Year Released: 2008 through current year
Starring: Yannick Bisson, Helene Joy, Thomas Craig, Jonny Harris
(Not Rated, appox. 44 minutes per episode)
Genre: Mystery and Suspense
“I'm not entirely sure I can envy a future where everyone wastes their lives staring at a screen watching made-up stories.” – Detective William Murdock, after watching an early movie.
Murdoch is a buttoned down Toronto detective at the turn of the century. He is obsessed with science and new methods. But there is a playfulness and a passion locked inside the man and the program itself that will hook you sooner rather than later.
The series is a pot pourri of essential elements that work in perfect balance. Equal parts classical detective fiction, gentle satire, and period detail. Plus a little social commentary, sly humor, and a pair of star-crossed lovers extraordinaire and you have near perfection.
Many of the mysteries center on real characters of the time. We meet in the flesh: H. G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, Buffalo Bill. Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Harry Houdini, Jack London, and a very young and slim Winston Churchill, not to mention “Sherlock Holmes,” or at least someone convinced that he is. And that fictional character is every bit as good as his inked prototype, outdoing at times even the astute Detective Murdoch (Yannick Bisson).
However, many of the other real life characters lose a little of their luster up close and personal, where their foibles are on full display. H. G. Wells is a bit of a womanizer; Thomas Edison is more concerned with securing patent rights and due proceeds than his inventions themselves; while a young Winston Churchill appears at the end of a drunken night sans memory of it.
Some of the gentle satire occurs around a fictional – I think – Toronto inventor named James Pendrick. He is first on many fronts – a flight machine, an aerodynamic electric car that can hit 60 miles per hour, and even movies with sound. In each case, foul winds or unfair completion give the fame and glory to Americans – the Wright brothers, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison respectively. Just one of many light jabs against the Americans the Canadian series thrusts at us across the border.
The supporting cast is excellent as well, and they seem to get better as the episodes evolve. Constable Crabtree (Jonny Harris) is earnest and awkward, but it is he who has the best gaze into the future. He sees other purposes for an early microwave device envisioned for warfare. Its heating qualities could warm up a room, and “even, perhaps, cook a potato,” Crabtree suggests. After meeting Henry Ford, he buys a few shares of Standard Oil, and even invests in a product called Coca Cola, while his patriotic superior, Detective Murdock, looking askance, says he prefers solid Canadian Treasury Bonds.
Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig), a transplant from Yorkshire, England, is all bluster on the outside, the unschooled everyman who balances the eccentrics around him. He is a bit vain, keen on appearances, and provides some terrific comic relief. Yet, when things turn ugly, he is the one you want in the trenches beside you.
But the sine qua non is the slow simmering romance between our shy detective and the lovely pathologist, Dr. Julia Ogden (Helene Joy), which is administered perfectly in small doses, leaving us ever wanting more. A slow boil, with Murdoch recovering from the death of his fiancée as the series begins. Slowly, however, the chemistry between the the detective and the doctor develops.
Of course, part of the fun is the outward formal relationship between the two, while sometimes the camera fools us with swift, overwhelming passion out of nowhere, before cutting back to their formal interaction. Slowly, we then realize, this has occurred only in the mind’s eye of one of them.
Wisely, the romance never overtakes the series as it dangerously did in television’s Castle. Julia even disappears for episodes at a time, and in her absence, of course, the heart grows fonder.
Murdoch, immaculate in his three piece suit and Homburg, hardly lets his heartbreak show. And that stoic quality makes him even more endearing and desirable.
William and Julia differ greatly, but each is guided by honor and integrity, which ironically underlies some of their most heart breaking decisions. And neither breathes a word to the other about their self-sacrifice.
Julia is fiercely modern and non traditional, fighting for women’s rights in the voting booth and the bedroom, while the Catholic Murdoch, who crosses himself at each death he encounters, is thoroughly traditional. Sweetly, though, each position is treated with honor and dignity, as are the two who embody them.
Just like the two leads, the series is timeless and timely, an earlier era with a modern sensibility. The perfect ending to your day.
(The first 7 seasons, with 11 to 18 episodes each are available through Netflix streaming.)
Toronto winters are fierce, but since Detective Murdoch does not imbibe, he will have to settle on something else to keep him warm. Perhaps the elusive Dr. Julia Ogden, but then again she is prone to running off to Buffalo, getting engaged, and such.
So our poor detective will have to settle for these delicious Three Cheese Garlic Scalloped Potatoes. The Yukon Gold potatoes will probably remind him of his time in the Yukon panning for gold. And perhaps meeting the American writer Jack London there.
Perhaps its call of the wild will bring him back there once again.
Toronto Three Cheese Scalloped Potatoes
“If you love cheese and love potatoes you'll adore this delicious recipe! You can use any three cheeses you like, but I find using a sharp cheddar, freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, and thin sliced provolone (because it melts very well) are the best! Takes time to cook, but the result is so yummy and the smell is intoxicating.” –Veggigoddess
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 pint heavy cream
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
4 slices provolone cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease a 1 1/2 quart or larger casserole dish with butter or nonstick spray.
2. Layer half of the potato slices in the bottom of the casserole dish. Dot with half of the butter cut or pinched into small pieces. Arrange half of the garlic slices over the potatoes, then pour half of the heavy cream over. Sprinkle one cup of Cheddar cheese over the layer, and season with salt and pepper. Repeat layering of potatoes, garlic, cream and Cheddar cheese, then top with the slices of provolone cheese. Season again with salt and pepper.
3. Bake for 1/2 hour in the preheated oven, then sprinkle the Parmesan or Romano cheese over the top. This will create a semi-hard cheese crust. Continue baking uncovered for another 30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender when tested with a fork.