Whether the weather outside is frightful or fantastic, chillax in front of your favorite telly screen with some terrific British TV this month, including the premieres of new and returning series and holiday specials.
Pacific Heat (Australia)
This animated comedy series follows the exploits of Pacific Heat, a dynamic and covert squad of highly-trained undercover police investigators working on the glitzy Gold Coast of Australia. It’s a glamorous, sophisticated, and sun-drenched paradise that’s also a hotbed of crime for drug smugglers, biker gangs, eco-terrorists, and the person who invented frozen yogurt. Voiced by the award-winning series creators Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner, and Rob Sitch (all of Utopia, aka Dreamland), Pacific Heat, a Netflix Original series, premieres in the US on Friday, 2 December 2016, exclusively on Netflix. (Image courtesy of Netflix)
E!’s hit scripted drama about the (fictional) British royal family is back for another juicy season filled with sex, scandal, and serious naughty behavior of all sorts. Appearing in the show this season is Damian Hurley, series star Elizabeth Hurley’s teen-aged son, who has his debut role as “a spoiled German prince turned reality star.” The Royals: Season 3 premieres Sunday, 4 December 2016, at 10 PM ET, on E!
The return of this fantabulous Kiwi mystery series is one of the best reasons to put holiday stuff on hold for six+ hours. The new season finds detectives Mike Shepherd (Neill Rea, pictured far right, Go Girls), Kristin Sims (Fern Sutherland, The Almighty Johnsons), and Sam Breen (Nic Sampson, Go Girls) investigating several murders in four new whodunit stories featuring a venomous spider, a beloved board game, classic cars, and people dressed as Santa Claus. The Brokenwood Mysteries: Series 3 premieres in the US starting Monday, 5 December 2016, exclusively on Acorn TV. (Photo © South Pacific Pictures & all3media International, courtesy of Acorn TV)
Medici: Masters of Florence: Season 1 (Italy/UK/France)
Set in 15th-century Florence and told through a dual-timeline narrative, this historical drama centers on the banking family and political dynasty the Medicis. The international cast includes two-time Oscar® winner Dustin Hoffman (pictured, Rain Man), Richard Madden (Game of Thrones), Stuart Martin (Babylon), and Guido Caprino (1992). Medici: Masters of Florence: Season 1, a Netflix Original series, premieres in the US, UK, Ireland, and Canada on Friday, 9 December 2016, exclusively on Netflix. A second season has been commissioned. (Photo courtesy of Netflix)
Waiting three years (four if you’re in the UK) for this follow-up to The Hollow Crown is so worth it. The epic saga concludes with lavish film adaptations of Shakespeare’s Henry VI Parts 1 and 2 and Richard III, in which treachery, betrayal, and murder, in addition to battlefield action, are de rigueur for the House of Lancaster (red rose) and the House of York (white rose) in their fight for control of the throne of England. Featuring an all-star cast, including Sophie Okonedo (pictured, Undercover), Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock), and Adrian Dunbar (Line of Duty), The Hollow Crown – The Wars of the Roses premieres in the US on Sunday, 11 December 2016, at 9 PM ET, on PBS. (Photo courtesy of Robert Viglasky © 2015 Carnival Film & Television Ltd)
This crime drama-thriller stars Karla Crome (Misfits) as Detective Sergeant Nancy Devlin, a good cop with a dark secret: she’s been protecting drug trafficker Frank Le Saux (Philip Glenister, Life on Mars) from prosecution. During what becomes their last clandestine meeting, Frank is killed, Nancy is wounded, and her double life is at risk of being exposed, especially when she gets seconded to the murder investigation while hiding the fact that she is the witness the cops and killer are looking for. Costarring Lindsey Coulson (EastEnders), Rob James-Collier (Downton Abbey), and Noel Clarke (Doctor Who), The Level, an Acorn TV Original Series, premieres in the US starting Monday, 12 December 2016, exclusively on Acorn TV. (Photo by Colin Hutton © Hillbilly Films/ITV, courtesy of Acorn TV)
Based on Tolstoy’s timeless epic of love and loss, set against the backdrop of France’s invasion of Russia and filmed in six European countries, this miniseries features an international cast that includes Alexander Beyer (Deutschland 83), Alessio Boni (The Tourist), Clémence Poésy (The Tunnel), Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange), and Brenda Blethyn (Vera). War and Peace premieres in the US on Monday, 12 December 2016, exclusively on Acorn TV. (Image courtesy of RLJ Entertainment)
