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Murdoch Mysteries

1 rating: 3.0
A television show

Sherlock Holmes meets CSI in this period mystery series about in innovative detective working in Victorian Toronto. Detective Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) may eschew traditional crime-solving tactics, but he always seems to get his man. Relying on such untried … see full wiki

1 review about Murdoch Mysteries

Turn-of-the-century Detective William Murdoch: Not bad, but without the squalor or much depth

  • Sep 6, 2011
Poor William Murdoch. Will he ever get a fair shake in the casting department? He's a police detective in a number of turn-of the-century mysteries set in gas-lit Toronto written by Maureen Jennings. They are good books, well written, detailed and intricate, and Murdoch is a fine protagonist. He's reasonably well educated, worked rough before he became a policeman and is a Catholic in a very Protestant town which has a largely Protestant police force. Murdoch is convinced that beating a confession out of a suspect -- the usual way of solving a crime -- is not as effective as using deduction and the new scientific methods that are being talked about. He's thoughtful, sincere and shrewd. He's not the most popular copper at his station, but he grudgingly earns the respect of his superior and most of his colleagues.
The Murdoch Mysteries is the second attempt by Canadian producers to bring Murdoch to television. The first consisted of three 90-minute programs based on three of Jennings' books. Murdoch's impostor didn't look much like Jennings' description but he was a skilled actor. It all started well but quickly drifted down into melodrama, with Murdoch in the third program involved with a loving street prostitute. With that highly unlikely development, not in the books, the axe came down on the show.
Murdoch Mysteries showed up a couple of years later. It's a conventional television approach with thirteen one-hour mysteries in a season, with two seasons finished and production started on the third. My impression is that the television producers and writers are caught between trying to bring Murdoch and his times to life and having a hit in the ratings. The series, considering that no one in their right mind on this side of the Atlantic is about to spend the kind of budget the BBC used to on production values for a series, looks good enough to be satisfying. The pressure of cranking out 13 mysteries a year is evident in stories that don't leave much time for character development or in plotting mysteries that are complex and don't cheat. The squalor and social injustice Maureen Jennings writes about are largely missing. The writers try for humor by frequently having Murdoch, who loves to apply science to solve crimes, make innocently ironic comments about how such and such an advance - the auto, ballistics, alternating current - might or might not be good for future generations. It's a bit of shtick that wears thin.
The weakness, for me, once more lies in the casting of Murdoch. Yannick Bisson is an extremely handsome actor who got his start doing television commercials and then moved into acting. He's past 40 but looks younger, with eyes that probably make his lady fans swoon. His eyebrows sometimes have a life of their own. He's not a big man and he has a somewhat light voice. He can play serious but there's not a great deal of gravitas about him. Don't get me wrong; he's not a bad actor. But Murdoch requires a fine actor who can combine thoughtfulness, curiosity, some quiet humor and authority. He's also a man who can handle himself well in a brawl. Bisson, whose career has mainly been in television, reminds me of all those interchangeable and handsome Hollywood television actors who luck out in popular series. He's better than they are, but he doesn't carry much actorly weight.
If you like historical mysteries, I recommend trying out this series. It's nowhere near as gripping and detailed as, say, Holmes and Poirot. It doesn't have the character development and cleverness of Marple. The programs are a pleasant way to spend an hour at home. By all means, however, get the books and really delve into the crimes and squalor of William Murdoch's world of murder and injustice. 
Turn-of-the-century Detective William Murdoch: Not bad, but without the squalor or much depth Turn-of-the-century Detective William Murdoch: Not bad, but without the squalor or much depth Turn-of-the-century Detective William Murdoch: Not bad, but without the squalor or much depth Turn-of-the-century Detective William Murdoch: Not bad, but without the squalor or much depth

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