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Dead Still Season One Streaming on Acorn-TV

IN THE July 11 ISSUE

FROM THE 2020 Articles,
andKathleen Costa,
andMysteryrat's Maze,
andTV
SECTIONS

by Kathleen Costa

I continue to find enjoyment using my streaming choice, AcornTV. It is a very reasonable monthly or annual membership fee, especially considering all the options available. The quality is excellent whether accessing one’s library through a computer, tablet, or smartphone. So what do I feel like watching today? If I need a laugh, I check out the variety of comedies: All in Good Faith or Executive Suites. If I want a classic mystery, I check out the variety of Agatha Christie adaptations. If I want edgy, I check out police and courtroom dramas: Line of Duty or No Offense. If I want to explore a topic or learn something new, I check out the eclectic documentary library: Digging for Britain or A Stitch in Time. But, what about you? Do you “hanker” a Feature Films, Foreign Language, Summer Escapes, or International Thrillers? AcornTV’s got you covered!

AcornTV offers me the opportunity to try new things, too: genres, styles, locations, and casting. I was pleasantly surprised by the comedy White Teeth, the forensic drama Balthazar, two documentaries on Egypt, a favorite topic, Nile and Alexandria, the Greatest City, and most recent I was surprised by the six-episode first season of AcornTV Original Dead Still.

Dead Still is a mystery crime drama, with a bit of comic wit and a unique and fascinating “macabre” twist. Set in 1880s Dublin, Ireland, the drama follows a well-regarded photographer in the field of memorial portraiture, a type of post-mortem photography popular in Victorian times. Families commissioned photographers specializing in “mourning photography” in order to memorialize the recently deceased, a bit “macabre” by today’s standards. The subjects varied in ages from newborn to senior citizen or manner of departing from accident to disease, and often were posed as if sleeping or sitting respectfully, or in, literally, a final family portrait. But, photography was a newish art form and cameras were not readily available for people to chronicle every aspect of their lives, so memorializing one’s family provided a family record for descendants. What might you find in your family album?

YouTube: AcornTV Original—Dead Still Official Trailer (1:01)

Dead Still earns 5+/5 Mourning Photos…Fascinating and Engaging Mystery!
Brock Blennerhasset (Michael Smiley), is quite a brusque figure, meticulous and obsessively independent with his art and considered a pioneer in the daguerreotype process and his style of arranging and photographing grieving families’ dearly departed. However, business is waning since equipment is slowly becoming more affordable, photography studios of all sorts are opening, and customers have greater choice. Miss Nancy Vickers (Eileen O’Higgins), Blennerhasset’s niece, has come to stay with him hoping to gain some independence from her family and experience on her path to becoming an actress. She is bold, smokes, a bit out of-touch in her understanding of other classes, and has attracted the interest of Percy Cummins (Mark Rendall). The grave digger, young Conall Molloy (Kerr Logan), is an admirer of Blennerhasset’s photographs, a brilliant sketch artist, and as he is looking for a new line of work, offers himself as an assistant. The three soon find memorializing the dead is a “deadly” business.

Blennerhasset has blundered by misplacing the photo plate of his recent commission. He returns to the client’s home, with the story of a lost lens cap, and is greeted by Detective Frederick Regan (Aidan O’Hare) investigating a break in. Regan admires Blennerhasset’s talent with the camera, and challenged by his sergeants poor drawing skills, it seems prudent to “ask [Blennerhasset] expertise on a matter.” An underground trade in racy and more visceral photos has come out during a murder investigation he describes as “a queer one.” The victim he observed seem posed much like in Blennerhasset’s photographs. He sees a future in crime scene photography, but approaching Blennerhasset gains little since he won’t work without compensation. However, it is all much worse, intended, murderous, and too close to Blennerhasset…”I trusted someone I shouldn’t have.”

BRILLIANT! This first season was a pleasant surprise, witty and engaging. There’s always a difficulty to manage: a husband demanding a photo of his late wife sans her family, a young boy who tragically passed…maybe, thugs and kidnappings, ghost photography at a seance, an album of ill repute, and a killer with all the cards. And although the reveal of the serial killer is a WOW! and perilous moment, the final murder, the letter, the offer, and Blennerhasset’s expression has to mean a second season.

The casting was spot on; each actor portrayed the personalities well, physically and in tone, and I love the variety of Irish brogues. The dynamic between uncle and niece is quite complex. They have both been “mocked” by the family for their quirks, and Nancy holds a bit of anger for her uncle who engaged her imagination as a child, then disappeared without a word. But, they are cohabitating and trying to find common ground; he is saying “Thank you-s” and “I am sorry-s” more often. Malloy hopes to better himself, learning the intricacies of being a photographer, and the connection with Nancy is clear…deep friendship or more, only a second season will tell. Detective Regan is not bumbling, he wants the “big cases,” has foresight into the future use of photography in investigations, drops several “F” bombs, and has a wife (Aoife Duffin) who is a great sounding board if not better at deductive reasoning than him. But he is running afoul of his superiors and a grander conspiracy….one from which all of the characters will be hard pressed to survive.

“Let’s See What Develops”
AcornTV also provided a [1:00:05] Behind-the-Scenes look into the making of Dead Still. Members of the production and performance team offer insights into many facets starting with the conception of the premise using memorial photography as the seed for a Victorian murder mystery. It was important to set the show apart from other British period pieces, focusing closely on what makes Irish…Irish! Further insights are provided about casting, the locations in and around Dublin (how many different locations can you create out of one estate?), the craft wagon (feed ‘em well), layering of period costuming (wool and not another corset!), props, facial hair, favorite scenes, and friendships. Lots of fun!

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Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also check our our new mystery podcast! A new episode went up this week.

Kathleen Costa is a long-time resident of the Central Valley, and although born in Idaho, she considers herself a “California Girl.” Graduating from CSU-Sacramento, she is a 35+ year veteran teacher having taught in grades 1-8 in schools from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Stockton to Lodi. Currently Kathleen is enjoying her retirement revitalizing hobbies along with exploring writing, reading for pleasure, and spending 24/7 with her husband.

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