Thursday, September 2, 2021

VERA Returns with a New Season

DEBORAH CROMBIE: British mystery aficionados will be thrilled to know that Ann Cleeves' beloved detective, VERA, returned for the 11th season yesterday on Britbox! I was so happy to see Brenda Blethyn and Kenny Doughty, who plays Vera's sergeant Aiden Healy, and all the other cast regulars who have come to seem like old friends.


 
As have the hat and the Land Rover! Take a peek!


And then there is the beautiful Northumberland scenery, which made me miss England even more.
In Episode 1, Vera and the team must unravel the mystery when well-respected local builder and family man Jim Tullman is found beaten to death on the steps of the Collingwood Monument the day before he was due to testify in court as the key witness in a violent assault case. In episode 2, Vera is called to the scene of a murdered support worker who is found hidden among the bleak woodlands of Northumberland National Park.

Brenda has embodied Ann's character so well that I can't imagine anyone else in that role. As a writer, I'm always curious about how writers feel seeing their characters brought to life on the screen, so I asked Ann if she sees Brenda when she's writing Vera.

Ann: I think Silverprint, the production company which makes Vera and Shetland (and the adaptation of The Long Call) is brilliant at capturing the essence of the books.  They can translate the place and the characters to the screen, even though they might not completely follow the plot and that's much more important to me.  Brenda has become Vera now.  I'm so fortunate to have such a brilliant actor playing her.  I don't see her, but I do hear her voice when I'm writing dialogue.  The whole team has done magnificent work filming through all the restrictions of Covid.  I haven't seen the episodes - and they're original stories so they'll be new to me when they screen.  I can't wait!

I've seen Episode 1 & 2 and I agree they've done a terrific job, especially with the limitations of filming with Covid restrictions. Brenda and Kenny had to be in a Covid bubble because of all the scenes filmed in the Land Rover--they even had apartments next door to each other! Green screens were used in the scenes in the interview room, but it's amazingly seamless and I wouldn't have known if I hadn't read up on it. Harder work for the actors, though!


There are six episodes in Season 11, but unfortunately we will only get to see two this fall. Filming had to be extended--again, due to Covid restrictions--so the final four episodes won't air until sometime in 2022. I'm certain, however, that they'll be worth the wait. In the meantime, we'll enjoy the first two!

REDS and readers, are you looking forward to the new season of VERA. And what are some of your favorite TV adaptations of crime novels?
 

73 comments:

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  2. I regret to say that I have not seen VERA . . . .
    “Father Brown” and “Dexter” and “Bones” and “Rizzoli and Isles” are some adaptations of crime novels that I’ve particularly enjoyed . . . .

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    1. The TV version of Bones is so different from the series, don't you think? If I didn't know it was based on Kathy Reichs' books I would never have put that together.

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    2. Bones was certainly different, but I really enjoyed it.

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    3. Vera of the TV series seems very different from Vera of the novels. It’s hard for me to reconcile the descriptions with Brenda Blethyn’s gentle face and frequent smiles, even the sly ones.

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    4. It seems to me that they're almost always different from the book . . . .

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    5. Brenda will always look lovely, but I do think she captures the essence of the character.

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  3. I love reading the Vera books but did not warm up to the screen versions. Interesting that they are all new material now! We watched the whole Shetland series and loved it (and then I read the books), and I look forward to seeing The Long Call since I loved the book.

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    1. I'm looking forward to The Long Call very much!

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    2. And me! I spent a day on set and the cast is amazing. Some fabulous actors. And if you'd like to find out a bit more about Matthew, The Heron's Cry, the second in the series, is out next week. (Sorry! Shameless plug!)

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  4. I love Brenda Blethyn's Vera, and of course I will watch this new season. They've been adaptations since the start, and Ann hasn't written any of the screen plays. I asked her about this. She said she felt so fortunate to be able to sit back and let the production company do their job, knowing they would do a great one. I wonder if this is one of the most successful TV adaptions of a series? And I really really hope Ann is taking it to the bank. She deserves it, as do all writers who wait for years for this sort of reward?

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  5. I adore Vera - on the screen AND on the page. They're wonderfully heartfelt and suspenseful and utterly engaging. I do "see/hear" Brenda Blethyn when I read the books. (I remember the first time I saw her perform - LITTLE VOICE (movie) and she was utterly brilliant.) The show used to run on Acorn and when it disappeared I dropped my subscription. I need to catch up. What a thrill it was two years ago (pre-Covid) to meet Ann at the New England Crime Bake. She was SO NICE and smart and approachable. Utter fabulosity

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    1. Ann was wonderful at Crime Bake. I got to drive her to the airport on the last day and we had such a nice chat.

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    2. I think the first time I saw Brenda was in Saving Grace with Craig Ferguson. (The film, not the TV series of the same name.) That's a lovely little movie, and Brenda, as always, is a delight.

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    3. Craig has mentioned her as one of the best actors he's known. I used to watch his Late Late Show, and heard him say that many times.

