Friday, December 18, 2009

Mysteries, mysteries, where forth are thou, mysteries.

By Pat Gulley

Don’t know if you’ve noticed lately, but TV is a wasteland of no mysteries. So much so that when one comes on it’s like a starving person staring at a crust of bread, devouring it and then wondering where it went and barely remembering what it tasted like.

Okay, PBS does its best, but BBC America and A&E have totally given up. I categorically refuse to watch Top Gear because it had the audacity to replace Mystery Monday. I mean, Blue Murder and The Murdoch Mysteries are sitting out there waiting to be presented to the American public. And why not a few reruns, I’m missing Cadfael, The Last Detective, Midsomer Murders, Hetty Wainthropp, Rosemary & Thyme and even as far back as Murder Most English. Or even a few of those funny old Tommy and Tuppence things.

So I’m forced to scour the Netflix Files, and I did find the newer Canadian version of The Murdoch Mysteries. I ordered Season one and was quite pleased. Canadian production about a Canadian detective plying his trade in Victorian Toronto Canada. Wow! And I enjoyed it very much. Each episode had a bit of forensic investigation and how it came into use: finger ‘marks’ and distinguishing between animal and human blood, and even references to other sciences like astronomy. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a character in two of them, one about spiritualism and the other where he was searching out cures for consumption. His wife died of that disease. The one about Victoria’s grandson, Albert, was interesting with the IRA trying to kill him during his philanderings, but I’d have thought reference to his once being suspected of being Jack The Ripper would have made for a better story. My favorite was about Martians, crop circles and lights in the sky.

Pleased, I went on line to see more about the series, and wouldn’t you know it found a site with a review of it claiming that the previous series was better! (?) So searching I went, and yes, there was another Canadian production done in 2004. I guess I’ve got to trudge back to Netflix, order it and compare. Done.

Of course, I sort of wondered where the story came from and sure enough, it came from a series of books by Maureen Jennings, The Murdoch Mysteries. And according to the review claiming the earlier series was better, the author thought the actor from the first series, Peter Outerbridge, was perfect for the roll of her main character Detective William Murdoch. So, I’ll probably have to compare Peter’s performance and interpretation of Murdoch to Yannick Bisson’s.

Yes, that’s me staring off into space wondering if I should seek out the books too. Nah! I’ve got lots of books to read and a huge list waiting to be ordered. What I do not have is some good TV or movie fare to entertain me. I’ve watched reruns of my favorite shows, and I am interested in SF too, but if you have any good suggestions, I’m listening.

A question might be: is there any mystery series you love so much you watch and re-watch forever? Don’t suggest anything Agatha Christie, because they are all on my re-watch list, and I like to take down the books while watching them to see what the TV writers and producers think they could do better than how she wrote it. Oh, and I do watch Castle.


Joyce Tremel said...

Pat, do you check Lee Lofland's review of Castle on The Graveyard Shift every week?

I don't have any favorite mystery shows at the moment. I don't really care for the British shows you mentioned--not even Agatha Christie. They're way too slow moving for me.

Once in awhile, I watch Magnum, PI on Retro TV. It would be nice if they'd quit running the same episodes over and over again, though. I have the first two seasons of Miami Vice on DVD, but I haven't watched them for awhile.

You're right, though. There's not much to watch on TV. CSI annoys me, and the Law & Order shows have definitely jumped the shark. It's way past time for them to be cancelled.

Jenna said...

I don't really watch much TV. I did catch the latest batch of Miss Marple on PBS, but that doesn't help you, does it? My favorite pasttime has always been books. I did see the latest Harry Potter movie the other day, though. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. And where it was nowhere near as good as the book, and quite slow-moving at first, it was beautifully done and once it picked up speed, was entertaining enough. Other than that I can't help, I'm afraid.

Karen in Ohio said...

Yes, there's Castle. Thank goodness.

Has anyone seen the new Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey, Jr? I'm hoping there's a mystery element there. I mean, it's Sherlock freakin' Holmes, after all.

Happy, Merry to all.

Gina said...

