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A lifeless series garnished with a generous portion of cheese.

DVD Review: Murdoch Mysteries – Season One

With reboots being the “in” thing to do in film and television, our neighbors in Canada saw fit to team with their cousins in the U.K. to create a new, younger, edgier version of an acclaimed telefilm series from that began in 2004. Murdoch Mysteries: Season One takes us back to Toronto, Canada circa the late 1800s — a time when electricity was just starting to work its way into businesses and homes. Of course, no matter what era you find yourself in, there is one element always on the move: crime. And, in an expanding metropolis like Toronto, crime and murder often walk hand in bloody hand.

Our hero of the story, William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) is an inspector with the city’s Fourth Precinct. Younger than many of his fellow detectives, Murdoch is an avid fan of the world of technology, which is expanding around him. Soon, machines may be used to help solve crimes; voices may be transmitted via radio waves. Why, even something along the lines of a “telekineticscope” may be used to broadcast images into a box. Well, balderdash, I say! The world is flat and man will never fly, either! Phooey!

Throughout its thirteen episodes, Murdoch Mysteries: Season One finds young Murdoch diving into one whodunit adventure after another, running up against some very famous figures along the way. Assisting him is his superior, Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig); Dr. Julia Ogden (Hélène Joy), the medical expert, and greenhorn constable George Crabtree (Jonny Harris).

Sounds like fun, right? Well, I’m sorry to say I didn’t find it as entertaining as I had hoped. As a matter of fact, I think Murdoch Mysteries: Season One is even cheesier than some of its American CSI-style counterparts. The cast doesn’t seem to interject a whole lot of life into their characters (which isn‘t that bad when you consider the scripts aren‘t very good, either). The encounters with famous figures and the numerous references to future contraptions are probably supposed to be cute, but they just come off as annoying. But my biggest complaint, by far, with Murdoch Mysteries is with the camerawork and editing. I don‘t know about the rest of you, but if I want to watch something set in a Victorian setting, I don’t want to see “modern” television photography (i.e. using a "shaky camera" and so-called “artistic” camera angles) or modern cutaway techniques. To me, it just makes the filmmakers look like they didn’t know what they were doing.

Murdoch Mysteries lands on DVD for all to see (and judge) courtesy Acorn Media in a 4-disc set. Each episode is presented in an anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) ratio and English Stereo sound. The video transfers here are quite beautiful and practically flawless, while the audio comes through just fine. English subtitles are included.

Also included with this release are several special features: an audio commentary on “Power,” the series’ pilot, with select cast and crew; several interviews; a photo gallery; and a couple of bios for cast and characters.

Personally, Murdoch Mysteries didn’t sit well with me or my significant other (and she thought Twilight was good, so that ought to tell you something). I found it to be a lifeless series garnished with a generous portion of cheese. But, despite my slight aversion towards it, Murdoch Mysteries has nevertheless received its fair share of acclaim from critics and viewers alike. Perhaps you will enjoy it more than I did. I’d strongly suggest renting it first.

About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the alter-ego of a feller who loves an eclectic variety of classic (and sometimes not-so-classic) film and television. He currently lives in Northern California with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.

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