Cut the Cable: Streaming Programming Choices Grow: Hugh Laurie, Slings and Arrows, Poirot

Starting today, Acorn TV, the first British TV streaming service, offers the complete series of Fortysomething starring Hugh Laurie as a funny, pre-House doctor on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The series co-stars Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s Sherlock, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, as well as The Hobbit and the next Star Trek villain) as one of his sons. Additionally, in one of its few non-British series, Acorn TV offers the first season of its most critically-acclaimed series Slings & Arrows, featuring Paul Gross, Rachel McAdams, and Mark McKinney in the behind-the-scenes Shakespearean dramedy called “Outrageously Entertaining” (NPR), “Absolutely addictive” (The New York Times), and “One of the finest series ever made” (San Francisco Chronicle).

My colleague Gail Burns turned me on to Slings and Arrows, which – without the awful commercials that constantly interrupted its flow on commercial cable – is a brilliant sendup of all things Shakespeare, including, and especially, the actors. You can even use your Roku set-top box to easily watch it. In fact, Acorn Media can save you money on one of these clever units. I have been using mine for a month now, and have never looked back after cutting the satellite service in favor of only paying for what I want to actually see.

Here’s the bottom line: the first episodes of each of the 18 series are available for free, while complete access to the 125 hours of programming is just $2.99/mth or $29.99/yr.

Currently streaming is the North American premiere of Midsomer Murders, Set 21, featuring new lead detective John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon), and the complete 40-episode Pie in the Sky series starring Harry Potter’s Richard Griffiths. Additionally, Acorn TV streams full seasons/miniseries for Keira Knightley and Sam Neill in Doctor Zhivago; Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky) and Oscar-nominee Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake) in Fingersmith; David Suchet in Agatha Christie’s Poirot; Emmy-winner Damian Lewis (Homeland) in The Forsyte Saga; Tom Wilkinson in First Among Equals; among many others.

Acorn TV recently announced an increase of programming by 200% since its launch in June 2011, the addition of a monthly option (just $2.99) and availability in Canada, and month-long marathons, like November’s Pie in the Sky complete 40-episode marathon. Acorn TV is available on Roku, iPhones, iPads, Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Tablet, Apple TV, Google TV, among others. AcornOnline.com/TV

Fortysomething with Hugh Laurie, Anna Chancellor and Benedict Cumberbatch is now streaming on Acorn TV.

About Fortysomething

Fortysomething is a hilarious 2003 television series starring two-time Golden Globe®-winner Hugh Laurie, who also directed the first three episodes. Before House, Laurie honed his doctor-playing skills in this hit British comedy. This six-episode series costars Anna Chancellor (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Suburban Shootout) and Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s Sherlock, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Hobbit). Laurie stars as Paul Slippery, an anxiety-ridden British doctor suffering a midlife crisis. His wife (Chancellor) has embarked on a new career and perhaps an extramarital affair or two. His three oversexed sons mock him without mercy. And at work he’s tangled in red tape and tormented by a flaky colleague.

Slings & Arrows

The universally acclaimed, hit Canadian series stars Paul Gross (Due South), Don McKellar (Childstar), Martha Burns (Screening), Mark McKinney (The Kids in the Hall) and Rachel McAdams (The Notebook). Dramatizing the backstage trials and tribulations of a Shakespearean theatre troupe, Slings & Arrows features intelligent writing, masterful acting, and a stellar ensemble cast. Paul Gross stars as Geoffrey Tennant, the passionate but unstable artistic director of the New Burbage Theatre Festival.

Haunted by the ghost of his predecessor and former mentor (Stephen Ouimette), he struggles to realize his creative vision while handling touchy actors, a jittery general manager (Mark McKinney), a pretentious guest director (Don McKellar), and his own tempestuous romance with the Festival’s leading lady (Martha Burns). The backstage bedlam mirrors the onstage angst as Geoffrey directs Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Slings & Arrows aired in the U.S. on the Sundance Channel and has won numerous awards (Canadian Comedy Award, Directors Guild of Canada, Writers Guild of Canada, and 13 Gemini Awards). The series is created and written by Susan Coyne, Mark McKinney, and Bob Martin.

Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect

Coming Nov. 12th is Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect, Series 1 & 2 as well as Julia McKenzie and Anton Rodgers in Fresh Fields.

Other Programming and DVD’s

With solid offerings in the DVD market for British fare, Acorn is well positioned to keep their streaming channel full of fresh programming. In the last month alone, Acorn has released an amazing number of classic programming in luscious collector editions. The releases are available at select retailers and online sellers.

Oct. 16: Waterloo Road Series 1, Brave New World, The Complete Red Green Show, and Bill Moyers: A World of Ideas II-Great Thinkers

Oct. 23: Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Early Cases Collection (Series 1-6, DVD/Blu-ray), The Duchess of Duke Street Complete Collection, and Wish Me Luck: Complete Collection

Nov. 6: Vera Series 2, Narrow Escapes of WWII, and Cornwall with Caroline Quentin

Earlier releases have included:

·         Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Early Cases Collection - 45 mysteries, 13-Disc Blu-ray $250, 18-Disc DVD $200, Series 1-6 (Oct. 23)

·         The Complete Red Green Show: High (Quality)/Quantity Collector’s Set – 50 discs, 300 episodes, 15 seasons, $300 (Oct. 16)

·         Wish Me Luck: The Complete Collection – 6-disc, $80, Series 1-3 (Oct. 23)

·         The Duchess of Duke Street Complete Collection – 31 episodes, 10 disc, $80 (Oct. 23)

·         As well as earlier 2012 releases: The Costume Drama Classic Collection (15 discs, $99),Joseph Campbell: Mythos-The Complete Series (6-disc, $99), The Best of Foyle’s War (6-discs, $50), Midsomer Murders: Mayhem & Mystery Files (15 feature-length mysteries, $150, Series 10-11), and Poldark: The Complete Collection (8-discs, $80).

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