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Ingenious, Quick-Moving, Complex Mysteries,
This review is from: Murdoch Mysteries, Season One (DVD)
I'm going to call "Murdoch Mysteries Season One" a British mystery, although it's set in Canada and uses Canadian actors, because it appears to have been jointly produced by ITV Global Entertainment, and Granada International, two companies surely at least artistically headquartered in Great Britain. The stylish, contemporary television series, a costumed historical police procedural, is set in the Toronto of the 1890's, and features "cutting edge Victorian science." The boxed set at hand consists of four DVD's comprising 13 episodes, approximately 598 minutes, of the series that debuted in Canada in January, 2008. And, all praises to Acorn Media, subtitles, in addition to the usual extra features, interviews and such. It is now available to U.S. audiences for the first time.
"Murdoch" is based on characters from the detective novels of Maureen Jennings: the first published, in 1997, Except the Dying; to be followed by six more in the series. Jennings is creative consultant on the TV series that aims to give us a look at the dawn of forensic sleuthing. It was nominated for 14 Geminis in 2008, including Best Dramatic Series, Best Achievement in Casting, and Best Writing.
It centers on Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson,Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye (2002 TVseries)), who adopts modern forensic techniques such as "finger marks," and blood spatter analyses, and an early lie detector. His skeptical, old-school boss Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig,Where the Heart Is); gung-ho protégé Constable George Crabtree (Jonny Harris, "Hatching, Matching & Dispatching"); and comely pathologist Dr. Julia Ogden (Helene Joy, "Durham County") aid and abet his efforts. Most of the plots are ingenious, quick-moving, and reasonably original/complex for their length; some do generate emotional power. Some ingenuity has also been invested in bringing a few celebrities of the age to Toronto: famed British mystery author Arthur Conan Doyle; Nikola Tesla, who helped invent electricity and a bunch of other modern gizmos, too; and Price Alfred, son of England's awesome Queen Victoria. The series is nicely filmed, and its makers haven't stinted on its budget, plenty of people and vehicles in the street and the station.
The episodes are: (1) Power; (2) The Glass Ceiling; (3) The Knockdown; (4) Elementary, My Dear Murdoch; (5) Till Death Do Us Part; (6) Let Loose the Dogs; (7) Body Double; (8) Still Waters; (9) Belly Speaker; (10) Child's Play; (11) Bad Medicine; (12) The Rebel and The Prince;(13) The Annoying Red Planet.
Unfortunately, aside from Craig as Inspector Brackenreid, the actors don't look or sound Victorian, and Bisson, who plays the title character, is handsome enough, but rather wooden. There are also some anomalies. In one episode, we see, in an upper crust home, a print of a world-famous Picasso over the fireplace, in the spot where the household's best picture is generally hung. Picasso, however, was born in 1881 and had painted neither this famed "rose period" portrait, nor anything else, by the 1890's. Nor did the bourgeoisie even start buying his work before the late 1920's. Furthermore, surely in the 1890's, and even now, a house-proud woman of any means does not hang a reproduction in the living room, let alone over the fireplace.
Never mind: the Toronto "Globe and Mail" has called this series "smart, fast-paced fun." That it is.