It’s neither bird nor plane nor Napkin Man (2013-present) but it’s certainly flying (High Tide 94-97)! Captivating audiences since 2008! Murdoch Mysteries (starring Yannick Bisson, Hélène Joy, Jonny Harris, Thomas Craig) premiered that year in January. A star was reborn, because of course Yannick Bisson (Murdoch) has been in the business of acting since he was just a young kid and has had several commercial successes but nothing could prepare the heartthrob for what was about to happen. Who new trading in his hockey stick (Hockey Night 1984) for period dress would make him a household name and an even bigger heart throb! Sorry ladies and gents this cuisine is married! Murdoch Mysteries was originally broadcast on CityTV. Not able to appraise this “little diamond in the rough” CityTV let it get picked up by the CBC starting in its sixth season. Produced by Shaftesbury this show was preceeded by three made for TV movies which were shown on the Canadian cable channel Bravo in 2004 and 2005. The show is a one-hour drama series set in Toronto at the dawn of the 20th century. With the help of Dr. Julia Ogden, who will become Murdoch’s wife, they explore the mysterious and tantalizing murders that take place in Toronto’s sorted past. The show will soon be launching its 13th season and it shows no signs of slowing down. What once was considered trite and trivial has now become a local success and fame story like no other. Just for the sake of transparency I am a huge fan so this article will be bending in that direction. Needless to say it certainly isn’t my opinion that has catapulted this little mysterious time piece into the world wide phenomenon it has become. It is now seen in upwards of 110 countries around the world. Still these talented actors remain humble and approachable. It is filmed all over Ontario, Canada and its stars are met with rapture at every location. As a blogger since 2010 in Toronto it just made sense to me that Murdoch Mysteries would be my time machine if you will. It weaves in and out of reality with such precision its almost impossible to recognize fiction from fact, when it comes to the telling of Toronto’s murderous past. I enjoy exploring the city’s locations where Murdoch explored as he discovers bodies and searches for answers. If you are travelling to Toronto or are a resident and are a fan of the show you can’t miss Secret City Adventures. I’ll supply the link at the end of my article. Before we get started here’s another fun fact. Did you know William Murdoch’s character is based off a detective by the name of John Wilson Murray? I know it is so cool. Just for you fans I will tell you I have met Yannick Bisson twice. Once at a local breakfast place in Toronto. He was with his wife and one of his daughters (he has three). I just had to be a total Murdochian and invade his personal space for just a polite moment to tell him how much I loved the show. And in my head saying, “Leave her she’s no good for you!” I’m kidding Chantal Craig, Yannicks stunning wife is fabulous and has her own amazing career as author and television content creator and writer. Both Yannick and Chantal have liked my posts from time to time. I know I went there. I’m geeking out! In honour of their upcoming and very lucky 13th season I wanted to explore briefly what has made this little Canadian show the talk of the world. “Oh did I also mention I’ve met Helen Joy (got an autogragh), Thomas Craig, Johnny Harris and Arwen Humphrys. She did a fantastic interview with me a couple of years back. You can find it on my blog! She’s awesome too!” but I digress.
Why Murdoch? And why now? One thing I do very well is over think and as I’ve sat back and enjoyed as a fan I always wondered what is really behind the success of this show. Why has it become a global success story and where will it all conclude? Fans of this show are charismatic. They’re dedicated. They’re enamoured. I’ve been to several Murdoch events and the fans are always mesmerized. I think the first thing that strikes me about the show is its heart. It brings back the days of “The Hardy Boys” or “The Detectives of Old Time Radio”. It heralds a more rational and respectful time that even in murder, the truth can still set you free. I think people want heart. Sure there are those who don’t. Shoot em up! Lock em up and get on to my next app. But there are still a strong majority of television viewers who can identify with this style of writing. A classic way of telling a tale that doesn’t quite frankly rot our moral compass. The balance of violence to story ratio is on point and never seems to get lost in stereo typical role playing and it is refreshing. The Murdoch Mystery fan is a person with heart. Clearly the talented writers understand this and love taking us on a plethora of emotions during every episode. One’s heart can hardly help but get tied in knots as Murdoch and Julia navigate their love for each other through gun shots and knife plunges.
