Have you ever had one of those weekends when you were so utterly knackered that you could barely think or move? I just did, so I napped on and off, and in between I watched, what else, British TV. (Although I also watched one of my fave non-British films, My Favorite Wife, which stars Cary Grant and Irene Dunne and was shown on Turner Classic Movies.)
My British TV viewing consisted primarily of Vexed, a detective comedy-drama set in London, and Single-Handed, a dark cop drama that takes place on the west coast of Ireland, both of which I streamed from Acorn TV.
Series 1 of Vexed stars Toby Stephens (Jane Eyre) and Lucy Punch () as Detectives Jack Armstrong and Kate Bishop. He’s charming, cheeky, single, and not above using evidence for his personal means; she’s efficient, gullible, in a troubled marriage, and goes by the book (most of the time). Their cases include three murdered women whose link is a loyalty program card; a banker who’s being treated for depression in a swanky rehab facility while being targeted by a hit-man; and a member of a girl band who’s been kidnapped.
It’s lighthearted fare that’s reminiscent of Moonlighting. Similar to that show’s David and Maddie characters, Vexed‘s Jack is a bit over the top (a brat and a a prat), while Kate is inconsistent — strong in one moment and giving in too quickly in the next. That said, I still found the show entertaining and enjoyable.
If you’re looking for a show with more depth, check out Single-Handed. This slow-paced, dark, and moody cop drama stars Owen McDonnell as Irish Garda Sergeant Jack Driscoll. The scenery of the Irish countryside is beautiful, while the characters are anything but. You won’t find any smiling Irish eyes here. Almost everyone but Jack is hiding something, from family secrets and deals under the table to sinister plans, and the facades they put on make you wonder when Jack will discover what’s lurking beneath the surface and put an end to all of it.
Single-Handed costars David Herlihy (The Clinic) as Garda Colvin, a cop on the take; Ruth McCabe (My Left Foot) as Jack’s mother, Eithne; and Sean McGinley (Republic of Doyle) as Dennis Costello, the scheming owner of the local bar and hotel.
Each of the six episodes has multiple story lines that interweave through the central crimes. In “The Lost Boys,” Jack meets Brian (Matthew McNulty, Misfits), a cousin from England that he didn’t know he had, which leads to his learning some heartbreaking family secrets, all while investigating the death of an elderly man. Brian and his paramour, Gemma (Simone Lahbib, Wire in the Blood) stay on in Ireland in “Between Two Fires” and “A Cold Heaven,” in which Jack investigates a woman’s death during a fire at an empty housing development that Costello recently purchased, and a prostitution ring involving local teenage girls, respectively. Jack’s relationship with Gemma deepens as hers with Brian worsens, and Colvin becomes more entangled with Costello. It’s maddening, yet infinitely watchable.
The first season of Vexed and the last three episodes of Single-Handed are available for streaming at Acorn TV through September 23. Free streaming is available through August 31, after which you’ll need an Acorn TV membership to access episodes beyond the ones they make available to the general public. You can also stream Single-Handed at Amazon Instant Video, but for the price ($7.99 per episode), you’re better off with Acorn TV. (Amazon Prime doesn’t apply to this show.)