Murdock Mysteries and Thoughts on Showing Up

July 3, 2015


Above: Sketch in one of my Japanese lined paper journals—brush pen, acrylic marker. The text is all readable so I'll leave you to click on the image and view the enlargement and read it.

I like to recommend television shows and movies every now and then on a Friday post. I have mixed feelings today because for many in the US this will be a holiday weekend. (I know I intend to stay inside in the a.c. and work.) But perhaps you'll have time for a little TV viewing too.

I've been watching "Murdoch Mysteries" on Acorn. All 8 seasons are there. I started at the beginning and worked my way through.

I have some problems with the show. The number one problem is that Yannick Bisson, the actor who plays Detective William Murdoch is too good looking. His features are too symmetrical. He doesn't have funny ears, he's always clean-shaven, his hair is always slicked down with product appropriate to the 19th Century. 

In short it's a disaster. But I do try now and then.

So here's the other thing—I find the show vaguely disturbing in a way I couldn't put my finger on until about a week into my viewing. It's the 1800s and when you are convicted of murder (or caught as someone always is in each episode) you're hung. Plain and simple.

None of that is shown (well I think there was one episode where a hanging took place), but the knowledge that the hanging is going to happen without possibility of intervention really bothers me.

A whole awareness (from years of studying the time period in literature and history) looms around me as I watch. Prison conditions are awful, the poor have even fewer resources and recourse. It's a layer of grim beneath the very bright and often jovial surface of this "who-dun-it" series.

There is about the show a tone of wonder and amazement and interest in science that comes from the detective's character himself. We see him invent night vision goggles, luminol, and any number of forensics advances. He is a huge supporter of "fingermarks." The way these innovations are built into his character and the show is actually quite charming. He's obviously, from his actions, somewhere on the Aspergers continuum. While he can deal with science and facts he has difficulty interacting with people in many situations. And because of early childhood experiences we know that his devotion to the Catholic church has made him the way he is—a fierce agent for Truth. (He deals constantly with the negotiation between Truth and Justice.)

And then we have the many "real" historical characters who have walk-ons: writers, performers, scientists, politicians. It's quite fun.

But then there is that gloom that nothing can dispel.

Still I couldn't stop watching. I have, because of rainy days, and preference, worked my way through every episode except the season 8 finale. One of the main characters was about to have a big, positive change and now it seems something grave indeed is going to happen. I can't bear to watch it until I know that season 9 is on offer.

Call me a wimp. I can't bear that I should know the particulars of his suffering longer than it takes me to watch them be resolved in the new season. The character is the "comic" relief in most episodes, but Constable Crabtree has been given rather a lot to do in season 8 and he's now my favorite character.

I can't wait for season 9. But I can't watch it one week at a time, so it will be a long wait for me. Even though I just learned that they have tapped William Shatner to play Mark Twain in an upcoming episode.

Well good. Something to look forward to.

I do recommend this series. It's well done. It presents a puzzle, it solves a puzzle, it gives us character development. Sometimes characters frustrate us, other times the 1800s frustrate us. Sometimes we laugh.

Can my affection endure a long separation?

We'll have to wait and see.

Now about Showing Up

If you click on the image for today and read the long quotation at the bottom of the page you'll find artist Mark Bradford's thoughts on "artist's block."

I liked the quotation so much I'm looking for a way to work it into my handouts for my upcoming "Drawing Practice" class. I'll have to go in and edit something, but that's easily done thanks to the computer/word processor, something that Murdoch did not invent or have available for his use.

NOTE: If you are looking for this show on television in the US and don't want to subscribe to AcornTV, you can find it on Ovation under the title, "The Artful Detective." My brother informs me that now that season 8 has completed its run they have begun again with season 1 episodes. You might want to check them out.

  1. Reply

    Roz: great post! The quote is wonderful. David Hockney said in a video I found online: “Inspiration, she doesn’t visit the lazy”.

    I will seek this show out!
    One that I have been drawing lately is a 1960’s noir: AQUARIUS. I think ultimately they will be dramatizing a slightly fictionalized version of Joan Didion’s WHITE ALBUM w/o admitting it. But there are some real character faces, particularly that of CHANCE KELLY ( who looks like he came straight out of DICK TRACY). ridiculous hairdo’s, dramatic lighting, hipster outfits,and some groovy throw back music.

    Have a great 4th weekend!

    • Carmel Campbell
    • July 3, 2015

    Roz: I will need to look for this show. I have been watching Wallender on Netflix. Kenneth Branagh is the star in the British adaption of the Swedish series. Wonderful closeups of faces and great lighting. I love the murder mystery stories. Have a great 4th weekend!

    • Carmel Campbell
    • July 3, 2015

    What a great quote. I have sketched people in Home Depot and Harbor Freight while my husband looks for things. I found Murdock Mysteries on Amazon Prime.

