Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Canadian TV - Mysteries

The other day I started a thread on my Mystery group page in Goodreads. I had just finished watching the latest Murdoch Mysteries and a new mystery series on CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), Pure. It made me start thinking of some of the excellent Canadian TV mystery series that are on now and have been on in the past. Hence my post on the Mystery site.

So since it's a bit quiet at the moment, as the missus is entertaining a friend, I thought I'd continue the discussion on my BLog.

Jo and I do love a good mystery. We have enjoyed many US series, especially the Law & Order franchise, but so many others have attracted our interest. We obviously enjoy British mysteries, Jo being English and all that. They tend to offer a different perspective than the US shows. For one thing, there are quite a few period type mystery series; Sherlock, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, etc. As well, there are a mix of nice cozy mysteries; Hamish MacBeth, Agatha Raisin, Midsomer Murders and much more gritty shows; Shetland, Rebus, Silent Witness. There have been British shows that have been transplanted in North America, such as Broadchurch and Prime Suspect, with varying degrees of success. The US shows just don't seem to have the same sensibilities as the UK versions. Having said that we both enjoyed the Maria Bello version of Prime Suspect; it was sufficiently different from the Helen Mirren version to make it unique in its own right. It was unfortunate it was cancelled.

Of course, we're lucky here in Canada to get quite a few Australian and New Zealand mystery shows. fondly remember enjoying Halifax FP back in the day, which starred the lovely Rebecca Gibney. But more recently, we've had shows such as Dr Blake Mysteries, Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries (starring Essie Davies), Janet King, a legal mystery starring Marta Dusseldorp (also star of another favourite series, A Place To Call Home). The Australians also have their own unique style, rougher maybe and more down to earth. The Americans have tried to transplant Secrets and Lies, starring Juliet Lewis and while it's had two seasons in the US, we enjoyed the Australian version more.

Anyway, on to my main topic, Canadian mystery series. It's only been in recent years that I've really noticed the quality of the many Canadian shows that Jo and I have enjoyed so much. I don't recall any mysteries made in Canada that I watched growing up. The closest would be a kid's show, The Forest Rangers, which was more of an adventure series than a true mystery.

One of the first big shows that I recall was Street Legal and that ran from 87 - 94, starring the lovely Cynthia Dale and Sonja Smits, amongst others. It was a legal drama set in Toronto and was very popular, offering a Canadian perspective of the legal system. If you'd like to see a clip of a show to get a feel for it, click on this link.

Around the same time frame was a more humorous series about a newspaper reporter who had visions of murders and became involved solving the crimes. Seeing Things ran from 1981 - 1987 and starred Louis del Grande as Louis Ciccone, intrepid news reporter, who also had to deal with issues from his ex-wife and a budding relationship with Crown prosecutor Janet Redfern. It was an excellent and funny series. There are episodes on You Tube if you want to try and get a feel for the show.

Howard Engel created the wonderful character, Bennie Cooperman, a Jewish private eye who lived near Niagara Falls and was involved in a number of fun, interesting cases. In 1985 and 1986, two of the Bennie Cooperman mysteries were made into TV movies; Murder Sees the Light and The Suicide Murders. The movies starred Saul Rubinek as Bennie Cooperman and he did a wonderful job as the hapless detective. As with most good things, the movies are available on You Tube. The link to The Suicide Murders is available by clicking on the title of the show. (Of course, the books are also excellent)

Please recognise that I might jump around here with my suggestions and recommendations for Canadian shows. Some I didn't watch until reruns. Showcase is an excellent source for reruns of some of these Canadian series, that have become favourites of ours.

Cold Squad ran from 1998 - 2005 and, while I won't say that the US show, Cold Case, had any basis on this Canadian series, they do have a similar concept, that being a police unit specialising in solving cold cases. The Canadian series starred Julie Stewart, who ran the unit and various other detectives moved in and out of the show over its 7 year run, including Michael Hogan and Matthew Bennett. It's a show that I came to upon my move out to the West Coast and it had been running for 3 or 4 years by then. Jo used to watch in the mornings on Showcase as I was at work. It helped her acclimatize to our Canadian culture somewhat, watching a unique Canadian crime show. Episodes are available on You Tube. I've linked to a promo for the show.

Blue Murder ran from 2001 to 2004 and was a crime show about Toronto cops investigating murders in the city. The series also went through a number of actors who worked in the squad, including Mimi Kuzyk, who played the deputy police, for the whole series. Joel Keller was the only other who stayed for the whole series, but you also would find Jeremy Ratchford, Maria del Mar, Kari Matchett, amongst others. It was edgy and excellent.

Da Vinci's Inquest was one of our all-time favourite series. It ran from 1998 - 2006 and was based on the stories of ex-cop Dominic Da Vinci who becomes Vancouver's coroner. It had a uniquely Canadian feel to it, the dialogue, the pacing, the stories. It could be very gritty, especially when it dealt with the subject of the missing prostitutes, based on a true, horrific story. Da Vinci was played by Nicholas Campbell and he was excellent. When the series was cancelled, a follow-on series was made, Da Vinci's City Hall, in which Da Vinci became mayor of Vancouver; art based on reality. This show was every bit as good as the first, especially as it delved into the politics and wheeling and dealing involved in running a major Canadian city. I've linked to the excellent theme for the show. It establishes the mood of the series so very well. Just watching that theme brings back so many excellent memories of the series. It had everything, excellent characters, fantastic stories, good cops, bad cops, politics. Definitely one of the best shows you will ever see on TV.

Now on to some newer shows.