Bowling alley worker Amy (Cara Theobold, Downton Abbey) can see demons. When one attacks her, demon hunter Raquel (Susan Wokoma, Chewing Gum) saves her. And so an unlikely friendship of the two 20-something demon butt-kickers is born. But little do they know that some of the most gnarly demons are amongst their intimates. Costarring Tony Curran (Defiance), Arinzé Kene (Youngers), and Lewis Reeves (Unforgotten), Crazyhead, a Netflix Global Original series, premieres internationally (except the UK) on Friday, 16 December 2016, exclusively on Netflix. (Photo courtesy of Netflix)
Yup, it’s an American series, and a fabulous one at that! (It’s still the most-watched Amazon Original series ever.) Plus, it features British, Canadian, and Aussie actors, including (swoon) Rufus Sewell (Victoria), Rupert Evans (The Village), Callum Keith Rennie (Californication), Steve Byers (Slasher), Chela Horsdal (Hell on Wheels), and Lee Shorten (Supernatural). If you haven’t watched Season 1 yet, you have a couple of weeks to binge it before the new season arrives. The Man in the High Castle: Season 2 premieres in all Amazon Prime territories on Friday, 16 December 2016, exclusively on Amazon Prime Video. (Image courtesy of Amazon)
For British telly, the shows on PBS are appointment viewing on Sunday nights. For British theatre, it’s one Friday evening this month, when Great Performances presents the RSC’s star-studded celebration of Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death. Featuring luminaries of stage and screen, including Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange), Judi Dench (“James Bond” films), Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love), Ian McKellen (The Hobbit trilogy), Helen Mirren (The Queen), David Suchet (Agatha Christie’s Poirot), and Doctor Who‘s David Tennant (whom I saw perform Richard II at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre — woo hoo!), Shakespeare Live! From the RSC premieres in the US on Friday, 23 December 2016, at 9 PM ET, on PBS. (Photo courtesy of Helen Maybanks © RSC)
Things don’t look good for humanity, but we don’t know the half of it. The people who know all about it are from hundreds of years in the future. They are the last surviving humans. Brilliant ones, too, as they’ve figured out how to send consciousness from their time back into ours. Which is what these travelers do, through assuming the lives of seemingly random 21st-century people in order to save humanity from a future we wouldn’t look forward to. Starring Eric McCormack (Will & Grace), MacKenzie Porter (Hell on Wheels), Patrick Gilmore (SGU Stargate Universe), Jared Abrahamson (Awkward.), Nesta Cooper (Heroes Reborn), and Reilly Dolman (Scarecrow). Travelers, a Netflix Global Original series, premieres internationally (except Canada) on Friday, 23 December 2016, exclusively on Netflix. (Photo courtesy of Netflix)
Call the Midwife Holiday Special 2016
The Nonnatus House family is faced with tough challenges after they arrive on the Eastern Cape of South Africs to help Hope Clinic, a tiny mission hospital that’s understaffed, underfunded, and threatened with closure. Sinéad Cusack (Marcella) guest stars as Dr Myra Fitzsimmons, who runs the struggling Hope Clinic. The Call the Midwife Holiday Special 2016 premieres in the US on Sunday, 25 December 2016, at 7:30 PM ET, on PBS. Series 6 will premiere on both sides of the pond in 2017, and Series 7, 8, and 9 have been commissioned. (Yay!) (Photo: L-R: Victoria Yeates as Sister Winifred, Jenny Agutter as Sister Julienne, Stephen McGann as Dr Turner, Helen George as Trixie, Linda Bassett as Phyllis, and Charlotte Ritchie as Barbara — © Coco Van Oppens, courtesy of Neal Street Productions & OOA)
Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio (Christmas Special 2016)
“My favorite superhero is Clark Kent. Not Superman, Clark Kent.” So said Steven Moffat, who wrote and executive produced this holiday special, which finds the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) teaming up with investigative journalist Lucy Fletcher (Charity Wakefield, Wolf Hall) and a superhero (aka Grant, played by Justin Chatwin of Orphan Black) to save New York from a deadly alien threat. Matt Lucas (Pompidou) reprises his role as Nardole (from “The Husbands of River Song“), and Tomiwa Edun (Merlin) and Aleksandar Jovanovic (Bulow & König) also feature in the cast. Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio premieres in the US on Sunday, 25 December 2016, at 9 PM ET, on BBC America. (Photo by Simon Ridgway, courtesy of BBC America)
Where the Heart Is: Series 7
Set in the fictional Yorkshire town of Skelthwaite, this long-running UK drama returns to the States with a seventh season of warmhearted and humane stories centered on a group of nurses who are fiercely dedicated to both their jobs and their families. Where the Heart Is: Series 7 premieres in the US on Monday, 26 December 2016, exclusively on Acorn TV.
