Streaming services are picking off cable subscribers at an impressive clip. Customers are thinking twice about paying exorbitant sums of money for hundreds of channels that are more filler than quality programming. I confess that when reality tv came into existence, I thought television had hit an all time low.
It’s been a few years since I chucked cable TV and television in general to do more living than watching. Unfortunately, my best laid plans were thwarted by COVID-19’s entry into the 2020 game of life. In a desperate attempt to fill all those extra hours at home with some form of entertainment, my journey into reviewing various streaming services began.
BBC and ITV’s creation, BritBox, as its name implies, specializes in British television – both new and classic. Note this article is strictly about content and your geographic location will determine exactly which shows you are able to watch. Here we go:
As a Travel Consultant with nowhere to go, I decided I’d start by taking a look at travel shows. What programming did BritBox offer for those of us who enjoy trekking the world, discovering niche markets, seasonal favourites, hidden treasures, annual in-destination celebrations, and meeting the people who inhabit these communities all-year round? The real who, what, when, where and why.
Travel Gems Discovered
All Aboard! The Canal Trip
This series is an uninterrupted, 118-minute trip down the Kennet and Avon Canal located in Southern England. If you’ve ever considered traveling by riverboat or barge, this is worth a watch! What surprised me is there is no narration or human voices; only the sights and sounds along your journey. For two hours, you find yourself floating down this picturesque waterway accompanied by the soothing sounds of flowing water, birdsong, and the occasional bicycle bell or joggers’ running shoes slapping the pathway along the river’s edge. If you want to know what lock you are going through or other tidbits of information, superimposed writing pops up on the bridges and water. Talk about relaxation therapy!
Currently there are two other trips in the series as well: All Aboard! The Country Bus – a leisurely journey filmed while riding the local bus through the charming landscape of the Yorkshire Dales. All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride – a journey across the magnificent albeit harsh wilderness of the Arctic on a traditional reindeer sleigh.
This 2019 Scottish series packs an enormous amount of information into just 60 minutes! Autumnworld is broadcast from the Dell of Abernathy in Scotland and, among many topics, explores how Autumn was born. We get to watch as night cameras capture wildlife and beautiful visuals of mountains covered in the colours of fall foliage. We then move on to garden shows, designing gardens for different age groups, and focussing on sustainable gardening which attracts wildlife by building bee and bird boxes, and bug hotels. The hosts discuss the State of Nature annual report (which I’d never heard of), and why knocking down fences helps connect and create sustainable communities. And lastly, a view of the seasons from outer space! And that’s just one episode!
Death in Paradise
Transplanted UK detectives find themselves solving murders in paradise aided by the local constabulary. Close the curtains on winter in Canada and be transported to the imaginary tropical island of Saint Marie to enjoy palm trees, humour, mystery, and of course, murder. For such a small island, dead bodies seem to be piling up everywhere!
Lights Before Christmas Series
This is an original BritBox special that takes viewers on an illuminated journey filled with unforgettable views, Christmas lights and festive cheer. It may provide you some brilliant ideas for future holiday travel. “Beginning at the Victorian-built Hampton Loade Railway station, climb aboard JK Rowling’s original choice for the Hogwarts Express, an eight-carriage 1940’s vintage train shimmering with twinkling lights. With illuminated displays at passing stations, a magical snowfall and views of the timeless landscape of Shropshire in the heart of rural England, The Lights Before Christmas: Radiance by Rail is sure to get anyone in the holiday spirit.”
A Bloody Good British Murder Mystery
No one loves a head-scratching, gory who-done-it more than yours truly. Below are just a few samples:
- 35 Days – Here’s an interesting concept. This gripping Welsh mystery starts with a murder before rolling back 35 days to follow the chain of events that lead to that fateful day.
- Lovers of Agatha Christie will be delighted to enjoy some of her juiciest, suspenseful murders including that brilliant little Belgium Hercule Poirot and the marvelous Miss Marple.
- Fans of Ann Cleeves crime novels should checkout two series: Shetland and Vera.
- Inspector Morse was my introduction to BBC police dramas, which I still consider my favourite.
- Want to meet a young Daniel Craig before he became the eighth James Bond (that is if you include American Barry Nelson)? Craig stars in The Icehouse, another terrific police drama.
- Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking is, regrettably, the only Holmes case to star Rupert Everett. In my opinion, Everett portrays the eclectic detective to perfection.
- Lastly, check out The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, starring Paddy Considine as a tenacious police detective in Victorian England. You might remember Considine from Hot Fuzz and The Bourne Ultimatum. This 2011-14 series rated an impressive 7.9 on IMDB!
Nobody Does Twisted Comedy like the Brits
- If you enjoyed the series The Trip with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, try the TV movie Cruise of the Gods, in which these hilarious actors portray former stars of a TV sci-fi series and are reunited for a cruise with members of their fan club.
- Find out where Monty Python’s unapologetic humour came from with Do Not Adjust Your Set.
- And for hardcore British comedy fans, BBC’s Lost Sitcoms offer you classic series such as Hancock’s Half Hour.
There is an outstanding selection of new and classic content on BritBox. Here are a few highlights: True-life series including Gardeners’ World and The Farming Life; documentaries (Behind the scenes with Downton Abbey); biography (Lennon’s Last Weekend); history (Africa and Britain: A Forgotten History), romance (all six seasons of Downton Abbey), and current series Good Morning Britain with Piers Morgan.
Classic programming is certainly not all that is available with new movies and programming added monthly. The irreverent comedy Mock of the Week is now in its 19th season and Traces, a 2019-20 crime thriller, is well worth watching.
If you enjoy British television, you will love BritBox. Depending on your streaming service, you might wish to try one of BritBox’s free trial which ranges from 7 to 30 days (depending on your streaming service). Once signed up, the BritBox platform is CA$8.99 a month or save with an annual subscription, priced at CA$89.99/year.