** Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment requests we note that it provided a free copy of the first title featured below. The opinions I share are my own.**
Out now are two titles that deal with stories of people who have broken that all-important sixth commandment and of those who pursue them for their crime(s):
First up is the fifth season of Major Crimes, the spinoff of the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning series The Closer, which ran on TNT from 2005-2012 (ending when its star Kyra Sedgwick decided it was time to pursue other projects). The storyline and main characters were so well-loved that creators literally didn’t skip a beat between the two shows, airing the premiere of Major Crimes on the same night as the finale of The Closer. Major Crimes follows the case-by-case challenges of the (fictional) Major Crimes Division of the LAPD and the interpersonal relationships between its officers. Starring two-time Oscar nominee Mary McDonnell as Captain Sharon Raydor, the primary cast also includes G. W. Bailey (as Detective Lieutenant Louie Provenza), Tony Denison (as Detective Lieutenant Andy Flynn), Michael Paul Chan (as Detective Lieutenant Michael Tao), Raymond Cruz (as Detective Julio Sanchez), Kearran Giovanni (as Detective Amy Sykes), Phillip P. Keene (as Buzz Watson), Graham Patrick Martin (as Rusty Beck), and Robert Gossett (as Assistant Chief Russell Taylor).
Major Crimes has enjoyed high ratings from the start: its premiere episode garnered 9.5 million viewers (the largest viewership for a series premiere on basic cable), and its first season ratings were the highest for any new show on cable. In its fifth season, the series was TNT’s #2 show and was the #5 series on basic cable television, with an average of close to 10 million viewers per episode—-pretty impressive for a cast of characters who have essentially been going non-stop for twelve years. (There is also currently no end in sight, as the show was renewed for a sixth season in January of this year.)
Season Five is not available on Amazon Prime, Netflix or Hulu; as far as paid streaming options go, fans can get individual episodes on both iTunes and Amazon Video (for $2.99 on both platforms) or the entire season (for $29.99 on Amazon and a whopping $39.99 on iTunes). The most economical option, though, is to get the season on DVD (which also contains some deleted scenes and a blooper reel)—-it’s currently priced at $20.27 on Amazon, which with 21 episodes included divides out to about 97 cents each. Everyone has their own individual tastes when it comes to hard copy versus digital, but in this case, I’d say the 30% (or higher) difference in cost is probably worth a half inch of shelf space.
Next we have Dark Angel, a 2-part television drama co-produced by World Productions/Masterpiece for ITV that originally aired in the UK in the fall of 2016 and then aired in the US as a one-night special for Masterpiece on PBS on May 21. The film is based on the true story of Mary Ann Cotton, the woman widely regarded as Britain’s first (recorded) female serial killer. Cotton murdered an estimate of between thirteen and twenty-one people during the second half of the nineteenth century (making Jack the Ripper’s estimated victim count of five look modest by comparison). Inspired by the 2012 book Mary Ann Cotton: Britain’s First Female Serial Killer by criminologist David Wilson, the film takes viewers through the ever-darkening tale of Cotton’s life as she finds murder an all-too-convenient (and profitable) enterprise. It also made me feel like I really need to brush up on my multitasking skills: besides having multiple jobs as an in-home nurse, dressmaker, infirmary staff member, and housekeeper, Mary Ann Cotton also had four husbands and gave birth to thirteen(!) children before the age of 40, not to mention all her work executing and covering up loads of murders so well that no one suspected anything until her last victim.
In the title role is Golden Globe winner and Emmy nominee Joanne Froggatt (who in my opinion gives a good but creepily similar performance to that of Anna in Downton Abbey—-maybe we should re-think what really happened to Kemal Pamuk?). Alongside Froggatt is a talented supporting cast, including Alun Armstrong (as George Stott), Penny Layden (as Margaret Stott), Laura Morgan (as Maggie Cotton), Jonas Armstrong (as Joe Natrass), Sam Hoare (as James Robinson), Emma Fielding (as Helen Robinson), and John Hollingworth (as Dr. John Maling).
You can currently watch the film for free online at PBS.org until June 4, although that does involve intermittent commercial breaks advertising for Viking River Cruises (so it goes something like this: murder, murder, murder…let’s stand around laughing together in this Italian vineyard!…murder, murder…). Alternatively you can grab the DVD on Amazon, currently priced at $14.92. The DVD also includes some behind-the-scenes discussions with stars Joanne Froggatt and Alun Armstrong, writer Gwyneth Hughes, producer Jake Lushington, director Brian Percival, executive producers Kirstie Macdonald and Simon Heath, and others.