GARY SMITH: The British have come

Traveling the world through TV mysteries

Posted: February 23, 2018 at 1 a.m.

Do you ever get the feeling you've joined a cult?

Not one of those odd, hang-out-at-the-airport, get-a-bunch-of-movie-stars-to-join cult. I'm thinking of the kind of cult where, basically, you get to sit on your sofa for eight straight hours, not bothering anybody and barely moving except to hit the clicker. And you're not retired.

Ya, I think I'm in that kind of cult. The Cult of Moody British Detective Procedurals.

At one point, I thought the Lovely Mrs. Smith and I were the only members of this particular cult, mostly because watching Moody British Detective Procedurals is just one of those things you don't really feel an inclination to discuss in mixed company.

Kind of like knitting or model trains. Not that there's anything wrong with those activities. It's just if you ever do bring them up, people don't seem to ask a lot of questions.

And I'm not even sure exactly how we got started. Innocently enough, I'm sure. I think Broadchurch, which is about a murder in a small, tight-knit coastal British community. And then we moved on to Vera, which is about a series of murders in a small, tight-knit coastal British community. Or Foyle's War, which is about murder in a small, tight-knit coastal British community during World War II.

So, yeah, a theme here ...

Anyway, we were spinning through the Netflix selections one rainy, cold winter Saturday when we came across the Broadchurch previews and said, "Hey, look, a show about a place where the weather is absolutely worse than ours! Let's watch it and laugh at them."

And just like that, we were hooked.

Thanks to Moody British Detective Procedurals, we've vicariously traveled the world. Well, OK, at least those portions of the world that are part of the United Kingdom. Like when we watched Top of the Lake, a series about a murder in a small, tight-knit New Zealand coastal community. Or Deep Water, a series about a murder in a not particularly small, but nonetheless tight-knit Australian coastal community.

Still, we weren't particularly inclined to admit to this particular proclivity until one of us let it slip at a dinner party. And that's when we discovered we weren't alone.

One of the couples was addicted to Midsomer Murders. Another had a thing for Agatha Raisin. Before we knew it, we had traveled the length and breadth of the British Isles. Or at least all its small, tight-knit coastal communities.

Now, despite our love of Moody British Detective Procedurals, we did all admit to a few ... challenges. For one thing, America and England are nations that share a common culture and history but are divided by a language. Which means many of us actually watch with the closed captioning on so we can tell what they're saying, particularly when they get mad.

Then there's the fact that, as I'm sure I've mentioned, all these series take place in small, tight-knit coastal communities. Which means there aren't just a whole lot of people there. And yet, every episode, they're knocking someone off. I mean, proportionally, we're talking Baltimore murder-rate numbers here.

Apparently the gardening and the corgis aren't enough for them.

Also, the contrast between American detective procedurals and Moody British Detective Procedurals is night and day. Or, specifically, wise-cracking, buff-bodied genius with perfect bodies and smiles and cranky, rumpled portly people who drink too much.

Moody British Detective Procedurals also feature equally moody piano solos and lots and lots of close-ups of protagonists. But only the right side of their faces, for some reason. Why we never see the left side, I'm not sure. Except we are talking about a nation that drives on the wrong side of the road from the wrong side of the car.

Yet with all those issues, we keep coming back. And back. And back, since apparently the only thing the British turn out to a greater degree than royalty and kind of average soccer players is Moody British Detective Procedurals. Which, again, considering the content -- maybe some unexpressed feelings being tamped down here?

So when we settle down in grey, sub-freezing temperatures and rain to watch several hours of two people we barely understand arguing and drinking huge glasses of beer until they finally figure out which clergy member, distant cousin or upstanding member of the small, tight-knit coastal community beat another one to death with a cricket bat, we can appreciate two things.

We're not the only ones with horrible weather. And we're not alone.

Commentary on 02/23/2018