The 1st of December is the public TV release date for the British TV (and British TV-inspired) programs shown below. The actual premiere dates will vary from market to market, so check your local listings or contact the public TV station that serves your area for details about air dates and times. To request the show(s), contact your station’s viewer services department or American Public Television.
The Ascent of Woman: A 10,000 Year Story
Written and presented by British/American biographer and historian Dr. Amanda Foreman (The Duchess), this four-part documentary charts the role of women in society, from the dawn of civilization to the modern day. Through Foreman’s examination of the lives of numerous extraordinary women who created their own routes to power, whether in ancient times or through contemporary political movements, she shows how women have been making and changing human history since 10,000 B.C.
A Midsomer Conversation with John Nettles
In this exclusive special from American Public Television, actor John Nettles, perhaps better known as DCI Tom Barnaby to legions of Midsomer Murders fans, reflects upon his 13 seasons of living in Midsomer county. As charming in real life as his character is on screen, Nettles reveals what it was like to work with guest stars such as Orlando Bloom, his favorite methods of murder depicted on the series, and more.
The Queen at 90
Talk about a milestone year. On 6 February 2016, Queen Elizabeth II officially surpassed her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria to become the longest-reigning monarch in British history. Two and half months later, on 21 April, she turned 90. (God bless the Queen!) And in this documentary, members of the British royal family share their memories of the Queen as a monarch, mentor, and family matriarch, providing rare insight into the private world of Great Britain’s most iconic public figure.
One of the stations where you can watch The Queen at 90 is KCET, which serves viewers in Southern and Central California and is the largest independent public television station in the nation.
But wait, there’s more!
‘Tis the season of pledge drives on many public TV stations, so please give what you can to your station and keep British TV shows on free, over-the-air TV. And there are a lot of hit Brit shows coming, too. A few include…
For folks in the Washington, DC major metro, you can watch these new seasons, plus Black Work, The Body Farm, The Brokenwood Mysteries: Series 1, and much more on WETA UK — the only broadcast channel in all of the US that airs 24/7 UK/IE/AU/NZ/CA-centric programs.
ADDITIONAL PROGRAMS ADDED TO STREAMING SERVICES
This must-watch Christmas special will definitely put the ho-ho-ho in your holidays. Since his incredible find in the Series 2 finale, Lance (Toby Jones, The Secret Agent) hasn’t unearthed a thing. Worse yet, he’s had a run of bad luck. Members of the DMDC attribute his misfortunes to “The Curse of the Gold,” but Andy (Mackenzie Crook, The Office) thinks otherwise and sets out with Lance to prove it. A jolly good show, the Detectorists Christmas Special begins streaming Monday, 5 December 2016, on Acorn TV.
Hosted by historian and author Dr. Helen Castor (She-Wolves), this three-part documentary examines how people of the Middle Ages handled three of life’s great rites of passage: birth, marriage, and death. From the dangers of childbirth, to newly-married couples being put to bed by the priest on their wedding night, to death as a communal affair, the program is filled with recreated scenes, colorful images from historical texts and artwork, and first-hand accounts from one family. (Further details here.) Medieval Lives: Birth, Marriage, Death begins streaming Monday, 5 December 2016, on Acorn TV.