I'd opt for Cadfael any time, both the tv series and the books. Ellis Peters' writing impressed me so much that I even took a trip to Shrewesbury, just to see the scene.

Jennie - Thanks for mentioning HPHBP (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince). Harry Potter is really my favorite mystery series, in which the amateur sleuth (Harry) investigates the murder of his parents while avoiding attempts on his own life (and saving the wizarding world). I have to admit that this most recent film is my least favorite of the movies, but that may be in part because it didn't live up to the promise of the corresponding book, which is my very favorite of the written works.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Joyce, I was going to say that the only thing I like about Castle is Lee's reviews of it.

Well, that and I like Nathan Fillion. Speaking of Nathan Fillion, a few years ago, he starred in a Sci Fi called Firefly.
If you ever get a chance, check out the one and only season of Firefly on DVD. It really is quite fascinating and the character development is great. I think it was bad luck that got it cancelled.

Patg said...

Joyce, I'm not a 'cop' show person. Don't like PIs much either. I want a good mystery. Castle is just fun, the mysteries aren't much, but as Wildred said, I think it's Nathan Fillion I like best.
Wilfred, I've watched the TV episodes of Firefly at least a dozen times including the missed episodes and the movie Serenity about a dozen too.
I wish the SF channel (SyFy my royal @$%&*) wouldn't have cancelled the Dresdon Files. That was a good crossover mystery series. I do love crossover.
I loved Cadfael, lots of episodes, and Midsummer Murders too. I see they have a new DVD set out called the Early cases, but can't find it. Yet.
Harry Potter! My grandkids and I have watched them over and over and have read the books over and over.
I don't hold out much hope for Sherlock having much of a mystery. Two big stars like that will require that they be the center of attention, not what's happening.
Oh well.
The Vampire Diaries have a nice little mystery ending the first season. Even the vampires don't know who the other vampire is.
And of course True Blood on cable does their mystery over a whole season. Dexter-well, no mysteries there, but this season of Dexter ended on a dropped jaw note that wasn't to be believed.

VR Barkowski said...

Pat, I'm ashamed to admit I've never watched either of the Murdoch Mystery series. I'll remedy the oversight in the new year. In addition to the shows you mentioned, I also used to enjoy Jonathan Creek. These days I seldom watch television, though, and have never seen Castle. I prefer to curl up and with an old Cadfael or Dalgliesh DVD.

Anonymous said...


Maybe those in the television industry should pay attention to all us pent up---want to watch mystery veiwers. If they did it well they could have many seasons of successful shows with a high number of views!

Jo P

Iden Pierce Ford said...

Hiya, I could not help but notice your post about Murdoch Mysteries as I look on the web periodically to see if there is any news.
We just wrapped Season Three and Maureen did her very first cameo as a cook in a mansion where a murder takes place. The series was commissioned because the movies of the week were so successful in Canada, the broadcaster decided it would be best to have a 13 episode series rather than movies of the week. The first set of movies were based on Maureen's novels, while the series is entirely original stories the script writers produce based on Maureen's characters. One episode, Let Loose the Dogs, is based on her novel of the same name.
William Murdoch was re cast because Peter Outerbridge was tied up in another series produced by the same company that produces Murdoch Mysteries.
So Yannick was cast, and Maureen is equally thrilled with his performance. In fact Yannick looks much more like the Murdoch from the novels. Both actors do a tremendous job, and Yannick is a wow in many of the episodes. I hope you get to see all the seasons down there in the US, the show has just started to air on select PBS stations accross the US. ITV Granada International has sold the series in 80 territories around the world. Thank you for watching and enjoying THe Murdoch Mysteries
Iden Ford( Maureen Jennings husband)

Unknown said...

Columbo is the mystery show that I am watching, courtesy of having received several seasons on DVD as a loan from my sister, and Netflix for the rest. Not only one of the best mystery shows but one of the best TV shows of any kind. When it was on the air, I only saw the later shows, so at this point I'm not rewatching, I'm seeing them for the first time. What a great show that was--and still is.