I did say in last week’s post that I did A LOT of TV watching over the holidays, and I certainly wasn’t kidding. By my calculations, I’ve watched a grand total of 31 hrs of mystery programming over the past month! And that’s not even counting the other, non-mystery, TV I watched.
So, which programs captivated my attention so much?
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A year ago, I bought the DVD boxed set of Columbo and have been slowly making my way through the series since. This past month, I had watched the 1989 TV movies that make up what’s known as Season 8 of the series. These episodes first aired after the series had taken an 11 year hiatus.
It was particularly interesting seeing the switch from the 70s setting of previous episodes, to the late 80s setting of the new ones. To me, this particularly highlighted how much a reflection of the time each episode of Columbo is. Each episode brings in an aspect of new technology (such as the film special effects seen in “Murder, Smoke and Shadows”) or new social phenomena (such as the acceptance of sexual fantasy in “Sex and the Married Detective”). I found myself needing to take an intermission half-way through each episode just to take a moment to sit and contemplate the various themes.
A year ago, I had also bought the DVD boxed set of Magnum, P.I. This past month, I had finally gotten to watching the final season, which originally aired in 1987-1988.
Now, I hope this is not a spoiler, but after Magnum was supposed to have died at the end of Season 7, the series producers miraculously bring him back to life for one more half-season. Some people point to these events as evidence that Magnum jumped the shark, and I must admit that watching the beginning of Season 8 was a bit surreal. However, I can see why they brought him back since the short final season ties up some loose ends and gives a satisfying reason for the end of the show.
Just after Christmas, I spent a few days just relaxing at home, solving jigsaw puzzles, and binge-watching the full 10th season of Midsomer Murders. If you’ve never seen the show before, this is the quintessential British village mystery where Inspector Barnaby and his sergeant solve crimes in the fictional Midsomer County.
The 10th season originally aired in 2006-2007, but the show’s setting feels so timeless. The only part that gave any sort of clue about the year in which the action took place was in an episode where there was a rivalry between traditional photographers and digital photographers.
The premise of Ultraviolet is basically this: an online group of ordinary people help solve crimes by pooling their resources and doing a bit of crowd-sourcing. Apparently, this is loosely based on a 2014 non-fiction by Deborah Halber titled The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America’s Coldest Cases.
I have a special affinity for this show because it is a Polish production, and as a Polish-Canadian it’s nice to see such a great series coming from one of my home countries. I will say this though: this isn’t a show to binge watch. I feel like the episodes can be so intense that I need a few moments to decompress after.
There is currently only one season of 10 episodes that has been produced. It is available to stream on Netflix.
Finally, one of the last things I watched recently was the 1991 movie V. I. Warshawski, starring Kathleen Turner. The movie is very loosely based on the 1984 novel Deadlock by Sara Paretsky. The story follows the heroine, V. I. Warshawski, trying to solve the murder of a man she met recently and whose daughter she was charged with babysitting the night that the man died.
The movie is definitely not as dark or hardboiled as Sara Paretsky’s novels. Rather, this is a fun flick to watch on a lazy weekend afternoon. It’s also surprisingly short, with a running time of just over 1hr 20mins.