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Why British streamers aren’t getting this TV critic’s attention

Lucy Lawless in Acorn's "My Life Is Murder."Acorn TV

Q. Could you review the shows on Britbox and Acorn?


A. I certainly could (with the approval of my editor, of course). And they are my kind of streaming services, since I am an unashamed Anglophile who jumps right into shows from the United Kingdom because people with British accents are clearly smarter and more interesting than anyone else.

Also, the Brits really know how to do atmospheric thrillers, mysteries, and period dramas. The list is long, and it includes “Unforgotten,” “The Fall,” “The Missing,” “Happy Valley,” “Bodyguard,” “Line of Duty,” and “Luther,” as well as “All Creatures Great and Small,” “The Crown,” “Gentleman Jack,” “Peaky Blinders,” “The Serpent Queen,” and “Wedding Season.”


But you must know that there are now many, many streaming services, on top of cable and broadcast channels. We’re living in a glut of TV outlets, some big (Netflix, Disney+) and some not so big (AMC+). I can only cover so much, which is a source of constant frustration for me. There was a time when a TV critic could keep an eye on nearly everything — but that was way back before cable took off. Now we need to pick and choose, and try to keep the good shows — the excellent and inventive British romcom “Wedding Season” on Hulu comes to mind — from slipping through the cracks.

I try to make sure, when I choose a series to review, that it is available for a good number of readers. Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, HBO Max/Discovery+, Paramount+, Hulu, Apple TV+, and Peacock all have many millions of subscribers (and I’ve listed them in order starting with Netflix at 220 million and ending with Peacock at 28 million). By comparison, BritBox has about 2 million and Acorn has about 1 million. These are international numbers, but they nonetheless indicate the respective sizes of these outlets.


BritBox and Acorn also focus on existing series. Each of them premieres some shows in the United States — Acorn brought us “My Life Is Murder” starring Lucy Lawless and BritBox brought us “The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco.” But these services are primarily there as ever-expanding libraries of UK shows. Often, a series I’ve written about when it premiered on a larger platform — usually it’s PBS — winds up in the BritBox or Acorn coffers.

All that said, most of the shows on BritBox and Acorn have been reviewed. Let Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes — two excellent sites that aggregate reviews — be your friend.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him @MatthewGilbert.