Monday, June 4, 2012

Murdoch Mysteries: Life Without CSI

The fascination with the Victorian thriller Murdoch Mysteries lies in hero Yannick Bisson's attempts to solve murders without any of the CSI paraphernalia available a modern TV detective.
Season 5 of the well made series premieres on Citytv Wed. June 6 at 10 p.m.
For any Canadian TV drama to hit five seasons constitutes a huge accomplishment in itself. After all CBC's This Is Wonderland and The Border both lasted three seasons.
Being Erica hit four seasons while Intelligence and the recently shuttered King both notched two seasons.
And it's even more noteworthy because MM has not as yet notched that all important sale to the U.S. although I'm predicting it will surely land one day on PBS stations.
Just for the record I started covering Inspector Murdoch when he was still being played by actor Peter Outerbridge in an occasional series of TV series.
But Outerbridge made these TV flicks when he was otherwise involved in the winter  months starring in another Shaftesbury Films effort  the sci fi series Regenesis so Yannick Murdoch was hired.
Bisson and I go back, way back to the time as a precocious teenager I interviewed him on the set of the 1984 CBC TV flick Hockey Night. He was just 15 there and today he's 43 still looking mighty boyish.
I was always impressed by Bisson's stillness as an actor --and his survivability. He's co-starred in the series Brothers By Choice (1986),  Learning The Ropes (1988), Gold (1991), High Tide (1994), Nothing Too Good For A Cowboy (1999), Undergrads (2001), Soul Food (2000), Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye (2002).
I made sure I visited the Toronto set just before the series version hit Citytv. I was given a tour of the impressive police precinct with its cells, autopsy rooms and interview places. I met the harassed designers who had to ensure all the Victorian garb was period perfect even if it meant sweltering in heavy wool suits on a humid summer day.
Executive producer Christina Jennings has cagily imported British guest stars to ensure that all important sale to British TV. But as with Regenesis she did not feel pressured into making a quick sale to U.S. TV. That will come --already 65 episodes have been stockpiled.
One person of note I interviewed that day was the author of the original novels, Maureen Jennings who filled me in on the key differences between the books and the series.
Weeks later while vacationing with her husband in Florida she was swept out to sea by a high tide and only the quick intervention of her husband saved her.
Season 5 finds Murdoch banished to the Yukon territory --it's now 1899 and the fabled Gold Rush is already over. Murdoch deliberately shielded a woman suspected of murder and the love of his life Dr. Julia Ogden (Helene Joy) married another --twin reasons for getting out of town.
Determined to rebuild his life Murdoch is drawn into the case of Mrs. Elizabeth Bryant played by Jill Halpenny from Coronation Street. Lending his help is a budding writer played by Aaron Ashmore but I'll not reveal his identity here.
But remember true life personages have popped up on MM before from Buffalo Bill to H.G. Wells to Queen Victoria.
A subplot stars Constable Giles (Nigel Bennett) trying to make do to Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig) that Murdoch's replacement Detective Crabtree (Jonny Harris) just isn't up to scratch.
The Yukon adventure is exciting, the Toronto scenes seem tacked on.
Citytv says this season will see Murdoch involved in intrigue over the invention of the electric car and solving a murder involving a traveling opera company (with Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman starred).
Telefilm Canada usually ceases funding after a Canadian series hits five seasons but Inspector Murdoch has been saved by CBC which has optioned a sixth season to start up in the fall.
MY RATING: *** 1/2

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