Where Do You Find Hidden TV Program Gems?

Downton Abbey Cast, Phryne and Jack - Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, Holmes and Watson - Sherlock, Lawrence and Sherif - Lawrence of Arabia, Jim Henson and his creations, Arthur and Charles - Arthur and George

For me, the past couple of weeks have been very slow in terms of TV viewing. Many of the shows I watched over the summer have concluded and the new fall shows I plan to watch don’t start broadcasting until the week of September 21 or after. Once that happens though, oh my, it gets busy once again!

In the meantime, I have been watching programs that might not normally make my radar. This is in addition to catching some movies and watching some repeats of favorite shows. I have to admit enjoying the fact I had nothing much in the way of must see TV and felt free to explore further afield.

Typically, I stick with the major broadcast and cable networks. There are of course exceptions. But, during the downtime between seasons, I have found programming in places I visit infrequently. One such place is PBS. Now, please don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against PBS – they have wonderful programming! But for some reason it just does not end up as a place I surf to in my random free moments.

Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey

Despite the fact some of my friends watch this program, I have never seen it. I hate to jump into the middle of an established program, so will instead hope there will be repeats at some point and thus wait in order to see it from the beginning. It is part of the Masterpiece brand, and produced by PBS.

It is beginning its sixth and final season, but the producer is already talking the possibility of a revival. Set in the beginning of the 20th century, Downton Abbey is a British based drama. It tells the story of a wealthy family rocked by the sinking of the Titanic which claimed all of the male heirs. The story follows the rest of the family and their servants in the wake of this tragedy.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

Phryne, Jack, Dot, Hugh - Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

I have written about this program in the past; 5 Reasons You Should Watch Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. It is an import from Australia, set in the 1920s. It is based on the books of the same name, and tells the story of a lady detective in Australia. Besides tackling a murder mystery each episode, there is also usually a social issue that resonates with the contemporary audience.

Recently it premiered its third season after a year and half wait. I accidentally missed the season three premiere, so have not seen the new episodes yet because I am waiting for the ones I missed to repeat. I have found in the past that repeats are shown on a sometimes strange schedule, so with some attention and care, you could find and watch the series from the beginning. It is worth seeing the first few episodes of the first season in proper sequence since they show how all of these main characters came to know each other.

Arthur and George

Arthur and Charles - Arthur and George

This three part import from Britain is based on a historical novel of the same name by Julian Barnes about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – the creator of Sherlock Holmes. The TV program deals primarily with the third part of the book. Set after the death of Sir Arthur’s first wife, he investigates a real life murder where he believes the person sent to prison, George, was wrongly accused.



For those of you that have not seen this wonderful program, another import from Britain and originally aired on BBC America, I highly recommend it. The seasons are very short by American standards – jut three episodes each – but each episode is an hour and a half long and closer to a movie than a TV episode.

For people who can’t get enough Sherlock Holmes, this is definitely must see TV, and the fact they showed the repeats right after Arthur and George was brilliant programming on PBS’s part!

American Experience and In Their Own Words

Jim Henson and his creations

I will admit that I have not seen all the episodes in these series, but two recent installments caught my attention. In Their Own Words aired a one hour episode on Jim Henson, beloved creator of the Muppets. This is very timely with The Muppets TV show being brought back by ABC TV. In addition, in May of this year we had the 25th anniversary of the death of Jim Henson.

American Experience also recently aired a two episode installment about Walt Disney. I have it on my DVR to watch, but find the subject fascinating especially after having watched Saving Mr. Banks. From what I have read, Walt was a complicated, sometimes difficult man. I am curious to see the differences between his portrayal in the movie and the reality.

Blockbuster Movies

Lawrence and Sherif - Lawrence of Arabia

Sometimes the premium channels such as HBO, Showtime, and EPIX to name a few, offer a free preview weekend. Clearly their goal is to make you want more so you will subscribe to them year round. And, most of them are now also offering original programming that is usually critically acclaimed and very popular.

Maybe it is just me, but I have found their movie offerings to be a little lacking. However, I have found that PBS shows blockbuster movies from the past that are very worth watching. One such example is Lawrence of Arabia, which was broadcast this past weekend in all its 3.6 hour glory. Who else out there is old enough to remember a time when movie theaters would have intermissions during these long movies?


Where do you look for gems that you might not normally watch? What not so mainstream programs have you found that you would recommend to the rest of us? Please sound off in the comments section below!