British mystery TV shows/movies?
January 4, 2008 6:26 PM   Subscribe

Great British mystery television shows/movies? My girlfriend and I are both rabid fans of good, old-fashioned British whodunnits. Nothing like a rainy Sunday curled up in the sofa to watch an insufferable amateur detective line up a bunch of eccentric upper-class Brits by the fireplace to expose their innermost red herrings: Poirot, Miss Marple, Jonathan Creek, Cadfael, Inspector Alleyn, Sherlock Holmes, Gosford Park -- we have pretty much watched them all, including numerous Agatha Christie movie adaptations. What else is out there? Must be British, or feature mainly Brits; extra points for smoking jackets, quaint little villages in Dorset, vintage automobiles and funny little Frenchmen. (We don't like modern police procedurals that much, though; Inspector Morse is all right, but not quite our cup of tea.)
posted by gentle to Media & Arts (33 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Its sort of modern (70s I think) but Ian McShane in Lovejoy is great fun to watch. He's a not quite honest antique dealer who seems to keep getting caught up in murders.
posted by legotech at 6:32 PM on January 4, 2008

Best answer: Foyle's War: Foyle is not an amateur (he's a DCS) but it's WWII-era and loads of quaint villages and vintage automobiles. And the mysteries aren't stupidly easy to figure out.
posted by tractorfeed at 6:32 PM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Here's a question I asked recently about Inspector Morse, he may fit your mystery-loving bill!
posted by nkknkk at 6:36 PM on January 4, 2008

Well crap. Here's the link.
posted by nkknkk at 6:37 PM on January 4, 2008

... and THEN I see your fine print. Pretend I was never here.
posted by nkknkk at 6:38 PM on January 4, 2008

Response by poster: No harm done, nkknkk.

legotech: I never quite liked Lovejoy, something about Ian McShane's oily charm. But I see why you would want to recommend it, so thanks.

tractorfeed: Hey, I remember seeing an episode of Foyle. That was pretty damn good stuff. Thanks for reminding me.
posted by gentle at 6:40 PM on January 4, 2008

Best answer: The three BBC Lord Peter Wimsey adaptations from the 80s with Edward Petherbridge as the lead, if you can get them. PD James -- both the Adam Dalgleish series (Roy Marsden) and the Cordelia Gray adaptations: more modern, police leads, but more dark intrigue than procedural.

Some people adore Midsomer Murders. Good for them.
posted by holgate at 6:46 PM on January 4, 2008

Best answer: I love the very witty Mrs Bradley's Mysteries. It has a cracking theme tune AND Diana Rigg. What more can one ask for?

Here's the intro clip from 'Laurels Are Poisons'.
posted by sweetlyvicious at 6:46 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Was the lack of Lord Peter Wimsey intentional?
posted by ormondsacker at 6:48 PM on January 4, 2008

(Ah, the Dalgleish series is on Region 1 DVD. The early ones, in longer format, are better.)
posted by holgate at 6:50 PM on January 4, 2008

Pipped at the post, dash it! Well, the Wimsey dvds are available on both amazon and netflix, if that helps.
posted by ormondsacker at 6:53 PM on January 4, 2008

Bergerac (set in Jersey (the Channel Island not the Garden State)) and the Midsomer Murders (set in the unfeasibly homicidal village of Midsomer) - both starring John Nettles.
posted by TrashyRambo at 7:10 PM on January 4, 2008

Best answer: Perhaps Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes? More of a modern feel to it, very dark and dramatic, but Victorian-set. Heat of the Sun is set in 1930's Kenya but I recall really liking it. What I managed to watch of Hetty Wainthropp Investigates had a very quaint Agatha Christie feel to it, despite being set in modern day England. (I have an inexplicable aversion to the actress who plays her so I have never watched an episode through, but I gather her sidekick is a hobbit.) Also modern-day but featuring amateur sleuths and that nice cozy feel is Rosemary and Thyme, featuring two British gardeners, which I really enjoy in that curl-up-by-the-fire-with-a-cup-of-cocoa way.

If you're feeling really adventurous, you could always try the Russian adaptations of Sherlock Holmes. (For the curious and/or Russian-speaking, at least part of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" seems to be up on YouTube-- alas, no subtitles.)
posted by posadnitsa at 7:12 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Lord Peter Wimsey and Mrs Bradley (love the intro) both look spot on, just what we're looking for. Thanks.

Appreciate the other suggestions, but please, no more police procedurals! Dalgleish, Lynley, Prime Suspect, Bergerac, Midsomer Murders, I'm sure they're good — actually, strike that, I can't really stand John Nettles, the best thing about Bergerac was the cool car, and I find Nathaniel Parker to be an amateurish actor at best — but they're not for us.
posted by gentle at 7:21 PM on January 4, 2008

Best answer: My lady and I live for these types of mysteries and have spent an absurd amount of time trying to track down these types of shows (personally I'm delighted to know that there are others out there like us). While I am more accepting of the modern mysteries, I do share your uncertainty about Inspector Morse.

There have been a lot of great suggestions in this thread already: Foyle's War, Mrs. Bradley, Wimsey (both the Carmichael and Petherbridge versions), Lynley, Murder Rooms, Heat of the Sun, Hetty Waintopp, and Rosemary and Thyme. I would add Campion and Jericho to that list, as they are both are great series.

Also, there are several good modern mysteries that are closer to whodunnits than police procedurals that I'd be more than happy to pass along.
posted by jaybeans at 7:30 PM on January 4, 2008

The "unfeasibly homicidal" aspect made me do a quick Google. Including suicides, there are about 40 deaths in the first ten episodes of Midsomer Murders alone.

