Suggested by Brad Nelson • They may be a small, isolated community, but various murder cases keep good-natured Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez busy in the breathtakingly beautiful Shetland Islands. Based on the best-selling Shetland novels by author Ann Cleeves.
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15 Responses to Shetland

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    You can also buy single episodes here from Amazon in case you just want to sample it. As of this date, it’s also being streamed on Netflix.

    This series is being graded on the curve. Most will not find this kind of series particularly riveting. If you like Doc Martin, Local Hero, and that sort of fare, you’ll like this. It’s sort of a small-town crime series. In fact, think “Doc Martin” but with detectives, and no comedy.

    What this series has going for it is that it is not stupid. To me that is such a huge threshold. I found the first couple of stories to be just so-so, but it gets a little better after that. Or did I just become accustomed to the characters?

    Jimmy Perez is indeed a good-natured detective. And he has a strange last name for someone living on a remote Scottish island. Perez says the story is that a few stragglers from the Spanish Armada landed there.

    Although I don’t particularly care for DS Alison “Tosh” McIntosh, you get used to her (if you can understand her thick garbled accent). DC Sandy Wilson, on the other hand, is a relatively minor character but he plays it well and plays it straight. Perez’s lovely daughter usually has some side plot going on in most of these episodes as well. And that’s pretty much the cast besides infrequent visits from Perez’s boss.

    The cinematography is splendid. The cases themselves are sensible and not too gadgety. The realism of the series lends to it being a tad less charismatic than, say, Starsky & Hutch. And there’s no doubting that watching is TV program about crime is supposed to be interesting and exciting. That’s not a slam on charisma nor S&H.

    Shetland, however, must be appreciated for its rather no-nonsense approach and one (despite being a modern series) with very little political correctness. The show, which I admit is at least slightly dull, won’t insult you. And for me that’s a major thing. Plus, it is quality throughout, including the acting. The scripts could perhaps be better, but this series is meant to be good, not slap-dash, and it shows.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Just FYI, I do recommend this series within the bounds already established. But I remove the “stupid” disclaimer regarding the third season (which consists of just one story arc). The last episode has a couple real idiotic elements. And if you thought Agatha Christie was bad the way she could sometimes pull things out of her ear at the last minute, Season 3 (specifically, the last episode, episode 6) does her one better.

    This story, which involves all six episodes of season six (seasons one and two have two-episode murder stories), really should have been wrapped up in two. I have no idea why the were milking it. Maybe there had been a writer’s strike in England.

    So, by all means, watch seasons one and two. But bypass season three unless you just get absolutely hooked on the characters.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Via BritBox, Shetland has two episodes of season 4 available. Unfortunately, they’re making the same mistake as in season three which started strong and then petered out into a bore as they tried to stretch out the content of a two-episode plot to six episodes.

    The two episodes of season 4 also start strong and with a good cast of characters. But instead of ending it at a logical point at the end of the second episode, they plan four more episodes. This show has changed from a crisp rural low-key crime drama to a drawn-out never-ending soap opera of fluffy content.

    Previously, their season one and season two episodes were comprised of two parts each for four different episodes. These were tight and well-paced for the low-key rural crime dramas that they are. (This is not Starsky and Hutch.) Season 3 “progressed” to extending one episode into six parts and the same now with season 4. I would say by all means watch seasons one and two. But this series has seriously jumped the shark.

  4. Timothy Lane says:

    Most of the ships lost by the Invincible Armada were lost to storms on the way around the British Isles, so that story would be possible.

    The Simenon story that a friend of mine complained about while I was at Purdue had a bad ending of the sort you complain about. At the end, some guy writes in to confess to the crime. My friend thought Simenon had suddenly realized he had proven that none of the suspects was guilty, and had to solve the case somehow.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I think the best way that I can describe it, Timothy, is that the typical plot of a crime drama has a limited shelf life. At a certain point (and it comes quickly), all you can do is take this Barbie doll of a plot (few of them are sophisticated beyond whatever illusion opaqueness can give them), disrobe it, and dress it up in new clothes. Rinse and repeat. It’s just the same thing over and over, perhaps with new sub-plot actors and new sub-plot elements. As one reviewer very aptly put it:

      Watching this on Netflix, I enjoyed the first 2 seasons. Then came season 3, an entire season dedicated to one mystery. That’s when this show lost me. In season 2, the murder at the research center was solved lazily using the formula, “throw a bunch of red herrings, then add a great deal of unpredictable information about the most benign character & viola! The least likely suspect is the murderer.” IF done well, a show can do that once. But, along came season 3 & six shows later, same conclusion. The least likely suspect had a back story the viewer could not predict & viola! She’s guilty. Unforgivable to use the same lame formula twice.

      When you try to extend a plot line that, at most, has two hours or so in it, you end up throwing red hearings, throwing in unforeseeable information (season 3 was completely make a joke because of this), or some other device. Any other device than a credible story compelling told.

