After an incalculable amount of events left many of us waiting for 2016 to come to close ‒ even as far back as January ‒ the approaching (final) holiday season of the year can almost be seen as a blessing to even the biggest Scrooges out there (myself included). Fortunately, the forthcoming days of frantic, last-minute online shopping will be much easier once you take a peek at the variety of fine programming available now from Acorn Media. For nearly 20 years, the Acorn label has been providing American viewers with a variety of British and Australian television series on home video, the bulk of which has consisted of gripping mysteries, intense dramas, and comedies sporting the type of humor that most people’s grandmothers failed to understand.
And it is there, in the less-serious section of Acorn’s orchard, that Agatha Raisin comes into play. Based on the M.C. Beaton (Marion Chesney) creation who has been entertaining readers since the early ’90s, this Sky 1 television series finds Ashley Jensen as a former PR agent who moves to a quaint village where she starts a new career path as an amateur sleuth since it seems the people of her newfound community have nothing else better to do than kill each other! With its tongue planted firmly within its cheek, all eight episodes of Agatha Raisin: Series One makes its American DVD debut in a 3-Disc Set along with its 2014 pilot TV movie ‒ The Quiche of Death (!) ‒ in tow, and a heap of behind-the-scenes extras to boot.
For those of you who like their mysteries far more serious, Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (available on DVD and Blu-ray), is the latest adaptation of The Queen of Crime’s most celebrated works. While the story ‒ wherein ten strangers in the late ’30s are summoned to an isolated island by a mysterious host, only to discover they’ve been marked for death by a very crafty killer ‒ has been made, remade, and copied more times than anyone can recall, this late 2015 BBC production was the first English-language adaptation to stick to the original story. Maeve Dermody and Aidan Turner head off a cast of seasoned professionals, including Charles Dance, Toby Stephens, Miranda Richardson, and Sam Neill.
The second new miniseries from Acorn, BBC Two’s Close to the Enemy, brings us another period piece with a cast of familiar faces from all around the globe. Jim Sturgess, Freddie Highmore, Charlotte Riley, Alfred Molina, Angela Bassett, and August Diehl are among the names highlighting this tale of espionage set in the aftermath of World War II as the Cold War was gearing up to enshroud the world in a state of paranoia. Acorn’s release of Close to the Enemy (available December 27 on DVD and Blu-ray, so it’ll make for a good belated gift even if that’s not your intention) includes four hour-long episodes (which originally aired from November 10 to December 1, 2016 in the UK) and a selection of bonus features to peruse.
In addition to British television dramas, Acorn Media also distributes many other programs from near and far, including the highly acclaimed, long-running Canadian detective series, Murdoch Mysteries, which finds Yannick Bisson as an early 20th Century detective with a brilliant mind for something that hasn’t even been invented yet: the fine art of forensics. Just in time for the holidays comes the seasonal television special Murdoch Mysteries: A Merry Murdoch Christmas (available on DVD and Blu-ray), which ‒ as stupefying as this may sound ‒ not only centers of a dead Santa Claus, but somehow even manages to add Krampus into the recipe for murder! Ed Asner joins the cast for this unique killer holiday extravaganza.
Bridging the gap between both North America and England and the fine line betwixt fantasy and reality is the new AMC/Channel 4 co-production, Humans. Based on an award-winning series from Sweden, this science fiction series centers on creation of synthetic human beings and the many consequences that ensue when said humanoids are introduced into a world where far too many members of the most intelligent form of life are unable to distinguish the difference between “there,” “their,” and “they’re.” Tom Goodman-Hill, Katherine Parkinson, Gemma Chan,William Hurt, and Will Tudor are among the stars of this debut series of Humans: Season 1, which arrives as an Uncut UK Edition from Acorn Media on DVD and Blu-ray.
For those of you who enjoy the educational offerings from Acorn Media’s sister label, Athena Learning, this holiday season cranks it all the way up to 11 for their release of the recent PBS documentary series Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music (available on DVD and Blu-ray). Narrated by Dermot Mulroney, the eight-part miniseries from Beatles producer Sir George Martin explores the behind-the-scenes of the recorded music industry. Featuring exclusive interviews and anecdotes from the widest array of artists ever assembled (from BB King to Beck, and from Bonnie Raitt to the RZA), seldom-seen archival studio footage, and nearly 300 songs on its soundtrack, this uncensored look at music’s many legends is a must-see for those who love to listen.
Finally, for those of you who are more of the sit-and-binge types, Acorn Media offers gift subscriptions to Acorn TV. Presented uncut, on demand, and without any annoying commercials, Acorn TV is available on Roku, Amazon Fire TV/Fire TV Stick, Apple TV (tvOS version), iPhone/iPad, select Smart TVs and Blu-ray players, laptops, desktops, and tablets too. New users can start a free week-long trial today, with subscription options starting at just $4.99, and year-long gift memberships are available now for only $49.99 from the Acorn TV Store website.