Thursday, December 5, 2013

Back to streaming: Finishing up Phryne Fisher's 1st season--this series just gets better & better!

Normally TM would just add an addendum onto his earlier post for a TV series he'd seen and enjoyed. But this time, concerning the Australian MISS FISHER'S MURDER MYSTERIES, the series -- which, when he first posted, he'd seen but four episodes and found them both old-fashioned and fun -- his opinion now, after viewing all thirteen programs, is  that this show and its worth grows with each new hour-long mystery. This is ace television in every way: wonderfully old-fashioned yet gloriously new-fangled, too.

Miss Phryne (pronounced fry-knee) Fisher and her splendid crew make us feel like we used to with our favorite TV shows back in the day because all these characters feel like a kind of "chosen family" -- folk we can't wait to spend time with again and again. Which is all the more odd, since almost every episode begins with a murder (these grow ever more bizarre and awful, yet they're usually -- or nearly -- blood-free).

The crimes serve to introduce us to yet another set of characters and a new environment (along with the old cast members we know and grow to love), whether it be magazine publishing of the day (the time is the 1920, the place Melbourne), a high-end house party, Jewish politics and culture (incipient Zionisn don'cha know!), gay and lesbian issues (below), a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta (above), the art world, and the lives of female factory workers, to list merely half of the subjects and themes you'll see when you begin viewing.

The series is a throwback to kinder, gentler times, yes, but it is brought to life with all the skill that cable television today can offer. The cast is exem-plary, the writing sharp & smart, & the direction (often from women whom we're sure to hear more from in the years to come) quite on target for this kind of show. What seems especially fine to me is how the characters take that moment with a glance, a touch, a direct look that manages to say a great deal without dialog. This can sometimes come off as arch -- but not here. Instead it adds an old-fashioned grace note to the goings-on.

Viewing Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries is quite like taking vacation from our current times into something rich, just a little strange, and altogether magical -- mostly because you simply would not imagine that anyone could create anything this delectably enticing in our so often ugly and ironic day and age. (Miss Fisher and her crew could not be more different from that of the dark and piercing Spiral, that unusual French TV series that I also love.)

You can stream the first season of the show now (and please, Netflix, get the resulting season, too!): thirteen hours of Australian television heaven. Or you can purchase the four DVD or Blu-ray set that is distributed here in the USA via Acorn. More, please!

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