More Please: “Case Histories” on PBS

November 1, 2011

For the past three Sundays PBS has run episodes of  "Case Histories." Jason Issacs plays private investigator (and army veteran and former police detective) Jackson Brodie in these adaptations of novels by Kate Atkinson. Shot in Edinburgh and the surrounding countryside the photography makes me want to hop on a plane more urgently than all the glitzy shots of beaches in the revised "Hawaii 5-O" (even when it is 34 and too cold for me to ride my bike here until it warms up this afternoon).

I'm writing about "Case Histories" today because for a limited time you can watch episodes on line. I don't know how long that limited time is, so I suggest you get yourself over to the website and watch. 

The characters are quirky, the stories twisted and filled with coincidences—just ride the flow. It all pays off beautifully in just learning more about the characters and their responses to the drama of their lives, and that for me is what makes interesting TV. But you need to watch all three episodes in order, because relationship information accrues. There is a bonus pay off at the roller-coaster ending of episode 3. If you get into the mood of the show and pay attention to the hints you may see all that is coming, but the sequencing of events is so nicely spliced together, the dialog so minimally exact, well, I'm not going to spoil it.

And like me, you'll be asking for more, as quickly as possible please, because you want to know these characters more.

The appeal of Isaacs' Brody is not, as an article in the Guardian suggests, as a "Rochester, a wounded beast whom wannabe Jane Eyres imagine nursing."

The character's appeal is in the nuance, sweetness, and tenderness that Isaacs is able to bring to the character of Brody. We see this when Brody interacts (for no recompense) with an elderly cat lady; when he talks with his daughter (Brody and his wife are separated) and takes her along on his fact-finding missions; and every time he gives in to a lost cause. Brody has undergone great trauma in his life (the loss of his sister and near loss of his brother) but he carries it all with a "get on with it" grace that is exactly the attitude you want in the people around you. You can count on people like Brody even while he is a constant reminder that you can't count on life to be kind. He is just as much a reminder that you can survive and do some good.

Go watch the first episode now. 


    • Christine F
    • November 1, 2011

    Oh I so agree. Isaacs is as messed up as Wollander, but somehow more appealing. And the MUSIC they use for this series is just top notch. Look it up online. You’ll be impressed with the choices.
    I felt that episode three left us hanging a bit, so maybe they left it open so they could do more….We can only hope.

    • Terry Garrett
    • November 1, 2011

    Hey Roz- We watched them all and loved them- hope they will be back with more!!!

    • Carol
    • November 1, 2011

    Agreed! I so love Jason Isaacs in this role. Took me awhile to recognize him as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films (no blond wig here!).

    • Shelly D
    • November 1, 2011

    Agree! Watched these on TV then again online. And now, I’m off to look for Ms Atkinson’s books. And, thank you so much for your detailed research on art supplies– you’ve helped me a great deal. In addition, of course, to your edgy-yet-sweet animal art!

  1. Reply

    Christine, I think Wollander has a heaviness, he is being dragged down by life. Brody on the other hand seems to have kept his thread of hope, if only in helping other people. Both are interesting to watch (and the actors do a great job with the roles) but I find that Brody is someone I would want as a friend, and Wollander is someone I would probably do an intervention for or simply stay away.

    In thinking about these two characters it is perhaps easiest to say they have different auras! (But I’m not new-agey.)

    I find the music on Case Histories is lovely and supports the character and the drama, but it isn’t music I would listen to on my own because it is, as Brody’s daughter says so sad. I like to listen to more upbeat music on the rare times when I do listen to music. (Mostly I just like to listen to the city noises.)

    If they ended with episode 3 I would be OK, because there is the promise of everything else. (Of course I want more though.)

  2. Reply

    Thanks Shelley, I wish I’d given in to my friend Pat and read the books before this, but it was a nice way to meet the character of Brody.

    Glad you like the blog and the animal portraits!

  3. Reply

    Terry, so glad that you enjoyed these shows. Hope all is going well up north!

  4. Reply

    Carol, I tend to recognize both actor’s faces and names, so I don’t know that I didn’t recognize Isaacs in this, I just thought he did such a great job inhabiting the character that my mind wasn’t thinking about who else he’d played. Then after the first episode was over my brain sort of did it’s own imdb download and ticked things off. Seems I’ve been paying attention to his parts and enjoying them. So I hope he keeps picking good parts.

  5. Reply

    hey roz, i checked in again and went over and watched the first episode on my teeny macbookpro. wow. thank you. i love inspector lewis…this is also wonderful. since i live sans tv, a good masterpiece theater is wonderful for a treat. i weave while i watch, right here at my table. sad, but true.

  6. Reply

    Velma, I ADORE inspector Lewis. I can’t get enough of that! I’m glad you were able to check in and catch Case Histories too. I will often bead while I watch TV. Typically I like to watch something and see all the shots and faces, but if I have seen something before, or it is something that I simply want to listen to, I’ll bead. Nothing sad about any of that, weave away!

    • Leslie Schramm
    • November 2, 2011

    Well PBS don;t let us poor Scottish Ferigners watch, so I better go to Edinburgh tomorrow and make my own stories up. Will try for blood thirsty and scary. Going down one of the scary Close’s that got buried during the Georgian rebuild

    As for Wallander, I can watch those in the original, grey Swedish originals, lol.

  7. Reply

    Leslie, so sorry you can’t get those shows, but I am glad you are making up your own. The tour sounds fascinating. Have fun.

  8. Reply

    Thanks for the heads up about Case Histories, Roz. I love all of Atkinson’s books and had no idea there was a series. Watched episode one last night and saving episode two for tomorrow.

  9. Reply

    Loretta, I’m so glad you got to watch these. I think episode three is just the best, building on the other two. I hope you can watch it too!

  10. Reply

    roz, i have watched all three case histories and am dying for the fourth. wow, you were right. there is a bit more of splurting blood than i care for, but the characters are spot on. he is an interesting guy, and oh, my the women and girls are particularly wonderful. that young student, oh lord, she’s terrific.

    • Louise
    • November 12, 2011

    Hi Roz, Want to add my thanks to you for for posting about this chance to watch full episodes of Masterpiece Theater. I live without televison too, so this is a great treat. I watched two episodes and I’m saving the third for another time. Edinburgh is on my wish list. It’s possible to click the pause feature and sketch!

    Even though I can’t take one of your classes, you are one of my teachers. Insights about life presented in all forms of art and creativity are part of the big picture we strive to understand. “Let’s get on with it.”

  11. Reply

    Louise, I’m glad that you are enjoying this series and hope you get to watch the third episode before the time limit is over (somewhere I read they were up only for a limited time).

    And thank you for your kinds words about my blog. I honored to be included your list of “teachers.” I do hope people enjoy the blog so this is good to hear.

    • liz Banholzer
    • May 21, 2013

    Will there be more “case Histories”? Love this series and all the characters. Especially the secretary.

  12. Reply

    Liz, I’m sorry but I have no idea. I hope there will be but I’m rather doubtful. The actor went made a 1 season show here in the US and I don’t know what he’s scheduled to do going forward.

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