by Kathleen Costa
Sometimes Canada gets it right: Canadian Mounted Police, Canadian Whiskey, Canadian bacon, and along with those, a unique Canadian detective television show. Murdoch Mysteries premiered in January, 2008, based on the mystery novels of the same name by Maureen Jennings, who also acts as an executive producer. The series is seen on Canadian television CBC, but through fortuitous channel surfing, it was found to also be airing on Ovation, a U.S. cable television network, under the title The Artful Detective.
Season 1 is set in 1895 Toronto, and with obvious references to ushering a new millennium and U.S. historical events like McKinley’s assassination and the Summer Olympics in St. Louis, Season 9 is set in 1902-1903. The stories follow the investigations of Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson), along with Constable George Crabtree (Jonny Harris), Inspector Thomas Brackenreid (Thomas Craig), and coroner Dr. Julia Ogden (Hélène Joy). The team often mixes nineteenth century with a more contemporary set of investigative and forensic techniques to solve robberies, kidnappings, and murders, while also dealing with topics like woman’s suffrage, prohibition, racism, and homosexuality. William Murdoch is also quite the “tinkerer” using tools and inventions not really available in the 1900s (lie detectors, tasers). However, they are used in a such a creative and ‘why-not’ way, it does not seem out of place and often is humorous. (The Power of Invention youtu.be/QApvsJjnUAk)
All eight seasons are on DVD, but channel surfing brought up a limited offer to view Season 8 on Xfinity, and binge watching all 18 episodes was quite the hook with stories including Thomas Edison, Bat Masterson, and a marvelous reference to Indiana Jones. The other seasons and two web series (Curse of the Lost Pharaohs and The Murdoch Effect) are harder to find, but by exploring YouTube Season 1, Season 2, blooper reels, and cast interviews surprisingly were not blocked or at a per-episode cost. With the occasional Sunday airing on Comcast 12 of past Murdoch Mysteries episodes and Tuesday’s reruns on Ovation, the pieces of the past 8 years are slowly coming together.
Season 9 returned in January on the Ovation network, and a favorite episode, “24 Hours Till Doomsday,” aired recently. Using clever Steampunk-style inventions, spaceships, and squirrel wing-suits, Murdoch raced against the clock to stop a secret space program that could incite war between Canada and the U.S. It was clever, humorous, and the intertwining of the Jules Verne 1900s with twenty-first century ideas worked. Even the nod to current discussions on climate change caused a giggle. Season 9 continues with nods to historical figures like Mark Twain (William Shatner youtu.be/IY1b5kJrQwo), Carrie Nation, and gold medalist golfer George Lyon.
Beyond historical references and investigations into various crimes, there are plenty of interpersonal relationships to enjoy. Murdock and Julia find themselves ‘soulmates,’ and the ups and downs make it interesting and sentimental. Constable Crabtree may be Cupid’s comic relief, as he seeks love with one of the corners, Dr. Emily Grace (Georgina Reilly), until she shows interest in suffragette Lillian Moss (Sara Mitich), and then falls for a local widow whose husband miraculously returns. Inspector Brackenreid is married and always seems up to the task of offering his nineteenth century view on marriage and the need for libations at work and at home, but all with a solid sense of loyalty and duty.
I highly recommend this series with 5/5 Detective Shields. It is clever, and in many ways has “cozy” characteristics. Although the crimes can be sad, the morgue realistic, and some of the side themes adult in nature, the characters are delightful and do not swear (Well, Inspector Brackenreid will curse ‘Bloody Hell’ and ‘Bugger’). The stories are riddled with subtle humor, clever nods are made to historical and contemporary personalities, and a bit of romance is sprinkled in and about. I am hoping a season 10 will be in the works because I’m not ready to call it quits.
Ovation Television Comcast 270
Current season: Saturdays 4 p.m. (PST)
Reruns: Tuesdays 6 a.m. (PST)
Check schedule and episode guide
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