by Kathleen Costa
The streaming options of Acorn-TV and BritBox are excellent opportunities to enjoy U.K. detective programs, but not everyone has the equipment, and although very reasonable, can’t justify purchasing a membership. For those people, there are still avenues to explore beyond network television. There are always local PBS stations (For me, KVIE Sacramento/Stockton or KQED San Francisco) providing weekly doses of high quality programming like Vera, Inspector Morse, Inspector Lewis, Shetland, and the Morse prequel Endeavour. Additionally, there is OvationTV that first introduced me to some all-time favorites: Murdoch Mysteries, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and the new Frankie Drake Mysteries. Both of these options provide a great way for mystery and crime drama fans to get their fill!
Endeavour Season 6
PBS Masterpiece Mystery
The sixth season of Endeavour is finally here, and we find the team still reeling from the shocking murder of one of their own, split up, demoted, and seemingly lost. Eight months after the death of Detective Constable Fancy in a gangland shootout, the rumors of merging Oxford city and county stations into one Thames Valley Constabulary become real. The Cowely station is closed, and each member of the team has a choice…take what’s available or resign! The reality is each one accepts what constitutes as a demotion.
It’s 1969. The Cowely team is living with their new positions that are well below what their skill and experience would dictate. The former Police Chief Superintendant Reginald Bright (Anton Lesser) has been demoted and assigned to the traffic division. Formerly DCI Fred Thursday (Roger Allam), still dealing with the result of not being able to retire and his wife’s distance, is demoted to Detective Inspector and answering to the ethically-challenged DCI Robbie Box. DS Jim Strange (Sean Rigby) is doing mostly paperwork, but secretly compiling all the facts on the, now determined, suspicious murder of DC Fancy. And Morse (Shaun Evans), now sporting a mustache, is the lone uniformed Detective Constable at a country station dealing with a missing horse. Yes, life is very different, but in many ways it stays the same…loyalty, family, corruption…murder!
Let’s Hear Plenty of Hurrahs for the ‘stache! I have been a long-time fan of the Morse series starring the iconic John Thaw and eager to learn the history behind that man. This series continues to lay the foundation that we know spawned Inspector Morse. And as a nod to John Thaw, his talented daughter (Abigail Thaw) returns as the investigative reporter. But, when will he finally take possession of the iconic jaguar?
The sixth season was brilliant, and again I was thoroughly engaged with the writing, the ’60’s fashion, historical references, and all the compelling characters. From mustaches to bright colors and short skirts, from the moon landing to images based on the puppet show Fireball XL5, from the tragic murder of a young child to a missing school girl, from gossip and secrets to a final shocking revelation, these four 90-minute episodes were stupendous, and although I didn’t guess it, I am pleased that the cliffhanger mystery was resolved and justice served.
Check out this interesting interview with Shaun Evans about the new season of Endeavour on the Masterpiece Podcast.
Frankie Drake Mysteries
Frankie Drake Mysteries is the new gem transporting fans of cozy-style detective dramadies to 1920s Toronto. First aired in 2017 with eleven episodes, season two (2018) with ten episodes, and season three in production, the U.S. finally gets its turn on OvationTV with season one airing on Saturdays. With a production connection to Murdoch Mysteries, an iconic and personal favorite Canadian detective show, I had high hopes for this all-female cast. I was not disappointed with the similar mood, historical references, great fashions, and clever mysteries that have made me an eager fan!
It’s 1921. Francis “Frankie” Drake (Lauren Lee Smith) may own Drake: Private Detectives, the first female detective agency, working within the confines of the law, but her family history makes that ironic. Her father Ned Drake, dead these past ten years, had been a small con artist with whom Frankie as a child had had a small, very small, role. Whenever he needed a fake name for a job, she’d concoct one…always using a famous explorer. Frankie’s partner, Trudy Clark (Chantel Riley), adds her skill and an African-Canadian perspective to the storylines that include glimpses into race relations and prejudice. There is a law enforcement connection with morality officer Mary Shaw (Rebecca Liddiard) assisting with background, research, and the occasional flash of her identification, and Flo Chakowitz (Sharron Matthews), the plus-size coroner, is always ready to help beyond sharing autopsy and lab reports. Together they are formidable, humorous, and a kick “a##” team of women in the era of budding women’s rights.
YouTube – Frankie Drake Mysteries Trailer “The Women of Frankie Drake” (2:46)
Roarin’ ’20s North of the Border Deserves High Praise! To start, I always enjoy the clever puns in each episode title, and the program has a definite “cozy-style” mystery tone. The team usually happens upon a case through personal interest or a client seeking answers, and the case includes a suspicious death often determined as murder. The women work to find the answers with a few undercover roles, informal interrogations, deductive reasoning, and a few white lies. But, in the same vein as Murdoch Mysteries, the part that has fascinated me is the incorporating of historical figures and events. To name two notables, in season one, Ernest “Hemmie” Hemingway (Steve Lund) is an investigative reporter who actually worked for the Toronto Star Weekly, and Mack Sennett is a Canadian-American film actor, director, producer, and studio head. Also events like the Wall Street bombing in September 1920 and Canada’s prohibition history are used to add a bit of realism. Reminiscent of the Aussie gem Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, the fashion, the music, the cars, and the budding independence of women, are on full display!
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