by Kathleen Costa
How can I get those popular shows from Australia, Canada, the UK? Sometimes, well after a show has run its course or lacks popularity to be picked up by major US markets, a program might be aired on cable or local PBS. However, there may be a better way…streaming. A new way to provide entertainment is through online subscription networks that provide a wide-range of programming options for a reasonable fee. Several popular British shows are now streaming on ACORN-TV. According to their website, they stream, “…world-class mysteries, dramas, and comedies from Britain and beyond.” You can, “Binge-watch a classic series or discover your new favorite show among dozens of programs,” and “With thousands of hours of commercial-free programming and new shows added weekly, there’s always something to watch!” Through ACORN-TV, I spent a delightful weekend streaming the first half of the current tenth season of my favorite show from Canada, Murdoch Mysteries. Online streaming may become my new obsession.
If you are unaware of Murdoch Mysteries, it is set starting in 1895 and follows the investigations of Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) of the Toronto Constabulary. He is joined by his now wife and chief coroner Dr. Julia Ogden (Hélène Joy), Chief Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig), and Constable Crabtree (Jonny Harris). As a team they provide clever mysteries with more than a body or two, unique inventions and investigative methods, and a bit of Canadian history thrown in. The series is inspired by the novels of Maureen Jennings.
The clever mysteries, although sometimes unique to the turn of the twentieth century, are engaging and often include contemporary overtones. The first two episodes, “Great Balls of Fire,” had several eligible young debutants vying for the attention of a wealthy bachelor. Although “The Bachelor” did not present any roses, three murders piled up for the Murdoch team to investigate. Episode 7, “Painted Ladies,” explores ‘dating’ in the 1900s before dot/com sites, online connections, and digital ‘winks.’ People show interest by passing out “flirtation cards,” and if you share their interest, you accept the card. Unfortunately a ‘flirter’ is using cyanide-laced lip rouge to kill ‘flirtees.’ Episode 8, “Weekend at Murdoch’s,” revisits the movie “Weekend at Bernie’s” to catch a contract killer, and Episode 9, “Excitable Chap,” has a Jekyll and Hyde perspective of an energy formula containing guarana. Dr. Ogden may wear long dresses, Murdoch his hat and suit, and cars in their infancy, but the weaving of what we know to the society of then is very entertaining.
Detective Murdoch is well known for his clever, steampunk-style inventions. In previous seasons we saw lie detectors, tasers, a device detecting brainwaves, and investigative techniques that rival Sherlock Holmes. In the current season Murdoch invents the “Trackizer” that triangulates a person’s position, a turn-of-the-century GPS. Placing a magnetic device into the suspect’s shoe, the devices are able to locate them. This is very fortunate in Episode 3, “A Study in Pink,” when the suspect is about to become the victim. He also has perfected his lie detector, dubbed the “Truthizer,” and his mini ‘infrared’ torches to detect blood patterns. The inventions are often an entertaining side story, especially when a glitch arises or tries the patience of a more traditional detective, but they don’t seem out of place.
The most intriguing part of the Murdoch Mysteries is how a bit of history, a historical figure, or a contemporary issue is entwined into the fiction. Previous seasons threaded into the storyline McKinley’s assassination, an attempt on Roosevelt’s life, the Klondike Gold Rush, and the suffrage movement, along with visits from Harry Houdini, Nikola Tesla, Mark Twain, several well-known actors, scientists, and activists. Contemporary issues offered fodder for debating eugenics, homosexuality, suffrage, and class struggle along with all the nods to pop culture. In the current season, Episode 1, “Great Balls of Fire,” depicts the 1904 Great Fire of Toronto. Episode 6, “Bend It Like Brackenreid,” has the Galt Soccer Club prepping for the 1904 Summer Olympics in St Louis with a humorous nod to David Beckham’s ability to ‘bend’ the ball. In Episode 9 we learn about the gold medal earned by Toronto’s Galt Club over the US team. These references to events and people and nods to contemporary issues and pop culture greatly enrich the “Murdoch” experience.
Murdoch Mysteries has once again earned 5/5 Detective Shields! It is a delightful television show with a unique twist that has me hooked. I enjoy all of the pop culture references, excellent acting, and clever mysteries that sometimes weave through an entire season. I laugh. I cry. I cringe. I am intrigued and sent off to Google to explore more of the event, personality, or issue raised. ACORN-TV provided me a wonderful ‘binging’ opportunity with the first half of season ten which is only now airing on American television. But, they also have the previous nine seasons available to check out episodes I’ve yet to view and rewatch favorites.
I highly recommend this show and the upcoming tenth season streaming on ACORN-TV-all of the episodes for seasons 1-9 and episodes 1-3 for season 10 are currently available with more coming soon. If you aren’t yet a subscriber, check out their free trial. I also recommend revisiting my previous KRL review: The Artful Detective (aka Murdoch Mysteries). Do you want clever, thought-provoking, and engaging entertainment? Two words…Murdoch Mysteries!