Murdoch Mysteries -- The Canadian police series "Murdoch Murders," based on the novels of Maureen Jennings, has three things going for it. The setting is the Toronto of the last years of the 19th century. The hero, Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson), has the ability to stand in a crime scene and picture in his mind what took place. And third, in the early episodes, he practically invents forensic investigation, as well as early-looing versions of devices familiar to us today.
It is a good thing, then, that Acorn Media has re-released not only Seasons 1-4 but also the recent Season 5. Let me remind my readers of the general facts of the first four.
Murdoch is backed by his Watson-like young Constable Crabtree (Jonny Harris), the skeptical but surprisingly supportive (as time goes on) Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig), and the lovely female pathologist Dr. Julia Ogden (Helene Joy). Between her and Murdoch there is a barely concealed attraction.
It is hard to tell if the writers want the series to be taken as light police-genre entertainment or outright comedy. The 1890s Toronto settings are pleasant, it is fun to see Murdoch get around town on bicycle, and the period costumes and attitudes (Murdoch and Ogden excepted) are appealing elements. At times, expressions are used (calling a suspect "Sunshine") that seem a bit too modern. And things get a little too tongue-in-cheek when historical
In fact, Season 5 finds that tongue way past the cheek in an episode in which an invention convention includes a device called i-Mail in which a typed message can be sent over a phone line. Enough! Now things are getting silly.
Murdoch’s "affair" with Ogden was pretty much over in Series 4, when she moved out of Toronto to be with her new husband. So when she returns briefly in Season 5, she trains a young and perky Dr. Emily Grace (Georgina Reilly) to replace her in the dissection room. But Crabtree is smitten and ... well, no spoilers at this point.
A new villain appears in the person of Chief Constable Giles (Nigel Bennett), a man more concerned with how the police look to the public than with solving crimes. (How many police series have his type?)
The episodes are about 45 minutes each, the picture is in 16:9 format, and there are always welcome subtitles.
Drood -- During its original run in 1987, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" had a name change to merely "Drood" when it because popular enough and won five Tony awards. I remember seeing it on Broadway (when one singer’s body mike stopped working, and we heard at least one human voice that evening).
I thought it was silly stuff, using as it did a framework of the show being done in a theater within the theater and having the audience vote for the murderer (since Dickens never finished the novel). An original cast recording came out with 21 tracks on a single CD. Now the score to the off-Broadway revival has been put on a two-CD set from DRG, holding 32 tracks in all.
I still think it is silly stuff, with its music, lyrics and book all by Rupert Holmes. No doubt, I would enjoy seeing the production; but just hearing it is another matter. It tries, I feel, too hard to be friendly. Most of the songs are over-delivered, almost as if to compensate for the lack of original lyrics or memorable music. I tried -- and gave up -- to find one "good" song, in the sense of "The Man I Love," "This Can’t be Love" and "My Funny Valentine" being "good" songs, the first for its musical magic, the second for its clever lyrics, and the third for both.
The program notes are printed in that eye-straining white on black and nearly unreadable red on black (what is the matter with the designers?). It gives the cast names but not the parts they play. The leads are listed as Andy Karl, Jessie Mueller, Betsy Wolfe, Nicholas Barasch, Peter Benson and Robert Creighton. A synopsis (if one can read it) is provided, but no lyrics.
For Drood lovers and the curious.
Frank Behrens reports on classical and Broadway music as well as recordings of books and plays for the Arts & Entertainment section.