There are more streaming services than anyone can handle right now, especially now that HBO Max and Peacock are officially in the mix, but sometimes having a lot of choices isn't a bad thing, especially when it means you can subscribe to a niche streaming service featuring nothing but your beloved British and international programming.
The largest streaming service specializing in British television, Acorn TV is just $5.99 a month or $59.99 a year (there is currently a free 30-day trial offer going on right now, though!). It is affordable and offers a variety of programming, including a huge selection of those moody international murder mysteries that you can't get enough of. So, while you consider signing up for yet another streaming service, here are some of the best shows you'll find on Acorn TV.
The Hour, a 1950s-set drama unfairly canceled before its time (in our humble opinion), focused on the men and women behind a current affairs news program, also titled The Hour, that was launched by the BBC during the Suez Crisis. Golden Globe winner Ben Whishaw, who you probably know as the voice of Paddington and star of Mary Poppins Returns, appears as Freddie Lyons, an ambitious journalist and co-producer of the program who goes to great and sometimes dangerous lengths to uncover the truth about a Communist spy program operating in the U.K. Romola Garai appears as Bel Rowley, the producer of the show-within-the-show and Freddie's best friend. Meanwhile, Dominic West stars as Hector Madden, the host of the program.
Do you love murder mysteries but always wish there was more wacky humor and hijinks in them? Then Agatha Raisin is the detective series you've been waiting for. Based on the series of novels by M.C. Beaton, Agatha Raisin stars Ashley Jensen as the titular fictional detective who has packed up and moved to the rural Cotswolds to live a slower, quieter life. She discovers she has a talent for detective-ing after investigating a single crime, and that's a good thing because there are a lot of murders that seem to happen in Agatha's vicinity. Along with her new village friends and her former assistant, Agatha solves said murders, and looks quite fashionable while doing it.
This five-part miniseries from Nicole Taylor (Wild Rose) follows a wealthy couple in Glasgow (Line of Duty's Martin Compston and Peaky Blinders' Sophie Rundle) who are trying to have a baby through surrogacy when the wife has a literal run-in with a teen who agrees to carry a child for them. Questions abound about why the girl is so eager to have their baby and what has happened in her past, but after a premiere that seems fairly generic, The Nest progresses into a smart thesis on wealth, class, and privilege. –Tim Surette
Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries
One of the most addictive and unique crime dramas you'll ever set eyes on, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, which is based on a series of books, stars Essie Davis as the glamorous Phryne Fisher, a confident and independent woman in late 1920s Australia who has a knack for solving mysteries and just can't stop herself from doing so, much to the annoyance of law enforcement, specifically Detective Inspector Jack Robinson (Nathan Page). Over the course of three seasons, they solve a number of cases together, while the sexual tension between them continues to skyrocket to almost unbearable levels.
Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears
Did we forget to mention that Acorn TV is also the streaming home for the movie Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears? The follow-up film features the return of Davis and Page and gives Phryne and Jack the resolution the show wasn't able to. The movie, which finds everyone's favorite glamorous P.I. on an adventure through the Middle East, also sees the return of Miriam Margolyes as Aunt Prudence and Ashleigh Cummings as Phryne's assistant Dot, though sadly their appearances are quite brief given that most of the action takes place away from Australia.
(Once you're done with the show and movie, check out the 1960s-set spin-off, Ms. Fisher's Modern Murder Mysteries, which follows Phryne's niece, Peregrine Fisher [Geraldine Hakewill], who inherits a windfall after Phryne, whom she's never met, goes missing over New Guinea.)
From the creator of Hinterland (which is also great but streaming on Netflix), the somber Welsh crime drama Hidden (the Acorn TV version is in both Welsh and English, though an all-Welsh version exists) is a moody murder mystery following detective Cadi John (Sian Reese-Williams, Line of Duty), a former soldier who returns home because of an ailing father and finds herself drawn into a case involving the murder of a young woman whom Cadi and her partner, Owen Vaughan (Siôn Alun Davies, Requiem), believe was held captive for years before she died. The show's second season, which is six episodes instead of eight like Season 1, recently hit the streaming service and follows a completely new case.
Slings & Arrows
Slings & Arrows is a darkly comedic Canadian series set at a fictional Shakespeare festival similar to the real Stratford Festival that the theater kids you know definitely attended at some point in their lives. The three-season show is a wonderfully sincere meditation on art, with each season revolving around a different Shakespeare production -- Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear, in that order. The drama kicks off when Oliver (Stephen Ouimette), the director of the festival, is killed by a ham truck (the show isn't very subtle) and replaced by his former friend Geoffrey (Paul Gross), who left the festival after the two had a falling out. Despite being beloved by many, the series remains somewhat of a hidden gem in the U.S. — the show aired on Sundance in the States in the mid-2000s, and hasn't been available to stream for a while, so if you've never seen it, now is the perfect time to jump on board.
Yes, it is true that Detectorists, a BAFTA Award-winning comedy set in a small town in Essex, is technically also available to stream on Amazon Prime, but that doesn't mean it can't also be an incentive to subscribe to Acorn TV. The delightful and subtly surprising series revolves around the lives of Andy (Mackenzie Crook) and Lance (Toby Jones), members of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club, as they search for treasure. If you dig in, you might find that the real treasure is the show itself.
Agatha Christie adaptations
By now you can probably tell that engaging mysteries make up a lot of Acorn's offerings — and that's great because you can never have too many mystery dramas, especially those of the British variety — but the service's enthralling adaptations of iconic mystery novel author Agatha Christie's works regularly stand out. In particular, BBC One's 2015 adaptation of And Then There Were None, which starred Charles Dance, Sam Neill, Aidan Turner, Miranda Richardson, Burn Gorman and a whole lot of other people you definitely recognize, is a real highlight. And if you're a fan of Christie's work in general (and why wouldn't you be?), you have to check out Acorn's collection of series that adapt it.
The beloved detective series Foyle's War, which starred Michael Kitchen and was set during (and shortly after) World War II, was formerly available to stream on Netflix. However, the series, which ran for 28 episodes between 2002 to 2015, is now exclusively streaming on Acorn TV.
ITV's adaptation of Ann Cleeves' Vera novels breathed life into the caustic and obsessive nature of detective Vera Stanhope (Brenda Blethyn), whose myriad personal dilemmas never deter her from demanding the truth. The show's depiction of the character has received the author's utmost approval and even informs her writing of the novels nowadays. -Amanda Bell