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Detective Shows I Like
Table of Contents
- Detective Fiction and the Detective Show
- The Redoubtable Miss Marple
- Con Man Come Psychic Come Investigative Consultant?
- Inspector Morse's Sergeant Comes Into His Own
- A Lighter Approach to the Detective Drama
- Cliché, Perhaps, but a Great Show
- The Dapper Gentleman Detective
- Keeping Chaos At Bay, Just Barely
- Everyone's Favorite
- The Final Clue
Sherlock Holmes ~ Need I say more?
Detective Fiction and the Detective Shows
Detective fiction is an offshoot of mystery fiction. It's fraternal twin would be the various stage and cinematic productions in this genre. I like mysteries, detective mysteries, to be chock full of action, a bit pithy and definitely dark and suspense filled. Humor and coziness are not unwelcome, but the storyline and production have to be pretty good if I'm gonna spend time watching it. A historical setting or Gothic tone make for a bit of spiciness for the eye's palate. Cleverly placed red herrings and whiplash twists and turns are like the condiment to the wiener or the pickle to the relish. Though I name only eight detective shows I consider to be excellent, there are a handful more that I left off the list.
Many actresses have portrayed Miss Marple.
Which is your favorite actress in the role?
The Redoubtable Miss Marple
That kindly, elderly spinster from St. Mary Mead.
Miss Marple's keen and logical mind provides the answer to many a knotty case. There are many terms of affection and references to the Miss Marple character, but the most apt is that of, Nemesis. There's no tolerance for crime - no deed unpunished with Agatha Christie's genteel sleuth. She doesn't take and lip from sassy debs either. The Miss Marple series is my favorite in the subgenre of cozy mysteries.
Though I've seen only a few of the performances by actresses who played the role of the redoubtable Miss Marple, Joan Hickson is my favorite of the lot. Geraldine McEwan is my second favorite. With Ms. Hickson, there's a certain sensibility about her interpretation of the role. Her Miss Marple is down to earth, sensible and even-keeled. The lighter and somewhat brighter interpretation by Ms. McEwan is also entertaining. One common characteristic in their interaction with the police officials whom they have aided, they don't take "no" for an answer and they are relentless about ensuring the evil doer is smoked out.
One thing I really had to look up in my recent review of the BBC Miss Marple Series, is the beverage, Jams and Gin. I wish I'd discovered this beverage in the days when I did indulge. It would probably run a close second to my then favorite, champagne kir. [Note: I've since determined that the beverage mentioned in the series is Damson Gin.]
A Short Trailer
Con Man Come Psychic Come Investigative Consultant?
Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) of The Mentalist fame embodies many characteristics of the detectives in many of today's detective shows. He's rather quirky, definitely a few steps left of right and not without a few bats in the belfry. Where Miss Marple is sensible and down to earth, Patrick is not too far from a touch doolally. However his mind is no less keen than the lot of detectives put together. Attentive to detail is an understatement in Patrick's case and he's gifted with the fine art of subterfuge. The series provides quick moving action like that you'll find in Jack Taylor, Luther and Sherlock. There are moments of calm on the turbulent waters, but don't let that fool you. Be prepared for another bend in the road.
As an investigative consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Jane is part of a team of specially trained law enforcement professionals. The Serious Crime Unit is headed by Senior Special Agent (SSA) Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney). Other talented actors in the lineup: Owain Yeoman, Tim Kang, and Amanda Righetti. Each episode is entertaining, touched with humor and kissed by ever present suspense.
Radcliffe Camera, Oxford, UK
Morse's Greatest Mystery and Other Stories
Inspector Morse's Sergeant Comes Into His Own
I've always been fond of the Inspector Morse series with John Thaw in the lead role. The pilot, Lewis is set five years after the death of Morse, during which time he had moved to the British Virgin Islands for two years and only just returned. The spin-off series, Inspector Lewis, is produced in that capacity only and isn't adapted from a book series by the Morse author, Colin Dexter. Both Inspector Morse and Inspector Lewis are more gritty and darker than the Christie shows and Castle.