Heart is all well and good but in order for a show to really captivate its audience it has gotta have grit. Over the past 12 seasons its been really compelling to watch the show evolve. Especially in terms of the characters. From the start Murdoch the man was always a debutante. Fighting evil with the highest of gentlemen ship. It has been riveting watching this character grow and become much more spirited in his handling of the criminals he encounters. Although I think we can all agree more shirtless scenes of Murdoch are needed. I just think for artistic integrity. I mean who is constantly wearing a full suit. Show some skin. It is 2019! Am I wrong ladies? In the last many seasons it seems the character has grown, matured and has become slightly more jaded. Which I think in minimal doses is very sexy and thrilling. I think when the writers decided to approach the child factor it took the emotional thermometer to a whole new level. I mean you’re just going to have to catch up if you don’t know what I’m talking about. The edginess of the show is vital if its going to continue to compete against its rivals. Oh wait! There is nothing like it on television. Well none of note.
Murdoch can’t do it alone. Which brings me to the strongest aspect of the TV series. Woman power. In a time when woman were to be seen and not heard in many aspects of life it is no wonder that in the social climate today woman can relate to this historical fact and story line. The most alarming part is woman’s rights are being challenge even in today’s political world. Murdoch Mysteries never fails to remind us of that long and winding journey for equality. In walks our leading lady. Dr. Julia Ogden. A fighter. A rebel. A woman who will not stand down when challenged by the male authority. She’s a bit of a dominatrix isn’t she? Her story is relevant for today. One story line comes to mind. Abortion and the right for a woman to choose her sexual health. It’s unspeakable what is happening still all over the globe when it comes to the rights of women. Between the leader to the south and some of our leadership here wanting to back peddle on the women’s right to choose. And honestly it is hard for me to understand why so many men are still so intimidated by women in power. There are Dr. Ogdens all over the world tonight fighting for education, women’s health, leadership roles, pay equality and even religious freedom and in its own way Murdoch Mysteries has touched on many if not all of these important and relevant topics.
It’s crazy fun! It’s that simple. The writing is masterfully done. With each new episode the incredible writers keep a delicate balance of suspense, joy, and most importantly humour. In walks Johnny Harris! It is a fun house, a carnival, a wax museum, a romance novel. It’s poetic justice and even at times a full on circus. Johnny Harris is everyone’s little darling. He’s the perfect side kick that always manages to bring a touch of the ridiculous in the darkest hour. It’s important to laugh. The writers seem to understand this. Fans of Murdoch Mysteries are your next door neighbour. The person in the grocery line. The school teacher that may teach your child. This show is for every day people with everyday stress and the balance of wit and wicked is why this show and its actors have received so many award nods.
So many TV shows out there seem to cater to either a male demographic or a female demographic. Not often are they able to achieve both. This is one of the greatest triumphs in this television series. Both men and woman really get into this show. The balance it strikes for men and woman alike is amazing to watch. I’ve been to the set tours when they had them. I’ve been to viewings at the CBC. The audience is a mix of men woman and even younger people who can’t seem to buy enough of the fan merch. It’s a great show for the family without the fear of it becoming The Walton’s. I think The Walton’s was the worst show ever made. I digress.
If Sex and the City is to New York, I think it is safe to say Murdoch Mysteries is to Toronto. What an amazing city to have as the backdrop to a great story. Toronto has put itself on the map as one of the go to cities to visit. The amazing history and culture is unlike so many others. Inclusive, inviting, entertaining, friendly, riveting, and diverse just like the show that winds itself around the city streets.
What’s going to happen next? Will Brakenreid really sustain love? Will Murdoch take his shirt off more? Will Julia’s hair continue to get lighter? Will Margret shock us all with some scandal that takes two episodes to get her out of hot water? Will there be more Gays? You have a large Gay following. I want a Gay character that doesn’t get shot or eaten by an inmate at the end of an episode. Will we get more Canadian talent making guest appearances on the show? Like maybe Justin Beiber? I’m kidding but it would be cool to get Stephan Amell (The Arrow). Well whoever next season’s guests will be, one thing is for sure, the world will be watching!
Bruce in the City
Edited by Mary Ellen Monk
Links of Interest
Murdoch Mysteries https://www.cbc.ca/murdochmysteries/
John Wilson Murrayhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wilson_Murray
Toronto Historical Associationhttp://www.torontohistory.net/index.html
Secret City Adventureswww.secretcityadventures.com
The Haunted Walk of Torontohttps://hauntedwalk.com/toronto-tours/
The Don Jailhttps://www.bridgepointhealth.ca/en/who-we-are/resources/The_History_of_the_Don_Jail.pdf