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Hi, I'm Jenna and I'm addicted to great television. I'm on a mission to share with you what I think are the best of the best when it comes to shows and mini-series. Long format visual storytelling is my entertainment of choice. I've got a lot to say, so stay tuned..... P.S. I am under some sort of invisible legal obligation to state that I do not own any of the photos posted herein unless otherwise specified and if you see any of your images and would like me to credit you or take it down (‘cus you’re just a meanie), please contact me

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Love TV, But Short on Time? Try a British Mini-Series!

Just one of the many things I love about British television is that they embrace the mini-series, but not the kind that we're used to. Across the pond, they cut theirs down to one hour episodes. Sometimes on consecutive nights, sometimes once a week as any other series, but with the intention of one season.

I guess my love affair with television series' sprung out of my adoration of the mini-series as a longer form of storytelling. Remember when the networks would air sweeping epics over three nights? The British sure are talented at packing in a ton of information into each one hour episode. By the end, I feel like I've spent several seasons with these characters....but it's only been a few hours and it doesn't feel rushed. So if you are in the market for some great storytelling and don't have the time to invest in multiple 22 episode seasons, here are some recommendations for British mini-series/short self contained seasons.

Criminal Justice (2008) - You may know him as Q from Skyfall or recognize him from Cloud Atlas or even know him as Freddie Lyon of "The Hour", but Ben Whishaw's breakthrough performance was in season one of Criminal Justice. This five episode season follows a young man through Britain's criminal justice system. Whishaw's Ben Coulter spends a drunken evening with a pretty girl he meets, but wakes up in the middle of the night to find her stabbed to death. He can't remember what happened. Of course, all evidence points to him and he's arrested. A solicitor named Stone believes that Ben is innocent or at least that the case is not as straight forward as the evidence seems. This unsophisticated, schlubby, solicitor (lawyer) who wears bandages around his feet with flip flops because of chronic eczema is wonderfully portrayed by Con O'Neill. Another highlight of this series is the relationship between Ben and his cellmate, an older gentleman who's been behind bars for quite a while and knows the ropes. Hooch as he's known inside, is a listener, which from what I gather means that he gets a few perks for being an unqualified psychiatrist to other inmates. He is brilliantly played by the late Pete Postlethwaite. Oh and keep a look out for "Homeland" CIA head honcho as king of the cell block. This one has my highest recommendation. Stream all five episodes on Netflix. Here's a taste - Criminal Justice Promo

Public Enemies (2012) - Anna Friel ("Pushing Daisies" and Land of the Lost) and Daniel Mays (tons of Brit stuff you've probably never heard of) play Paula and Eddie, probation officer and newly released criminal. Eddie served ten years for the murder of his girlfriend and is now trying to get his life back, only the past and his reputation are making that pretty difficult to do. Paula gave her last parolee the benefit of the doubt and he killed again, leaving her career in shambles. She puts it all on the line to help Eddie when he confesses that he was innocent all along. Friel and Mays have incredible on-screen chemistry. In three short one-hour episodes Mays impresses with the portrayal of a boy, not yet a man trying to begin again. Paula and Eddie's relationship is complicated and messy, which is why it's so damn compelling to watch. Five stars. Stream all three eps on Netflix. Here's a sneak peak - Public Enemies Promo

The Silence (2010) - Genevieve Barr gives a breakout performance as 18 year old Amelia, a deaf girl that witnesses a murder and becomes entangled in her uncle's mission to expose police corruption. Amelia has recently had a cochlear implant and is feeling very pressured to integrate with the hearing world. She starts staying at her Uncle's house in Bristol during the week to avoid all the travel back and forth from the burbs for her speech therapy. While DCI Uncle Jim (Douglas Henshall) is spending every waking hour investigating murders at the cost of his home life, Amelia witnesses one of her own. With Amelia's help, he ties it to a drug related killing and uncovers evidence that his colleagues in the drug squad are dirty cops. It's up to him to uncover the whole truth before they get to Amelia. Props to Fiona Seres for writing a deaf leading character and Dearbhla Walsh for casting a deaf actor. Amelia's struggle with whether or not she wants to be part of the hearing world was just as prominent as the crime, beautifully portrayed by Barr who was born deaf, but had to learn sign language for the role. These four one-hour eps fly by. The action and suspense will keep you pressing play until you've shot four hours of your day, but definitely not wasted. Two ecstatic thumbs up. Stream it on Netflix. This promo doesn't nearly do it justice, but take a gander - The Silence Promo

Prisoners Wives (2012) - You can probably guess what this show is about by the title. Gemma, Francesca, Lou and Harriet all share one thing in common. The men in their lives are serving time behind bars at Her Majesty's Pleasure. Gemma is severely preggers when her husband is arrested for murder. She's shown the ropes by Francesca, a glammed up middle aged woman that dresses like a slutty teenager. Her man (Iain Glen) is on year six of an 18 year stretch for drug trafficking. You might recognize him as Sir Jorah from "Game of Thrones" or Sir Richard Carlisle on "Downton Abbey". This dude likes to be called Sir a lot..... and he's in contention for The Hardest Working Actor in Britain Award. Lou is a mum that deals drugs to support her kid, but her baby's daddy is doing her time. Not sure you could ask for a more supportive boyfriend. She probably can't ever ask him to take the trash out again, though. Harriet is a widow who turned her teenage son into the police when she suspected him of planning a killing spree. Over six 47 min episodes we watch these women deal with their circumstances and even bond over them. Can you still have a relationship when you only see your man two hours a week and have to be strip searched to do so? Season 2 is in the works, but from what I can tell, it will be a whole new cast of wives. Oh and it has a great opening credits including the music. I'm a sucker for good opening credits. Streaming on Netflix. Check out the trailer - Prisoners Wives Promo

Inside Men (2012) - If you're a fan of "Luther", you'll love "Inside Men". Warren Brown and Steven Mackintosh of the critically acclaimed and award winning series are joined by Ashley Walters in this high stakes drama about three cash depot employees that plan a multi-million pound heist. The series jumps back in forth in time to different points in the plan. Sometimes irritating, but mostly, it keeps you guessing as to who's all in and who's about to break. Brown, Mackintosh and Walters do not disappoint when it comes to intense, pressure filled scenes that fuel each episode. Keeping a long term caper on track would be difficult for any trio of thieves, but throw in one newly adopted daughter, a crazy wife and a pregnant girlfriend and there are bound to be hiccups. DVD on Netflix or stream all four episodes on Amazon Instant Video for $1.99 each. Take a look - Inside Men Promo

I hope this helps the next time you've got a rainy day with nothing to do or if you just love television (particularly British television) as much as I do.

Any mini-series to add to this list? Disagree? All thoughts welcome. Just leave a comment below.


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