best/most uploads, but you may have to do some digging.
This Inspector Morse spin-off is set in Oxford like its prequel. Kevin Whately is now Inspector Lewis, and the outspoken Laurence Fox somehow manages to make DS James Hathaway sexy, a peculiarly British feat that has little to do with the accent.
@CalderonKrista strikes again, but keep your spade handy.
Midsomer Murders (1997–Present)
This long-running series is based on the Caroline Graham novels. The UK’s longest-running contemporary detective show to date, it documents the lives—and deaths—of the people who live in and around the fictional county of Midsomer.
Seasons 1–13 star John Nettles as DCI Thomas “Tom” Barnaby; Jane Wymark as his wife, Joyce; and Laura Howard as their daughter Cully (who’s named after a Swiss village, near Lake Geneva, where she was conceived . . . in case you’d rather have TMI than the haunting suspicion that the British hate their offspring from the womb). Daniel Casey plays DS Gavin Troy in Seasons 1–7, John Hopkins (who I don’t even remember) bridges the gap as DS Daniel “Dan” Scott in Seasons 7–8, and Jason Hughes plays DS Benjamin “Ben” Jones in Seasons 9–15.
Seasons 14–21 star Neil Dudgeon as DCI John Barnaby (Tom’s younger cousin); Fiona Dolman as his wife, Sarah; and a Jack Russell terrier as their rescue dog, Sykes (Seasons 14–18), who pretty much carries the show until the viewers stop moaning about the casting changes (which they do for a ridiculously long time). Again, Jason Hughes fills the gap as DS Jones (Seasons 14–15) before Gwilym Lee takes over as DS Charles “Charlie” Nelson (Seasons 16–18), followed by Nick Hendrix as current DS James “Jamie” Winter (Seasons 19–21).
Great-quality uploads can be found @FilmRise and @MidsomerMurders. Fancy.
Rosemary & Thyme (2003–7)
If you like gardening and crime, you’ll love horticultural duo Rosemary Boxer (Felicity Kendal) and Laura Thyme (Pam Ferris). Bonus characters include Rosemary’s 1980 Land Rover Series III and various renditions of “Scarborough Fair.”
@Nellynorus doesn’t make you do any digging.
This series is based on the fiction of Ann Cleeves. Personally, if I were DCI Vera Stanhope, I’d want to spend all my time helping DS Joseph “Joe” Ashworth (David Leon) find his place in the #MeToo movement. Maybe that’s the real reason he was replaced with DS Aiden Healy (Kenny Doughty). No wonder Stanhope drinks.
(In reality, Inspector Stanhope’s working relationship with her DS’s is only unprofessional in the sense that it borders on the familial. Ashworth’s sonly concern for her welfare is one of the things that makes you want to rip his clothes off. Gentlemen, take note.)
Pirated viewership be ye warned: This show is set in Northumberland near the English-Scottish/Scottish-English border (cue references to the King in the North). If you’re one of those Americans who needs English subtitles for the middle-to-upperclass accents found in most Jane Austen adaptations, you’ll definitely need help with this one.
Try our old friend @CalderonKrista. And may God have mercy on your souls.
Bonus: Columbo (1968–1978)
Don’t let the shabby raincoat, ever-present cigar, famous “last words,” and bumbling demeanor fool you. Homicide detective Lieutenant Frank Columbo (Peter Falk) has an uncanny knack for solving crimes.
Five episodes of this American classic can be found @Columbo.
Just one more thing: Resist the temptation to read the comments before watching the episodes. The number of crime show spoilers is nothing short of criminal, though what motivates the culprits to kill the plots for other viewers remains a mystery. Apparently, baton-wielding Brits are no match for Americans who shoot their mouths off. On the other hand, the comments about the “superiority” of British TV shows are downright cringeworthy. “Special relationship” or no “special relationship,” let’s not overdue it.
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