I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. I just think that there are some things that are better left unsaid. The fact that I watch crime procedurals to help me sleep is my weird little TV secret. I tend to not actually like procedurals. I find them boring and repetitive which is why I use them to fall asleep. I am currently in a living situation without a TV/cable in my bedroom (I know, you’re not supposed to have a TV in your bedroom. Sue me) so I’ve had to make due with Hulu and Netflix. Which means, despite their absolute atrocity, I have seen all episodes of The Mysteries of Laura and Forever. (I would watch CSI or The Mentalist or another of CBS’ terrible shows, but they’re impossible to watch from an iPad without paying and I refuse to pay for that crap.) So during the December/January drought of new procedural programming, I found my way to a new treasure – a crime procedural I can be proud to watch: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.
AHHHHH, this show! I’m mad for it! Brief overview – Phryne (pronounced Fry-nee) Fisher is a single woman of means living in 1920’s Australia and working with the police as a private investigator. Along the way, she has picked up taxi cab drivers Cec (pronounced Cess) and Bert, maid Dot, ward Jane and butler Mr. Butler as companions and cohorts. In the series’ first episode, Phryne (the effervescent Essie Davis) returns to Melbourne after several years abroad to settle down in her hometown and to make sure the man who kidnapped and murdered her younger sister when they were children remains in jail. But, before she can even say hello to her friends and family, one of her aunts’ friends is murdered and Phryne’s curiosity and tenacity lands her right smack in the middle of the case. Basically, she is the Jessica Fletcher of Australia.
Here’s why I love this show so much more than other crime procedurals – it has style! Sure, it helps that it’s set in the ’20s, but I feel like the characters have attitude and personality that can’t just be dismissed as quirks like some of the characters in American procedurals. The clothes, hair, jewelry and sets are just extras (really, really cool extras, but extras nonetheless). And Essie Davis is just magnificent as Phryne. She is calm, cool and collected at most times and when she’s not, she’s covering it up perfectly. There is a freedom to both the character and the performance that seems really fresh.
All of Phryne’s cases are dangerous and ridiculous (she really should get some new friends considering how many of them are connected to murderers and thieves). They all follow similar patterns of person dies, Phryne inserts herself into the investigation (much to the faux-dismay of Detective Inspector Jack Robinson with whom she has a bit of a flirtation), evidence is collected and/or hidden by Phryne so she can solve the case all on her own, red herrings are introduced and dismissed, the real killer puts someone (usually Phryne or one of her employees) in danger and then Jack or Constable Hugh capture them. BUT the fact that all of this is done with jaunty music and wonderful wide-legged trousers makes it so much more fun!
I have to say, I’m finding it harder to fall asleep while watching this show.