I think I have to start this with King. It's unfortunate that this series was only on the air for two seasons. It starred Amy Price Francis as Jessica King, a Toronto police officer who has just taken over the Major Crime Task Force. King is a force to be reckoned with, smart, edgy, with great hair (it was always amazing how it could change from the most fantastic red to black depending on the lighting) and fantastic boots. She had a wonderful team and interesting relationships and issues. But there was no doubt that she was there to solve crime and would do what was necessary to do so. It was so unfortunate when it didn't get renewed after the 2nd season as Price Francis is a wonderful actress who deserves more work. Here is a link to a scene from one episode.

Republic of Doyle has been one of CBC's most popular shows since its inception in 2010. Feature the location, St. John's Nfld; a handsome, but sometimes hapless private detective, Jake Doyle, played with style by Alan Hawco, who runs a private agency with his dad, Malachi, in a style very reminiscent to that of Jim Rockford and you've got the makings of a rollicking good show. The scenery is fantastic, the rugged rock of Nfld, entertaining characters and fun stories with lots of action and romance and there you have the makings of a successful series. Alan Hawco plays Doyle with similar energy and style as James Garner played Jim Rockford and he has the same rugged good looks. Heck, he even has a similar ring tone on his phone to that of Rockford's phone in the opening sequence of The Rockford Files. But, with all the similarities, the show still has its own unique qualities and is a great showcase for Nfld's best actors. Here is a link to the 2nd show of the series.

Flashpoint was a CTV (one of Canada's other major networks) show and one that translated well to the US. It was about a tactical response team who worked as part of Toronto's police force and starred Enrico Colantoni and Hugh Dillon. It ran from 2008 - 2012 and, for Jo and I, was must-see TV. Besides the action and interesting crime stories, as with most excellent Canadian series, you got to know the characters, their lives, the situations. It is always more important than just a crime show. When you find yourself in tears at certain episodes, you know that it's touched a chord inside you. The actors were excellent and they worked together so very well. Here is a link to one episode to give you the feel for the show.

Murdoch Mysteries is a TV series based on the excellent mysteries by Maureen Jennings. It's a show that has gone through various transformations. Originally it was made into a series of TV movies, starring Peter Outerbridge as Detective William Murdoch. The mini-series featured 3 of Jennings' books; Except the Dying, Poor Tom is Cold and Under the Dragon's Tale. The movies ran 2004 - 2005 and they definitely were much edgier than the follow-on TV series that still runs today. Yannic Bisson took over as William Murdoch in 2008 and still acts as Detective Murdoch as it moves into its 10th season. The show started on City TV and then was bought by CBC and they have kept if moving along very nicely. It's a lovely show, with great characters and fun stories. It can be both humorous or edgy which makes it even more interesting. Murdoch's love interest, Helene Joy, who plays Dr Julia Ogden, the city coroner, is one person who acted in both the original movies and the TV series. She had a major role in Under the Dragon's Tail. There are so many nice touches to Murdoch mysteries. Every episode Murdoch or his partner in crime, Constable Crabtree, invent something with ramifications for today's culture and we always enjoy the explanations and names they come up with for their inventions. It's such a fun show and we have loved watching the characters grow and mature with their characters. Below is a link to the first episode if you wish to get a flavour for the show.

19-2 is one of the edgiest crime shows that Jo and I have enjoyed. Originally a French language show, it is set in Montreal and focuses on Station 19 of the Montreal police department. The other numbers are the call signs of the individual patrol units. This is cop drama at its edgiest. We see all the rough edges, from alcoholism, broken relationships and bad cops. It's an enthralling look at the police and the work they have to do. This show has provided us with one of the most intense episodes of any show I've seen. It involved a school shooting, was shown without commercial break and followed the cops as the move through the school trying to save kids and teachers and also find the shooters. We sat on the edge of our seats for the whole episode and I think we barely breathed for the whole hour. Quite a different show, well worth watching. This is the link to this show. I will warn you, it is very powerful. Just watching a few minutes has brought it back to me.

Private Eyes had its first run this past year and starred Jason Priestley, as ex-hockey player and budding Private Eye, Matt Shade and Cindy Sampson as Private Eye Angie Everett as his mentor and new boss. It's a very fun series and it's one that I hope will return for a second season. Jason Priestley is likable and excellent as Matt, dealing with his ex-hockey career, trying to raise a daughter alone as his wife left him and also dealing with a possible budding relationship with the talented Cindy Sampson. No indications if there will be a second season but I sure hope their is. This is a link to the show opener (with the song by Hall and Oates).

So what other shows can I tease you with?

Let's move on to some of the new shows that are making their way to our televisions.

Pure is a new show on CBC that started two weeks ago. It's got such a unique premise. It's set in Mennonite country in Ontario. It involves a Mennonite 'mafia' lead by the ever present Peter Outerbridge who are in the business of smuggling drugs from Mexico through the US to Canada. The newly promoted Pastor of the Mennonite community is told that he must bring peace back to the community and he finds himself caught between the local police, his community and the mob, which is quite scary. The first two episodes have been intriguing. I can't wait to see how it resolves. This is a trailer for the show. Interesting, eh?

There are two more shows that haven't started yet but both look very interesting.

Mary Kills People starts Jan 25 and stars Caroline Dhavernas, of Wonder Falls fame, as Mary Harris, an ER doctor by day and an angel of mercy by night. It sounds interesting. Time will tell if it's a show that attracts our attention.  This is a trailer for the show.

Bellevue was just advertised the other night. I know nothing about it really except it will star Anna Paquin. It does have a spooky, creepy look to it. This is the trailer for it. Does it look interesting?

So there you go. My briefest synopsis of Canadian mystery television. I know I've missed many more excellent shows. But I hope these might have piqued your interest.

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