Thursday, August 29, 2013

More about "Murdoch Mysteries," aka "The Artful Detective"

The Artful Detective/Murdoch Mysteries
Starring Yannick Bisson, Helene Joy, Thomas Craig, Jonny Harris and Georgina Reilly
(Ovation, CBC)

     When you discover a new TV show you love, you can now binge on episodes by buying or renting the DVDs, or occasionally by watching a season at a time On Demand. But in the days before whole series were readily available on DVDs, in states that border Canada at least, you could sometimes see two or more episodes a week by watching them on U.S. and Canadian TV channels ... if you weren't too hung up on watching them in chronological order anyway. That's how I watched The Sandbaggers, a British spy series. Our PBS station began broadcasting the show, I got hooked, and then noticed CBC was also showing the series, and was a season or two ahead. This caused some mystery and worry when a character from Season One was not in Season Three.
     A month ago, as I've posted before, the Ovation cable channel began showing Season One episodes of Murdoch Mysteries (inspired by the novels of Maureen Jennings), two episodes each Saturday, under the title The Artful Detective. I quickly became hooked on the show, set in Toronto in the late 1890s, featuring historical personages as characters and cutting edge (sometimes futuristic) criminal forensics methods and technology. Since this was a retitling of Murdoch Mysteries, which my research showed was due to air a seventh season on CBC in September, I thought it possible that CBC was currently showing reruns of earlier seasons, and they were: seasons five and six, anyway (the first four seasons were originally on a different network).
     Episodes I've seen so far have featured Nikola Tesla -- who was preparing to harness Niagara Falls to produce his alternating current, viciously opposed by Thomas Edison (who attempted to discredit AC by using it to electrocute dogs) -- and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who at the time had given up on writing Sherlock Holmes and was beginning to support Spiritualism. Another episode -- somewhat facetiously but with a straight face -- featured an assassination/murder using language and situations closely modeled on JFK conspiracy theories (including the episode's title: "Back and to the Left"), and another that depicts the turn-of-the-century fears of anarchists in similar terms to today's "War on Terror."
     So far I've been able to watch four -- sometimes five -- episodes a week: two from season one (Saturday evenings on Ovation), one from season five (late night Tuesdays on CBC) and one from season six (Monday evenings on CBC).
     The problem with such viewings is that you don't see the episodes in chronological order, so the Ovation viewer will be left to wonder why and how the characters and the relationships between the characters had shifted radically -- and, in one case, why and how Dr. Julia Ogden's hair color had changed to blond (a fact which is distracting my wife to no end).
     Of course, the first five seasons are available to buy or rent (and season six should soon be out, too), along with The Murdoch Mysteries Movie Collection -- three pre-TV series TV films based on Maureen Jennings' William Murdoch novels with completely different casts -- and all seven of Jennings' Murdoch novels are also in print. That should keep me busy for a while.
     Season seven begins Sept. 30 on CBC.


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