The teaming of Morse with Lewis is contrasted with the pairing of Lewis with his sergeant, James Hathaway (Laurence Fox). In Inspector Morse, Lewis is a working class man with a family. He speaks with a Geordie accent*, whereas Morse is Oxford educated and speaks with a more cultured dialect. Lewis is always being teased about the way he speaks. The contrast is that Hathaway is Oxford educated whereas the working class Lewis, now widowed and far older, is the ranking officer of the two. Lewis' maturity as an investigating detective provides him with the tools needed to ferret out the resolutions to the crimes he and Hathaway investigate.
An excellent addition to the Inspector Morse legacy is the new series, Endeavor. The young Endeavor Morse displays his sleuthing talents from the very start of his career. I find this recent development of the story line a welcome one. The script writer does an excellent job filling in the blanks left behind in the Detective Morse novels and series.
*In the novels by Colin Dexter, Lewis is from Wales.
A Lighter Approach to the Detective Drama
Nathan Fillion brings to the table his characteristic quirky humor. Many Firefly and Serenity fans will remember him as Captain Malcolm Reynolds. He's not commanding a mismatched crew of pirates and passengers this time around, nor is he saving the universe with all those aboard. In this lighthearted detective show with dollops of the darker side of crime, the unlikely combination of by-the-book police detective Kate Beckett, played by actress Stana Katic and crime fiction writer Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) each episode provides a delectable balance of edge-of-one's-seat and warm fuzzy viewing. And, let me point out, this show provides the rare sighting of a well adjusted teenager. In spite of her unconventional upbringing, Alexis Castle (Molly C. Quinn) is well adjusted and lacking in the teen angst with which the average adolescent is purported to be inescapably endowed.
Iain Glen Roles
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Cliché, Perhaps, but a Great Show
Any show starring Iain Glen promises great viewing and good entertainment. In Jack Taylor, he plays the role of author Ken Bruen’s national policeman come detective. Like Detective John Luther, he’s used to turmoil in his personal life. This is further amplified by his alcoholism. Seen as somewhat of a local hero, Taylor is reluctant to become a private detective, or finder as they are called in his town of Galway. Jack’s disgrace from the Garda Siochana (Irish National Police) doesn’t in any way reduce the respect he’s earned from the working class people of Galway and those who became his clients. During fits of sobriety, he solves cases the Garda won’t touch or that haven’t been solved successfully. Joining Iain in the cast are Killian Scott is Cody Farraher and Nora-Jane Noone as Garda Kate Noonan.
This shows also contains scenes and themes not for the faint of heart. Be sure to clear the room of anyone under 18. Nothing top secret, but the viewer is treated to scenes depicting graphic drug use, graphic sex and violence. There’s some language concerns as well.
The Dapper Gentleman Detective
To anyone who knows of this well-loved Christie character, the first thing they'll probably think of is his mustache. Don't forget that he too, has a razor sharp mind, finely tuned powers of reasoning and observation, and an appreciation for the finer things in life.
The reader is always one step, in my case several steps, behind this sleuth. His affectations verge on the humorous many times, but his ability knits together obscure information and almost nonexistent clues ranks him at the top with the world's most predatory fictional detectives. Their prey is the criminal or criminals behind some of the most dastardly deeds top mystery writers can devise.
Where Miss Marple's puzzles are set with a more cozy tone, Poirot's enigmas are anything but cozy. My preference is for the tv and movie version of this character over the novels. For the full impact of the character, I find the visual presentation is more intense than the reading. David Suchet is in my mind. His portrayal of the character is so spot on!
Idris Elba as Heimdall in Thor
Keeping Chaos At Bay, Just Barely
It begs the question in the detective show, Luther, of what can be said about a cop to whom the viewer is introduced as he allows a criminal to fall, presumably to an almost certain death? For Luther (Idris Alba) the relevance of correct police procedure to the performance of his duties is flexible at best, nonexistent at worst. The forces of chaos in Luther's personal life are in full volley against the tenets of police practice and he is apparently at a loss as to how to reconcile the two.