  2. Reply

    ellen, I’ll add that to my list. I have a great one from Chuck Close and a bunch of other people.

    I don’t know “Aquarius” I’ll have to look for that.

    You have a great weekend too.

  3. Reply

    Carmel, I like Wallender quite a lot, except that too much of it makes me rather grim.

    KB has a face I find difficult to draw as it is, in this character’s mode, always sad and somewhat smudge-y to me.

    I’m interested in watching the Swedish series. I found it I think on Netflix. I don’t remember, but I can’t sketch and listen and read subtitles so I haven’t yet.

    Have a great weekend!

  4. Reply

    Those are two great places to sketch Carmel! There is so much going on in those stores and there always seems to be so many people!

    I didn’t know Murdock was available on Prime. That’s good to know, because these things go on and off where they are offered as contracts expire.

    • Alison A
    • July 3, 2015

    Ooh yes check it out, it is great (I only like Krister Henriksson though, not the first guy) it is much less depressing than the English version, although that was beautifully shot… just sooooooo miserable… We concluded a lot of it had to do with his highly irritating ringtone 🙂

  5. Reply

    Hi, Roz,

    I loved the Bradford article too. Not only his rise from working in his mother’s beauty salon in South L.A. to selling his paintings for millions of dollars…but – in these days of fanaticism over archival quality materials – most of his paints are bought at Home Depot!


  6. Reply

    Thanks for the review, the art and the quotes!

    A few of the Murdoch seasons are available on Netflix. Also there are 2 (or 3?) seasons filmed a few years before the current run but with different actors. I’m fortunate in that I live in Seattle and we have one Canadian channel on our cable system which shows the current seasons of Murdoch!

    I like that quote. I first heard it from a client of mine at a hospital where I worked many years ago. He was involved in AA and said it was one of the practices he followed. Even when he didn’t feel like it, he “showed up”. It’s like taking the first step toward a goal.

  7. Reply

    Another vote for WALLENDER ( the original, Dutch)…we loved them even though they are dark and brooding…the faces of the cast are interesting and not like BARBIE/Ken dolls as so many US shows seem to promote…

  8. Reply

    Zeke, I found his career as a hairdresser fascinating, how he worked at and his art. He obviously has so much drive. I am unfamiliar with his work and the descriptions were intriguing so I’ve been meaning to see if I can find images online. And yes it’s cool he buys supplies at Home Depot—let the conservators worry about saving the art that stands the test of time.

  9. Reply

    Kate, I remember seeing a listing on Netflix, but since all 8 were on Acorn and they were already keeping track of which I had watched I kept watching them there.

    Acorn also has the other series on its listings right now. I watched the first one because it had Colm Meaney in it (I think that’s how he spells his name). But they are 90 minutes or so and I haven’t had time to watch the other 2 or so. There aren’t a lot of them. The one I watched was good.

    When your Canadian channel shows season 9 you be sure to write to me and tell me George’s fate don’t worry about spoiler alerts!

    “Showing up” is not just the first step, it’s really the only step, because without it nothing happens. My students get tired of hearing this from me, so it’s nice to let them hear it from others. Especially someone who showed up so completely as Bradford and worked so hard.

    • Julana
    • July 4, 2015

    Hey Roz,
    Fellow Acorn fan that you are, have you watched Pie in the Sky? We are working our way through it and have developed quite an affection for it. There is a lot of gentle humor. I have sketched the main character, a chef/detective several times. I think he is a fun guy to draw, and is a very intelligent actor. His relationship with his accountant wife, who is missing her taste buds, is fun, too.

    • Julana
    • July 4, 2015

    P.s. I think there’s a Michael Kitchen sighting in the first episode. 🙂

  10. Reply

    Juluan, I have watched a lot of Pie in the Sky episodes. It was a while back. I got hooked on something else so I didn’t make it all the way through. Michael Kitchen is a villain in the first episode if I remember correctly. And I think there was the potential for a recurring role? I don’t remember it was one of the first series I watched on Acorn.

    Thanks for bringing it up.

    • Julana
    • July 5, 2015

    Yes, he was a villain who could show up again, but so far, has not.. The production values get better if you stick with it.

    • Alison A
    • July 6, 2015

    Afterthought: also there is Jussi… you will love Jussi 🙂

  11. Reply

    I don’t know who Jussi is, unless, my quick google search leading me to a singer is right? Someone on Empire? My massage therapist has been urging me to watch that show because he knows I am a Terrence Howard fan. Is that what you’re suggesting? Empire? If not please let me know.

    • Christine K
    • July 9, 2015

    I believe Alison A is referring to Jussi Adler-Olson, Danish crime author. He has an excellent series centred on cold cases. The Detective is burned out and a bit of a loose cannon but very clever. He’s been relegated to the basement with a stack of old files and a couple of mis-fit staff.

  12. Reply

    Thanks Christine, I’ll look into his work.

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