      I’m not saying the season 4 of “Shetland” will necessarily be a dog. But it looks like they’re taking their Barbie doll of a plot (thin and beautiful, but not robust) and trying to stretch it further. The basic plot (“basic” not necessarily being a bad thing) is about a man released from prison because new evidence has arose. The evidence doesn’t exonerate him but it is evidence that could reasonable show there is another suspect.

      So this guy (sort of a Charles Manson lite) gets out and the town is spooked (rightfully so). They (cliche), of course, come after him as mob. Still, the way the case and evidence unfolds, the viewer is left in doubt. The guy is obviously creepy and DI Jimmy Perez is trying to do his best to keep an objective open mind. And other suspects arise…and there is another murder which looks similar to the first but looks different. (Danger, Will Robinson. Circularity of plot unfolding).

      The dynamic of whether this guy is guilt of the original crime or not, I no longer care. They should have ended it at the end of the second episode where (spoiler) the guy takes a hammer to someone who we *think* could be the real killer. How they’re going to try to squeeze another 4 episodes out of this, I don’t know.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I think the best way that I can describe it, Timothy, is that the typical plot of a crime drama has a limited shelf life

        I believe this is why most, if not all, memorable/lasting books, plays and series are based on character. Once the reading/viewing public likes a character/characters success will follow. Everyone forgets plot. Lee Child recognized this when he decided to write the Jack Reacher novels.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Even Sherlock Holmes fans will note the plot errors Doyle often had in his stories. What, for example, was the swamp adder from “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”? Where did he get the style of declaring odds in “Silver Blaze”? And those are two top-notch stories appearing within the first 15 short stories. Plot helps, but people read them primarily for the characters.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Yes, good characters will allow you to look past some rather bad plot holes…or plot cliches. In fact, fan that I am, I’d have to say that Agatha Christie requires you from the get-go to suspend a whole lot of disbelief regarding the plot.

            There’s playing Mozart with skill and then there’s just banging away at the piano keys. For a child, there can be no greater joy than banging away at the piano keys and making some wonderful noise. It’s a great thing and a wonderful stage of life.

            But we should be past enjoying banging on the piano keys as a form of adult entertainment. But many shows do that. It’s as if you set up a piano with the black keys all captioned with various cliches and the white keys captioned with gimmicky or convoluted plot points. And basically what a 6-episode “Shetland” series is (from the example I saw in season 3) is just banging away at those keys. And if you bang away at those keys, and in no particular order, you could play a song for days. And yet what would it mean? What fun would that be?

            It’s like that famous quote (whoever said it): “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” It’s obvious that it takes time and skill to write good drama (crime or otherwise). And it’s very very easy to pad things.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”

              Something like that was attributed to Churchill.

              He did ask his ministers to keep their memos to him to one page, if they had the time.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                I do recall reading of some orator, who may easily have been Churchill, who in essence said that the longer he was expected to speak, the less time he needed to prepare. For a long enough speech, “I’m ready right now.”

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Timothy, I can definitely believe that dynamic of the speech. Think about how much Lincoln sweated over the relatively few words of his Gettysburg Address while the other blowhard went on apparently for quite a while in a speech few remember.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                Edward Everett’s long speech was exactly what was expected of an orator. Note that the Lincoln-Douglas debates were basically long speeches (I think it was 1.5 hours apiece at each debate, with the first getting 2 segments and the other 1.) But Everett (Constitutional Union VP candidate in 1860) sent a note to Lincoln afterward for getting to the heart of the matter better than he had.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                If I recall my history correctly, many listeners felt short-changed by Lincoln’s brief speech.

                Speechifying was considered an art.

                This goes back a long way in Western History. I believe the Romans considered Oratory the highest political art.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                There were indeed complaints, but of course Everett was the main speaker. Lincoln was only there to make few short remarks.

                Classical liberal arts education featured the trivium and the quadrivium. The trivium featured grammar, logic, and rhetoric; the quadrivium arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Speechifying was considered an art.

    Makes you wonder if Lincoln was therefore speaking to the ages, Mr. Kung. I think you’re right that speechifying was considered an art. And certainly the speeches were lengthy in the Lincoln-Douglas debates. And the audience apparently loved the fact that it went on for hours. I guess that was a form on entertainment before smart phones, and yet this was no average pairing.

    Maybe our speeches have degraded like so many other things, but I can’t imagine wanting to listen to any politician for more than 30 seconds. They’re all empty-headed fools with the exception of a few. They give credence to that old adage: “How do you know when a politician is lying? . . . When his lips are moving.”

    And, really, in my humble opinion, the same regarding 99% of political articles written out there, left or right. That’s what struck me about that article by Alexis Carey quoting a yute I mentioned elsewhere. This yute didn’t just have a thought I agreed with. He stated it clearly. And this is a rare case, too, of succinct reporting by Carey. Didn’t get in the way of the subject matter.

    I still regularly browse NRO, American Thinker, Drudge, The Blaze, Hot Air, Red State, Townhall, and The American Spectator. The quality of writing — whether one agrees or disagrees with the subject matter — is abysmal. The primary sins are: 1) Getting to the point and, 2) Having a point.

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