This show goes beyond gritty. There's violence, colorful language, and themes which even many adults would rather forego. If I had children, I mightn't let a thirty year old watch this show. In all seriousness, you'll want to be aware of the children which may be in the viewing area of the tv.
The good things about this show are that it's fast paced, chock full of suspense and intrigue, and don't forget to take a supply of Dramamine as the the twists and turns are dizzying. What I like best is that each show seems to go from one cliffhanger to the next. No waiting for the end of the season to be left on tenterhooks as to what's going to happen next.
Considering that the presence of the sidekick is requisite in the detective story, don't be surprised when you realize that the obvious sidekick in this police drama isn't Mark North (Paul McGann), but a sociopath, Alice Morgan, played by Ruth Wilson. Luther's boss (early in the season), DSU Rose Teller, is played by one of my favorite actresses, Saskia Reeves. DS Justin Ripley, Luther's assistant detective is not quite the sidekick, but the person who is stuck in the grey mire that is the nexus between Luther's personal life and his professional life. Ripley is well-played by Warren Brown.
My greatest recollection of Idris Alba, however, isn't in his role of Luther but that of Heimdall, the Norse god who guards the gate to Asgard known as Bifrost. Alba's flexibility as an actor is clearly demonstrated by his quiet strength which comes through in Thor and his violent sense of justice as seen in Luther. In Thor he keeps the forces of chaos of bay from Asgard. He endeavors to do much the same in Luther, attempting to keep the chaos that is his life at bay from the destruction of himself.
The modern reincarnation of the grandfather of the fictitious crime detective.
Over the years since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, appeared in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887, in the story titled A Study in Scarlet, much has evolved in it’s wake. Though Poe’s police detective Dupin had already been well received in the United States, Holmes, along with his assistant, Dr. John H. Watson, became the prototype for the modern detective duo.
From the pages of Doyle’s stories to movies and tv, the earliest adaptation Doyle’s stories featuring Sherlock Holmes, was in 1899. Since then, many actors have played the role of Holmes. Some 200+ films have been made of these popular stories. Whether you read Doyle’s stories or watch adaptations on stage or screen, you’ll see why this sleuth is attributed with being the prototype for the modern fictional detective.
The very popular series, Sherlock, places the Holmesian tradition squarely in the here-and-now, this day and age. Sherlock Holmes is portrayed excellently by Benedict Cumberbatch with Martin Freeman as his trusty assistant, Dr. Watson. Nothing is lost with this change of venue to the 21st century and much more is gained. Today’s Holmes is just as believable as Conan Doyle’s original sleuth. The subtle differences in the relationship with his brother Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss) bring a bit of humor to this interpretation of the Sherlock Holmes tradition. With advances in forensic science and technology over the years, the game is more than a little afoot.
The Writings of Erle Stanley Gardner
Perry Mason has been a favorite of mine for ages. This show never gets old. It's my goal to acquire and read some of the novels by Erle Stanley Gardner upon which the tv series is based. For me, no other actor can play the role of Perry Mason but Raymond Burr. It's actually a draw for me that the majority of the episodes air in black and white as it keeps me in mind how much time has elapsed since I watched the episodes as a little girl. Perry Mason is an attorney in a profitable practice. His right arm, Della Street (Barbara Hale), is his administrative secretary. She actually runs the show from behind the scenes. Though other actresses have portrayed Miss Street in the 1930s adaptations of Stanley's books, Barbara Hale brings the character to life. Not to be forgotten, is Mason's dapper go-to detective Paul Drake (William Hopper). For a night of classic tv viewing, be sure to not leave out a few episodes from the Perry Mason tv series.
The Master Himself
Sherlock Holmes - Need I Say More
So, when you think of detective shows, detective fiction, is Sherlock Holmes the first name that comes to mind? I know it is for me. Next would be Hercule Poirot and his little grey cells. The character of Sherlock Holmes has become as definitive for the role of the investigative detective as the character of Dr. Watson has become synonymous with the roll of the detective's assistant.
© 2014 Tanya Jones