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  6. Sometimes the actor portraying a fictional detective clashes with my preconceived idea of that character. So I've never been able to warm to the TV Harry Bosch or the movie Jack Reacher. In both cases the actors are already too well known to disappear into those very distinctive characters.

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    1. There are some spectacular fails for me. One is the actor who plays Peter Robinson's Banks. Just no. And John Hannah, who I like in other things, but not as Rebus!!

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  7. That was amazing Hallie--I adored Ann Cleeves and have read every book so far and eagerly await her newest (next week!) I am not caught up on Vera, but look forward to these episodes. Dratted Covid!!

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    1. Although these are not adapted from Ann's books, they've done a good job with the plots, and there are some really fine performances. You will enjoy!

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  8. We've been eager for the new Vera episodes drop, and are saving the pleasure for the coming weekend. Two is less than six, but better than none!

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    1. Brenda, we had a screener from Britbox, so watched Ep 1 on Saturday and Ep 2 on Sunday. It was a great weekend binge! I especially loved Ep 2 with the gorgeous scenery.

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  9. I still haven't been able to get around to Vera, but my delay just means there will be more to binge when I finally do.

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    1. I had watched Vera a bit disjointedly, some episodes on PBS, some on Acorn or Britbox. But during the pandemic (or I should, early in the pandemic) I started with season 1 and watched all the way through 10. So good.

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  10. Love Ann's books but haven't seen Vera--the library carries DVDs of TV shows, however, so I'm thinking now's a good time to give it a try.

    My all-time favorite adaptations of mystery books to the screen is a tie between Cadfael and Miss Marple with Joan Hickson. Oh wait, make that a three-way tie--Morse. Sigh.

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    1. Morse might be my winner. The cast, the music, the photography. John Thaw WAS Morse.

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    2. Louise Penny announced today her books are being filmed as a television series. Apparently available only on Amazon.

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    3. Interesting! Will check that out!

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    4. Surprised. She swore never again after being so dissatisfied with Still Life the Movie!

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    5. The thought of Three Pines on the screen or on the stream is so awful! Just no!

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    6. I saw that production of Still Life and I am sorry that I did. They had everything wrong!

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    7. Reputable UK production company and apparently they are actually filming part of it in Quebec. Casting is listed in Ms. Penny’s post.

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    8. Yes! Morse is perfect perfect perfect!

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  11. Oh I do love Vera, both in print and on the TV. I'm even a member of the Vera fan group on Facebook. I am looking forward to seeing the new episodes but I admit I had a bit of trouble when I first started watching. What helped more than anything was using the closed caption feature, which made such a difference.

    I have not seen any of Shetland but I've heard they are very good. It is too early in the day for me to think of any other book adaptations to TV or movies that I have enjoyed. I can tell you I did not enjoy the CJ Box TV series Big Sky and I doubt I'll even watch the new Joe Pickett one. Joe is already in my head the way I see him and I really don't want that messed with.

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    1. I do all right with most of the dialogue on Vera, but I don't think I could have watched Shetland without the closed captions. But I loved that series even though Doug Henshall looked nothing like I imagined Jimmy Perez. He grew into the part.

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    2. That’s because they don’t speak English. They speak Catriona

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  12. Cadfael, Vera, Shetland, Wire in the Blood, and the incomparable Alec Guinness in the role of George Smiley.

    Do you remember Phyllida, whom Rumpole termed the "Portia of our chambers"? Actress Patricia Hodge is the new Mrs. Pumphrey in All Creatures. Diana Rigg was wonderful in the role, and I'm sure Hodge will do a remarkable job, too.

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    1. Oh, I didn't know that about Patricia Hodge. She'll be wonderful.

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  13. I love Vera. So happy the series is back. We are almost exclusive Britbox and Acorn viewers. enjoy all the British shows.

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  14. Very much looking forward to more Vera! It's worth resubscribing to BritBox for!

    I have only read one of the Vera books, and one in the Shetland series, but am up to date on all the TV episodes.

    I thought Longmire was a pretty good adaptation, and kept fresh by the changes to the endings of each episode from the books. Craig Johnson said that was a deliberate choice by the producers, so readers who also watched the series would not get bored by the predictability.

    To me, Brenda Blethyn IS Vera. It was awesome to be able to meet both Brenda and Ann at Malice a couple years ago when Ann was the International Guest of Honor, and Brenda was also honored. They were the nicest people, and so engaged the entire weekend. Brenda is so different in real life that you can see how completely she inhabits the character of Vera in the shows. She really is a superb actor.

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    1. She really is, isn't she? I was watching all the small things she does that make the character so distinctive, especially the walk! The hat was her idea, a way of adapting Vera's skin condition for the screen. She tells a funny story about filming this season's scenes in the Land Rover. Of course the crew was sanitizing everything, so when she and Kenny went to film their first scene in the Land Rover, all Vera's rubbish had been removed. Brenda made them put everything back! Used coffee cups, crisp bags, food wrappers, and it all had to be sprayed with disinfectant first!

      I am in awe of how hard everyone worked to keep the production running safely.