This character-driven, BAFTA TV Award-winning biopic is inspired by Nella Last’s War, a collection of diary entries written for the Mass-Observation project from 1939 to 1945. It stars the late, great Victoria Wood (Dinnerladies) as 49-year-old Lancashire housewife Nella Last, a role that won her a BAFTA Award. Costars in this must-watch movie include David Threlfall (Shameless), Ben Crompton (Game of Thrones), and Stephanie Cole (Doc Martin). Housewife, 49 begins streaming Monday, 26 December 2016, on Acorn TV.
(All images in this section courtesy of Acorn TV)
As of this writing, there are no additions of British TV shows to Amazon Video or Amazon Prime Video in December. That said, though, there is (almost) always at least one offering per month on one, the other, or both services, so stay tuned for updates (see below). In the meantime, there’s an Oscar-winning film: Elizabeth: The Golden Age, the sequel to Elizabeth, both of which star two-time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) as Queen Elizabeth I. Elizabeth: The Golden Age begins streaming as a Prime Video offering on Thursday, 1 December 2016, on Amazon Prime Video.
Based on the Israeli drama series Yellow Peppers, and renewed for a second series, this drama follows a multi-generational family after their young son is diagnosed with autism. It stars newcomer Max Vento as 5-year-old Joe, and Lee Ingleby (George Gently) and Morven Chrsitie (Grantchester) as Joe’s parents. Also featuring in the cast are Vinette Robinson (Sherlock), Greg McHugh (Gary: Tank Commander), and Christopher Eccleston (The Leftovers). The A Word begins streaming as an Amazon Prime title on Thursday, 8 December 2016. (Photo courtesy of Amazon)
Unlike the usual months-long wait, the fifth season of this hit Brit series is available for streaming just a couple of weeks after its premiere on public TV stations. (Yay!) Eight new mystery stories feature murders by gunshot, poison, and strangulation, amongst other methods; the big reveal at the end; and lots of guest stars, including Wendy Craig (The Royal) as Humphrey’s Aunt Mary, and Sally Bretton (Not Going Out) as Martha Lloyd, a former girlfriend of the detective. (More about this here.) Death in Paradise: Series 5 begins streaming Tuesday, 13 December 2016, on Amazon Video.
This season of the popular BBC daytime mystery drama features Jack Deam (DCI Banks) as Inspector Mallory, another copper who’d prefer it if Father Brown stuck to saving souls instead of solving crimes. One soul that seems to be a lost cause is Flambeau (John Light, WPC 56), who reappears in Kembleford to get his conman mitts on, what else, a priceless item of the church. Father Brown: Series 4 begins streaming Tuesday, 13 December 2016, on Amazon Video.
(All images in this section courtesy of Amazon)
Hulu, too, doesn’t have any new British TV titles this month (at least not yet), but it does have a terrific movie: The Trip to Italy. As with its predecessor, the sleeper hit The Trip, this follow-up film is an edited version of the TV series that aired on BBC Two after the feature’s premiere in 2014. It follows friends Steve Coogan (Philomena) and Rob Brydon (Gavin & Stacey) on another restaurant-review-based foodie road trip, this time a grand tour of la bella Italia instead of England. (Read this article for further details.) The Trip to Italy begins streaming Friday, 23 December 2016, on Hulu. (Image: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, courtesy of BBC)
Set in 1667 against a backdrop of power, love, betrayal, and war, this historical drama — the most-expensive series ever produced in France — centers on life in the court of Louis XIV (George Blagden, Vikings), the ruthless, 28-year-old king of France who will stop at nothing to create the most beautiful palace in Europe and seize absolute control of France and his enemies. Season 2 was ordered ahead of the Season 1 debut, and Season 3 begins filming in April 2017. Versailles: Season 1 begins streaming Wednesday, 14 December 2016, on Netflix. (Photo L-R: Elisa Lasowski, George Blagden, Anna Brewster, and Noémie Schmidt, courtesy of Ovation)
For updates about December 2016 program offerings, see the British TV Viewing Guide.