Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO Go—there’s almost too much to chose from when it comes to the streaming content landscape these days. But there’s one other streaming service worth your attention, especially if you’re a die-hard Anglophile who imports much of your entertainment from across the pond. Acorn TV is a subscription service specializing in TV programming from the United Kingdom, as well as Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
At $4.99 per month (you can try it free for a month), and boasting 60 exclusive titles, it's packs a lot of content. But is it good stuff or what?
Here at the Dot we’re always in search of new ways to expand our queue, so we put on some tea, dusted off our framed photo of the Queen, and dove into Acorn TV to see what it had to offer.
Cop shows have dominated the American airwaves damn near as long as there’s been anything to broadcast, and that’s much the same on the other side of the Atlantic. Everybody loves a good whodunnit, and Acorn TV has a jam-packed docket full of cases for you to consider. You may have seen the American remakes of shows such as Cracker and Prime Suspect, but here’s your chance to see the acclaimed British originals. In Cracker, Robbie Coltrane stars as Dr. Edward "Fitz" Fitzgerald, a brilliant criminal psychologist whose personal life is a mess of alcoholism, gambling addiction, and relationship problems. Coltrane won three BAFTAS in a row for his performance, and the cast also includes Leftovers and Dr. Who standout Christopher Eccleston. Cracker is not currently available streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu.
On Prime Suspect, the incomparable Helen Mirren stars as Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison, one of the first women to hold that role in London’s Metropolitan Police Service. That achievement isn’t lost on her peers, many of whom bristle at Tennison’s breaking up of the boys’ club, or actively seek to undercut her as she works her way up the department’s ladder. Over the course of the show’s seven seasons, Tennison works every seedy beat imaginable, even as the job takes an ongoing toll on her that drives her to alcoholism. The show took home a boatload of BAFTAS, Emmys, Golden Globes, Edgars, and even a Peabody.Those two are just scratching the surface—Acorn TV has tons more to scratch that mystery itch, including adaptations of Agatha Christie’s two most beloved detectives, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. You’ll also want to check out Accused, an anthology series that explores a different character each episode who has been accused of a crime, and which features performances by Sean Bean and Andy Serkis, to name a few. Also worth a look is Lovejoy, which stars Deadwood’s Ian McShane as an antiques dealer with an unfortunate haircut and an uncanny knack for spotting a forgery.
If there’s a single segment of British television that defines it for many of us outside the U.K., it’s the costume drama. There have been quite a few that have captured international attention over the decades, with Downton Abbey being the standout recent example. You’ll have to turn to Amazon Prime if you want to binge that show, but Acorn TV does have the Emmy-winning Upstairs, Downstairs, a major inspiration for Downton.
Acorn is also the exclusive streaming home for Brideshead Revisited, the Emmy- and BAFTA-winning adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel. A crazy-young Jeremy Irons stars as Charles Ryder, a WWII British Army officer who discovers that his company’s new brigade headquarters is an all-too-familiar location. He finds himself stationed at Brideshead, the family home of one of his closest friends, and a place haunted by memories for Charles. We see the history of the place, and his history with it, unfold via flashbacks. The cast also includes Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir John Gielgud.
Another epic drama worth exploring is I, Claudius. Based on Robert Graves’s novels I, Claudius and Claudius the God, the series stars Derek Jacobi as the titular Roman emperor, recounting the history of his empire as he approaches the end of his life. There is political scheming, bloodshed, betrayal, and the unhinged lunacy of Caligula himself (John Hurt).The gobsmackingly good cast also includes familiar faces such as Brian Blessed, Patrick Stewart, and John Rhys-Davies.