Thanks, up front, to Laughing Squid for getting me thinking about this and bringing back memories of classic mystery on television some 20-30 years ago that, in some respects, is unmatched today. While Sherlock, Downton Abbey, Endeavor and, even, Great Expectations, are the talk of the telly on both sides of the pond these days, there is a root history that needs to be recognized for those that remember way, way back in to the 80’s, back when the Earth was beginning to cool from the Ice Age.
From 1980-2008, Mystery fans on PBS were treated to weekly television greatness with the adventures and exploits of such classics characters as Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Rumpole of the Bailey, Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Reilly: Ace of Spies, Lord Peter Wimsey, Inspector Morse, Prime Suspect and Brother Cadfael. Each week, the brilliance of Jeremy Brett, John Thaw, Sam Neill, Helen Mirren, Geraldine McEwan, Joan Hickson, David Suchet, Derek Jacobi would grace the small screen in both classic mysteries and future classic series.
Even the hosts read like a who’s who with Vincent Price, Diana Rigg and, for one season, Gene Shalit, as they would provide a bit of insight and background into the creation of the character and storyline you were about to see.
The animated opening and closing title sequences based on the drawings of Edward Gorey with animation from Derek Lamb were every bit as much a part of the weekly experience as the acclaimed hosts, actors and classic mysteries. Here, from 1984, the great Vincent Price does his best Robert Osborne imitation, introducing the first in the series of Sherlock Holmes, starring Jeremy Brett. Anyone else remember watching Mystery before mystery was cool?