Having a job that actually allows you to watch television for a living is tremendous, especially when you run across hidden telly gems here and there. Being able to then acquire broadcast rights to a such a program or series and write about it here on Tellyspotting so that others can see or be introduced to more great telly is priceless. One such series crossed my desk recently that should be making its way to public television stations very soon in the States. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, a new 13-part series from ABC Australia, has something that we, unfortunately, haven’t been able to highlight for some time….a female detective. There have been a few, but they have been too few and far between in recent memory.
Phryne (rhymes with briny) Fisher is a fashionably beautiful investigator with some definitively wicked ways befitting her shiny black hair and steel blue/green eyes. Like her male counterpart, she offers private services in the tradition of Sherlock Holmes in 1920s Melbourne. Essie Davis, as Miss Fisher, is the female embodiment of the world’s greatest consulting detective with striking looks that make her both thrilling and dangerous all at the same time. Miss Fisher is perfectly at home in Melbourne’s Parisian-style bistros but has no problem mixing it up in the city’s darkened side streets right around the next corner. Greg Walker’s sound track is equally as brilliant as the series is stunning visually..
Based on the mystery novels of Kerry Greenwood, it was helpful to understand a bit of Miss Fisher’s backstory to get a handle on what makes her get up every morning. As a child, Phryne lived on the streets in Collingwood, scrounging for food with her sister Janey, all the time trying to avoid the heavy hand of her drunken father. Janey was abducted on a trip to the circus, Phryne was devastated. After World War I erased much of her family’s lineage, the dirt-poor Fishers of Collingwood suddenly found themselves in a lofty estate in the English countryside, with Phryne’s parents elevated to the titles of lord and lady. After a few years at boarding school, Phryne decided there was more to life than finishing-school manners and fled to join an all-women ambulance brigade attached to the French army.
As you can only imagine, Miss Fisher leaves a trail of men floundering in her rear view mirror. “Phryne is a hero, just like James Bond or the Saint, but with fewer product endorsements and a better class of lovers,” says Greenwood. “I decided to try a female hero and made her as free as a male hero, to see what she would do.”
After screening ‘Cocaine Blues’, I found it to be both witty and elegant with just the right amount of a dark side to keep you on the edge. The first episode begins in 1928 where Phryne will not rest until she solves the mystery of her sister’s disappearance and ensure that Murdoch Foyle (Nicholas Bell), the man thought to be responsible, never gets out of jail. As you watch the storyline unfold, you get the distinct impression that Foyle is Miss Fisher’s version of Holmes’ Moriarty.
For those still rocking in the corner waiting for 2014 and the return of Sherlock 3, check out Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, coming soon to a public television station near you…hopefully.