Years ago, Marta Dusseldorp was on a train. The train stopped at Union Station in Dallas. Never having been to Dallas, Dusseldorp got out and walked around. No one recognized her.
Now, however, the Australian actress stands a good chance of being hounded for autographs at the corner of Young and Houston. Because millions of Americans know who she is through the phenomenon of streaming. She spent six seasons as the star of A Place to Call Home, which goes a long way toward being the Australian version of Downton Abbey, or yes, you heard it here first, Dallas.
Like Dallas, A Place to Call Home is full of villains. Its six seasons, available via Acorn TV (accessible through its own app or with an added fee on Amazon Prime and other platforms), produced at least two cusses as bad as the Dallas bad boy, J.R. Ewing. Dusseldorp, who plays nurse Sarah Adams, is the moral center of the show and the reason so many Americans have gotten hooked on A Place to Call Home in the binge era of streaming.
Douglas Henshall, 53, has never been to Dallas, but says he would love to visit. He openly admits hoping to expand his career to the U.S., so why not a theatrical role in Dallas?
He, too, is fast becoming a recognizable face among streamers all over the 50 states. It's one of many things he digs about BritBox, which, like Acorn, streams British content to Americans eager to get it. Henshall is the driving force behind Shetland, a shining example in what is now being called Celtic noir. Henshall's lead character, DI Jimmy Perez, is a deeply moral force, not unlike Dusseldorp's Sarah Adams.
"I think empathy and kindness are in such dire need in the world at the present moment," Henshall said from his native Glasgow, where much of Shetland is filmed. "I think he's trying to do the best that he can, but he's a naturally empathetic and kind and involved man. Those are qualities he has that come at a price. They take a toll on him. He doesn't really have any distance from what he's doing. We could do with a lot more Jimmy Perezes in the world."
The fifth season of Shetland, already over in Britain, arrives via BritBox on April 30. Portions of Shetland have been seen in the past on PBS, including KERA-TV (Channel 13) in Dallas and via Netflix. Henshall loves the fact that he may be as well known in North Texas as he is on the subarctic archipelago of the Shetland islands of Scotland, from which the series draws its name and its mystical allure.
Martin Clunes, 57, long ago became a fixture on American television, as the star of Doc Martin, which debuted in 2004. PBS, including KERA, happily imports the show, which for 16 years has elevated Clunes' profile as an endearing British star, despite playing a grumpy eccentric practicing medicine in a lush seaside town in Cornwall. Hold off on the cards and letters — he promises at least one more season.
"People seem to really love it," he said, admitting that the American response "has been a huge surprise. We're tickled pink by it." PBS is one thing. Streaming, he says, has had a lot to do with making it the contagious hit it is.
Now he's the star of a new and quite different Acorn TV series that has him cast as a true detective uncovering a patch of grisly crimes based on a true story.
They come from the memoir of Colin Sutton, the British detective who led an investigation into the killings of three women that shocked London in the early 2000s, Clunes' new show is Manhunt.
"We create a real world and tell a real story," Clunes says of the new show, which differs from most crime shows, which permeate the streaming world of British television.
"We don't show any murders," Clunes said. "We don't spend much time with the murderer. We show that crimes get solved by dogged, old-fashioned, shoe-leather police work."
Queens of Mystery
Julie Graham, who's also accessible to streamers via William and Mary and Shetland, is one of the stars of the new Acorn TV hit, Queens of Mystery, which brings up another salient selling point: It offers a platform for the talents of British women, who dominate so many of the shows available via Acorn TV and BritBox, as well as other services. Unforgotten, the incredible British crime series now being seen on KERA and available for streaming on the PBS app, is a tour de force for acclaimed actress Nicola Walker.
Queens of Mystery carries an endearing fairy-tale quality and stars four strong women in Graham, Sarah Woodward, Siobhan Redmond and Olivia Vinall.
Vinall plays a detective sergeant who has just returned to the town where she lived when she was a child. Her three aunts brought her up, because her mother disappeared when she was 3. "My mission in life is to discover what happened to my mother," she says. "So, I've become a detective."
Happy Valley is a Netflix series. We include it in this piece, because it's so incredibly good. It debuted in the UK in 2014. It won the BAFTA award for Best Drama Series, and it's easy to see why. Lead actress Sarah Lancashire, 54, is amazing, as is Downton Abbey alum Siobhan Finneran, who plays her sister. We hear that creator Sally Wainwright finally agreed to a third and possibly final season, which gives you time to catch up before that arrives. It's grim and dark and utterly spellbinding.
There's one more reason to watch it: James Norton (Grantchester) as villain Tommy Lee Royce will make your skin crawl.