Arriving This Sunday on KCET: Brenda Blethyn in 'Vera'


At 9 p.m. this Sunday, KCET will air the first of eight episodes of "Vera," an ITV series that will soon be shooting its third season in its native England. "Vera" is a crime procedural drama whose appeal stems largely from the powerful performance of the lead actress, Brenda Blethyn. And to introduce the series, we're offering a quickie FAQ to explain the series.

Brenda Blethyn.... I know that name.

You should. She's a big deal in the U.K. and in general wherever people have respect for top-quality acting. Blethyn is probably best known to Americans for her role in the 1996 film "Secrets & Lies," for which she earned a nomination for the Best Actress Oscar. But a look at her IMDb profile reveals that she's also appeared in "The Witches" and "A River Runs Through It" as well as 2007's "Atonement" and the 2005 production of "Pride & Prejudice."


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And who's this Vera character?


That's our heroine, Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope. She's one of the few female detectives to be the main character on their own show as opposed to just being part of an ensemble. (Think about it: There's "The Closer," "Prime Suspect," "Cold Case," "Saving Grace" and... Angie Dickinson on "Police Woman"?) She's not in this alone, however: aiding her in her investigations is Detective Sergeant Joe Ashworth, played by David Leon. It's a buddy cop show, more or less, with an unusual mother-and-son twist.

If it centers around an intrepid female detective, is it like "Prime Suspect"?

To an extent. Blethyn and Helen Mirren are both powerful actors, but the gender of Mirren's character on "Prime Suspect" plays more into the show that that of Blethyn's character on "Vera." They're both tough women, but they also both show senses of humor, though Vera more so. In a way, you could liken "Vera" more to a different KCET detective series, "Inspector George Gently," on account of the very parental way that Vera acts with Sgt. Ashworth. And Vera has some neurotic, obsessive tendencies that, combined with her sharp wit, render her a sort of "House" character.

Is the title perhaps meaningful in a way that makes English major-types feel smart?

Verily. "Vera" is her name, but it's also Latin for "true." And what better name for someone whose job is to search for truth?

So what happened to the Sunday night movie?

It starts at 10:30 p.m. now. This week, it's the 2009 independent film "Barking Water." Next week, it's "Live With Honor, Die With Dignity," a documentary about the 442nd Regiment, which was composed of Japanese-American soldiers. And on November 18, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee star in "The House of Baskervilles."

Will KCET be recapping episodes of "Vera"?

Yes, for the sake of anyone who misses a week and wants to catch up or maybe misses a crucial detail of the week's investigation. In fact, the recap for the first episode is already up here.

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