A VERY BRITISH MURDER
Airs Sundays, Feb. 28 - March 14, 2021 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Tuesdays, March 2 - March 16 at 10 p.m. on KPBS 2 (not available to stream on demand)
Lucy Worsley's book and series, A VERY BRITISH MURDER, investigates the way that British people have enjoyed – yes, enjoyed – murder. From the start of the 19th century, a new form of entertainment developed that was based on the British obsession with death. Ballads, china ornaments, melodrama, detective fiction and films are all covered here, along with some gruesome and sometimes strangely amusing crimes.
Episode 1: “The New Taste For Blood” airs Sun. Feb. 28 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Tues. March 2 at 10 p.m. on KPBS 2 - Lucy begins with real-life crime from the first half of the nineteenth century - the Ratcliffe Highway Murders; Mariah Marten and the Red Barn; and the Bermondsey Horror.
She investigates how our modern pre-occupation with murder began here, during the period when writer Thomas De Quincey wrote his celebrated essays on the subject that teasingly identified the guilty pleasure we get from it. A nation of "Murder Fanciers," De Quincey called us.
As each gripping story of murder is told, Lucy explains how each of these crimes was transformed and mythologized into a variety of popular entertainments. And to recreate these moments, Lucy sings the ballads and acts out the melodramas.
Episode 2: “Detection Most Ingenious” airs Sun. March 7 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Tues. March 9 at 10 p.m. on KPBS 2 - The series moves forward in time to the Victorian Age as Lucy Worsley explores how science and detection had an influence on the popular culture of murder. This was the era when the Middle Class Poisoner emerged. There appeared both real and fictional detectives as new heroic figures in the battle against crime.
Writers like Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins were fascinated by murder. And a whole genre of Sensation Fiction was consumed by readers of all classes. In popular fiction of this kind it was not unknown for a Lady Detective to be on the case.
The late Victorian era then saw the strange co-incidence of Jack the Ripper terrorizing London at the very same time that Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde introduced the idea of the serial killer to the British public. And for the first time the genius of Sherlock Holmes appeared in print.
Episode 3: “The Golden Age” airs Sun. March 14 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Tues. March 16 at 10 p.m. on KPBS 2 - Lucy Worsley arrives in the Edwardian era and the Golden Age of Detective Fiction between the Wars. She tells the extraordinary story of the first celebrity murderer of the twentieth century Dr. Crippen.
Then investigates how after the First World War, the murder mystery novel reached a peak of popularity in the hands of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers. And reveals how the skill and ingenuity of both writers perfected the classic "Whodunnit" Lucy attempts to join the Detection Club set up by Golden Age writers - by undergoing an elaborate initiation ceremony with its current President, Simon Brett.
And she ends by exploring how the murder mystery novel was eclipsed by new rivals in the depiction of homicide - including the "hard-boiled" novels of Graham Greene.
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Credits: © BBC Four 2013