Alibi Monday, February 4, 9pm
Does anybody remember going to a theme park where one of the many attractions on offer was a live performance show? No idea what I’m talking about? Ok then, a story: in the 1990s, I visited Derbyshire’s (now defunct) The American Adventure, where, in keeping with the premise of the park, guests could witness a ‘Gunfight at the OK Corral’-type show.
Staged in what, from my hazy memory at least, was a fairly decent recreation of a street from the Wild West, complete with a saloon and big barrels (big barrels!), jobbing actors dressed in cowboy garb pretended to blow one another away with six-shooters and rifles. It was all tremendous fun for a young inbetweener, as well as a good chance to recover from the fairly insane backwards rollercoaster that The American Adventure had back then.
Why is this relevant? Well, at first glance The Murdoch Mysteries has the same quality as a theme park show. Its sets look like sets, the costumes look like they’ve come fresh from the props store and the acting is not much better. Everyone’s delivery seems slightly too dramatic and hammed-up, as if they are trying to project to a live audience.
Clad in these immaculate costumes, the actors themselves are so clean and polished it’s as if they’ve just walked in off the set of a US (or in this case, Canadian) soap, donned ye olde garb and got down to work. Given that The Murdoch Mysteries is set in 1890s Toronto, the effect is a little jarring.
All of which would be a problem, if the show itself wasn’t such a hoot, clearly penned by writers whose tongues are kept permanently pressed to their cheeks, but nevertheless share a passion for concise yet ripping yarns.
Based around the exploits of gifted detective William Murdoch, it’s part historical CSI, part back to the past Sherlock. The show may tip its bowler hat to certain historical accuracies – this episode, the first of the sixth season, alluded to a certain gastronomic invention known as the ‘hot hamburger’ – but it plays fast and loose with the limitations of the period in which it is set. So in addition to the burger, which did actually come to prominence around the time, we also got a rudimentary bugging device, a tranquiliser dart gun and the first powered flying
machine, several years before the Wright brothers managed such a feat of invention in 1903.
When it’s this fun though, who cares? Especially when the villains of the piece turn out to be those dastardly Americans just across the border. And any show that name-checks Nikola Tesla is OK with me…