I suspect property prices in the area have plummeted...
posted by djgh at 7:31 PM on January 4, 2008

Best answer: Just because nobody's mentioned it so far, the Sergeant Cribb mysteries were rather good. Set in Victorian England. Available from Amazon it seems.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:50 PM on January 4, 2008

Best answer: "Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime" with Francesca Annis and James Warwick.
posted by Fins at 8:13 PM on January 4, 2008

It's contemporary and more police than detective, but it's British - A Touch of Frost?

(My husband is presently on a British mystery kick - Foyle's War, Midsomer, Poirot.....)
posted by Lucinda at 8:17 PM on January 4, 2008

Best answer: Hamish Macbeth is modern, but set in a charming (fictional) Scottish village with eccentric villagers, story lines ranging from straightforward mystery fare to supernatural weirdness to comedy, plus episodes written by Danny Boyle. Very entertaining, and the scenery is incredible.

Also contemporary, but you might also like the various BBC adaptations of Minette Walters novels. And the Rebus series (with Ken Stott, NOT the one with John Hannah) was very good, as was Waking The Dead.
posted by biscotti at 9:01 PM on January 4, 2008

The three BBC Lord Peter Wimsey adaptations from the 80s with Edward Petherbridge as the lead,

I loved these, and bought all the books after seeing them on TV. Petherbridge is way better than the other guy (whose name I don't recall) who shows up as Lord Peter. I admit to renting them again years later after reading all the books several times over, and being quite disappointed in their cheesiness- so don't read any of the novels first. ;)
posted by oneirodynia at 9:49 PM on January 4, 2008

Nthing Foyle's War. I got the first two series as a gift and I love it. Foyle is indeed a professional, but he's an understated professional with a fabulous dry sense of humour, and his two sidekicks are both adorable in their own ways. It's set in Hastings, so has pretty scenery as well.

The "other" Lord Peter Wimsey was Ian Carmichael. I haven't seen him, but I thought Petherbridge was a great Lord Peter.
posted by andraste at 11:09 PM on January 4, 2008

Perhaps you could diversify into programs which aren't mysteries but otherwiise fulfill the requirement for eccentric upper-class Brits?

The Jeeves & Wooster series with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie springs to mind ...
posted by pharm at 6:18 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If slightly off target and not really cosy but if you've not seen The Singing Detective you really should as it's one the greatest things British television has ever produced... and among many things it has some very clever insights into classic detective fiction.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:33 AM on January 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I can't believe no one has mentioned Pie In The Sky yet! It stars Richard Griffiths (HarryP's nasty uncle) as a retired police detective who opens a small restaurant, and is pulled back into the Force reluctantly to solve cases. Mysteries and food, a winning combination.

Of currently running series, New Tricks is actually a police drama, but it's comedy as much as drama and has a rather old-fashioned feel to it that you might like. You also get to enjoy a great cast of veteran actors.

The old fashioned tea cosy murder type of mystery is out of fashion in Britain nowadays, (the only one still ongoing I think are Foyle's War and Rosemary and Thyme, and since they are both on ITV they often have sloppily written scripts which lessens their appeal) so you do have to dig in the past for them unfortunately.

I would definitely not put Rebus or the Minette Walters mysteries in the tea cosy category...they are more modern/psychological types, in the Silent Witness/Waking The Dead mode. Waking the Dead is the best of those imo.
posted by derMax at 7:55 AM on January 5, 2008

I don't know if it's available to buy but I think you'd enjoy George Gently:

Britain, 1964: a time when the line between the police and criminals has become increasingly blurred; when the proliferation of drugs is about to change the face of policing forever; when Britain's youth stand on the brink of a social and sexual revolution.

Inspector George Gently is one of the few good men at Scotland Yard, his sense of public duty an increasingly rare commodity in a police force where corruption is rife and unchecked.

posted by ceri richard at 10:20 AM on January 5, 2008

Also, keep an eye out on the BBC Radio 4 and Radio 7 schedules for gems such as Martin Jarvis as "Bertie Wooster, Jeeves and an array of other Wodehouse characters".

The daily Afternoon Play strand is available for 7 days after broadcast - last week 4 days were devoted to a series of dramatisations of The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency By Alexander McCall Smith.
posted by ceri richard at 10:30 AM on January 5, 2008

More diversificaton :-) - the BBC's Shakespeare Re-told (available on dvd) was superb.
posted by ceri richard at 10:47 AM on January 5, 2008

Response by poster: I loved Pie in the Sky. I watched The Singing Detective as a kid, and remember liking it, and being horrified by the depiction of psoriasis and not really understanding all the jumps in time. I have been meaning to check it out again.

I will check out New Twists, Rosemary and Thyme, Lord Peter Wimsey, Sergeant Cribb, Hamish Macbeth and Partners in Crime. Wow, that's a lot of stuff.

Jeeves and Wooster are old favourites!
posted by gentle at 3:12 PM on January 5, 2008

Island at War -- not a mystery but suspenseful and engaging.
posted by nnk at 3:22 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

you should like the "tinker tailor soldier spy" and "smiley's people" series
posted by canoehead at 2:21 PM on January 7, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. Lots of wonderful and useful answers.
posted by gentle at 3:23 PM on January 8, 2008

Maybe a bit schmaltzy for your tastes, but I used to love Heartbeat.
posted by indienial at 8:29 PM on January 9, 2008

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