A Letter to the Creators of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, with Disclaimer

DISCLAIMER: Netflix has been monitoring my email and due to my importance as a customer, they’ve immediately added Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries to Canadian Netflix as of June 1, 2015. 

To the creators of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries,

I am writing to you today because I love your show. I love watching the adventures and exploits of Phryne Fisher (played with unwavering pizzazz by Essie Davis), solving mysteries while impeccably dressed in jazz-soaked 1920’s Australia. I love that Phryne is independently wealthy and just decides one day that detective work would be fun. I love that Phryne is a collector of people, like Bert and Cec, the drivers/working class thugs/dock workers (I really don’t know how they earn their keep); or Dot, the timid and shy young woman who becomes Phryne’s maid/confidant; or the Little Orphan Annie-type kid that Phryne adopts who disappears for long stretches whenever convenient to the plot; or the many, many men that come in and out of Phryne’s life and bed. All of whom Phryne uses to help her solve mysteries. It is the perfect show to watch during the summer months and, since we are finally having a semblance of warm weather here in the arctic tundra known as Winnipeg, I’ve been devouring the first season. The show is fluffy and fizzy and feminist and I love it. Almost everything you need to know about the show can be summed up by this promotional photograph:

About

YES.

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After All These Long Years: The Last Words of Justified

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Two men sit across from each other, glass separating them, talking on telephones – one a lawman and one a long sought-after criminal. The lawman, Raylan, has just informed the criminal, Boyd, that a woman that they once both loved died in a car accident. This is a lie and Raylan tells it to protect this woman, Ava, knowing that if Boyd ever gets out of prison, he’ll go after her because she double-crossed him – to murder her, or to reunite with her, we don’t know for sure. Likely the former but probably the latter. And then we get the words that end Justified, a very good if inconsistent show about, among other things, two men pitted against each other since, seemingly, time began or at least before they were born. We get some fine words for us to ponder as the show goes off into the sunset. Not the shoot-out between Raylan and Boyd that so many wanted and that the show had been teasing. No, instead, we get these words. Two men talking.

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We Took a Break

We took a break.

We got busy and we were tired and we all have demanding jobs and excuses, excuses, excuses.

There was a time when this blog didn’t exist at all and a time when we weren’t writing as regularly as we all do now and it would be easy enough to stop and go back to that. But we all decided to not let that happen. Taking a break is one thing but letting something good just fizzle out would be a true disappointment.

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Happy Valley: The best new series that I almost missed in 2014

The first thing that happens in Happy Valley is an introduction of character (by said character) that throws the whole “show don’t tell” ethos out the window. Catharine Cawood (the tremendous Sarah Lancashire, who the entire show hinges around, the standout in a uniformly good cast), a police sergeant in Yorkshire, is called to the scene where a young man, down on his luck, has doused himself in gasoline in a playground and is threatening to light himself on fire. Catherine introduces herself to the man saying, “I’m Catherine, by the way. I’m forty-seven. I’m divorced. I live with my sister, who’s a recovering heroin addict. I’ve two grown-up children – one dead, one who don’t speak to me – and a grandson. So.” And we are off and running. But what is strange here is that Happy Valley, after Catherine’s speech and the promise of being a by the book, heart-on-sleeve cop show, is much more a show about the way that violence, grief and guilt can turn people inward, can shut them down and turn them off. Catherine’s openness to this man in the opening moments of the show is a bit of a red herring to the rest of the output, and the show is all the better for it. Continue reading

Channel Surfing #4: My Week in TV – Gravity Falls, Sharon Van Etten, Reign

A quick collection of things that I’m finding fascinating, frustrating and fun on TV this past week. 

What’s happening on Gravity Falls?

Normally, when I do a round of Channel Surfing, I start by bemoaning that a once loved show has started showing signs of decay. This time I’m going to start by celebrating an already delightful show for steadily improving from its first season to its second. Gravity Falls is an animated series created by Alex Hirsch that airs on the Disney Channel (or Disney XD – the Disney conglomerate has a weird way of airing TV shows, sometimes months will go by without new episodes airing at all and sometimes an episode airs on one channel and then the next episode airs on the other – but I digress). Yes, it’s a kid’s show but it’s a kid’s show that has been heavily inspired by adult material: The Simpsons (most notably and obviously), Twin Peaks, The X-Files, old B-movies, among others. The show surrounds the Pines twins, Dipper and Mabel, who have come to stay with their old, bitter great-uncle, Grunkle Stan. Grunkle Stan owns and operates a tourist destination/hall of oddities called The Mystery Shack. You see, lots of very strange things happen in the town of Gravity Falls and Grunkle Stan intends to make a few bucks off of all the weirdness. The twins get thrown right into the thick of it, living and working at the Mystery Shack, solving mysteries, happening upon gnomes and monsters and clues and cyphers on an daily basis. The strangeness of Gravity Falls becomes a kind of new normal for the kids and they grow to love the town as much as they grow to love Stan. At the end of season one, they decide to stick around.

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The Truth is Not In Here: Memory on Serial and The Affair

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What if memory is a prison? When we think back, we are constantly tripping over our own perception of the truth and circling around what was. What if we are constantly trying to unlock a door that did not exist in the first place? The truth and memory are on two parallel roads. If they intersect it is a miracle. And maybe we don’t want them to.

(A note here about what’s below. I know this is a TV blog but you’ll forgive me for a moment while I discuss a podcast).

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Where Do We Go From Here?: Innovation (and lack thereof) on The Knick

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When I began watching The Knick, Steven Soderbergh’s prestige drama about The Knickerbocker Hospital in 1900’s New York City, I thought it would be the last show that I would be writing about, let alone thinking about on a daily basis. The show was dry, save for the litres of blood and guts spilled during the show’s obligatory operating room scenes (it’s not for the squeamish); the characters were cliché, save the one character, Algernon Edwards, that the audience was bound to love from the start because of his “underdoggedness”; the show was in almost all respects, aside from its beautiful look, cinematography and terrific score (the best on television) boring and bruising, a chore to get through. The Knick is positioned as a traditional hospital drama and it feels like a lot of other hospital dramas, at least early on. But then something strange happened. In episode 4, “Where’s the Dignity”, the show left me transfixed. For all of its “prestige”, for all of the moments that strived to say, “this is IMPORTANT” and “don’t I look beautiful?”, I was able to get a read on what the show was actually about. The Knick – at its bloody beating heart – is a show about the way move forward. It’s about revolution.

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