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    2. Wasn't it a treat to meet Brenda and Ann together? They really seemed to like and respect each other, and were so engaging all through the conference. Hard to imagine the lovely woman we met as the crotchety loner Vera, but what a testament that is to her acting skill!

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    3. It was, Leslie! They both were so sweet and clearly thrilled to be part of everything. And so welcoming to fans.

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    4. I'm sorry I missed that Malice! I do know Ann, who is lovely, but haven't had the chance to meet Brenda.

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    5. 00, yes, that was absolutely incredible. What a moment in time! And their affection and respect for each other was so lovely.

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  15. Here's a bit of juicy gossip I ran across while reading about this season. According to a less than reputable British paper, Kenny Doughty, who plays Aiden, is dating Ashley Jensen, who plays Agatha Raisin. I hope it's true, as I think Ashley Jensen is brilliant and she certainly deserves some happiness after her husband's tragic death.

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    1. Suicide is so devastating to those left behind. I also hope she finds happiness.

      Looking at her bio I was surprised to find that she was in Ugly Betty for three seasons. I watched that show, but have no memory of her in it.

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  16. I just saw that too, Deborah. I agree she certainly deserves happiness, as do we all.

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  17. Love Brenda, she’s a great actress, glad she’s back as VERA

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  18. This is great. Thank you for the preview, Debs and Ann! I am counting the days until The Long Call is out! Also, I agree with all the Brenda B. praise. I used to use a scene of her and Marianne Jean-Baptiste from Secrets & Lies in a writing class when we were talking about characterization and backstory. She is so fabulous.

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    1. Ooops, I meant I am counting days until The Heron's Cry is out, but also counting days until Long Call is out on TV!

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    2. Oh, that is so fascinating! I will find that. I agree, Brenda is incredible.

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  19. Vera is one of the few series where I enjoy the books and TV shows equally well. We like Shetland, too -- though the trick was the discovery that we could turn on closed captioning to help with the accents!

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  20. Mark and I have been binging both Vera and Shetland, and while I love both series, I find the longer format of Shetland (two episodes per story rather than one, as with Vera) more satisfying, particularly when I’ve read the books. Compressing something as complex as The Crow Trap into a single episode was mind-boggling, for instance. That said, I love the fact that Ann recognizes film is a totally different medium than print, and that what she values is the fidelity to place, atmosphere, and characterization. Thanks, Debs, for the interview!

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    1. I enjoy the longer format, too, Francine. But I also think they do a great job packing a twisty/turny plot into the ninety minutes episodes on Vera. However, you miss a lot of the little relationship and character details. I loved Shetland as much for the personal stories as for the crimes.

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  21. Looking forward to watching VERA. And looking forward to watching new episodes of MIDSOMER MURDERS.

    Though I have read THE LONG CALL by Ann Cleeves, I have not read VERA yet. I need to remedy that soon. The British usually do an excellent job adapting books to tv programmes, way better than the Americans do, usually. LOL.

    Diana

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    1. I'm sure you'll enjoy the Vera books, Diana. And I agree on the British adaptations!

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  22. Apparently, The Long Call will be done in 4 parts, so lots of room for all the character and backstory development! And the cast looks absolutely terrific!

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  23. I haven't seen any of the Vera mysteries, but everyone I know says they are terrific. And isn't it the author's ideal for the actor to truly embody the character? (Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, I'm looking at you.)

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  24. My husband and I are a bit miffed at BritBox. They have been systematically buying up the rights to our favorite shows from Acorn. I hate to give in and pay them, but I will have to.
    The final blow was this week. Tuesday we decided to begin re-watching New Tricks. It was on Acorn. We went to tune in Wednesday for another episode and discovered it is now Britbox! New month, new ownership, I guess.
    Vera is marvelous all around!

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  25. I am just on season five, or at least I think I'm still on it. I was watching back last year, when we were first locked down, and although I loved it, it also depressed me a bit. I think it was Vera's personal solitude. However, I think I'm ready to start back watching it now.

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    1. Wait until you get to S6. I still remember it

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    2. As do I. Definitely memorable!

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  26. So late today! The dentist and deadlines. But I want to say I adore AnnCleves, every single thing about her, but I cannot watch the TV show. Please do not tell her. I just cannot even describe why, and I tried, because I love her so much.

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  27. Maybe will we will try again with this new season :-)

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  28. I absolutely love the Vera series. I plan to read the books soon as well. This is great news, Debs!! YAY.

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  29. We watched VERA S11e1 last night. I was a bit distracted trying to figure out how they did the green screen in some scenes, but otherwise loved it. We wish the actor that played Joe would come back because the Aidan character seems like a weak copycat. :-( (Per the comments above about Kenny Doughty dating Ashley J, isn't he married???) Also love the VERA books and can't wait for more!

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    1. Apparently he's separated. I miss David Leon, too, but have come to like Aiden.

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  30. Thank-you Deborah Crombie, Rhys Bowne and Jungle Red for this wonderful article about Caroline. My family joins me expressing our appreciation for all the kind words, condolences and most of all fond memories and admiration for Mom. She loved so many and received much joy for each and every one of them. Deborah you were her special friend! Charles Todd

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