After a three-week break for the Winter Olympics, Murdoch Mysteries roars back onto CBC’s schedule with an interesting and unique episode.
“Murdoch Schmurdoch,” written by Robert Rotenberg and Lori Spring and directed by Sherren Lee, isn’t your traditional Murdoch episode. Well, yes, there is a crime and most of the major characters are involved, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Here’s what the CBC has revealed in their official synopsis:
Murdoch investigates a murder with connections to vaudeville entertainers Harry and Al Jolson and Watts unravels a mystery about his own family.
And, as always, a few more tidbits from me after watching a screener.
John Brackenreid returns
After several episodes away, John is back in Station House No. 4 where he spends a lot of time alongside Higgins, working the main murder case. And, while working it, someone catches John’s eye. Is yet another romantic relationship in the cards for a Murdoch character?
Al and Harry Jolson visit Toronto
My research—OK, Google—shows Al did indeed perform in Toronto, though not exactly during Murdoch Mysteries‘ timeline. No matter, he and his brother make an immediate impact. Kudos to Sayer Roberts for the great performance as Al, who connects with Detective Watts in a major, and surprising, storyline.
Detective Watts gets spiritual
Daniel Maslany gets major screen time on Monday night and I couldn’t be happier. Not only is the slightly dishevelled detective on point during the murder investigation, but he and Al Jolson spend numerous scenes together, rounding out Watts in a fascinating way.
Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading unless you have watched the Season 10 finale of Murdoch Mysteries.
As much as I love Murdoch Mysteries, I didn’t like the way the show said goodbye to Constable “Slugger” Jackson. There was a lot going on in the Season 10 finale and Season 11 premiere, so his loss felt a little shoved to the side for fans. But now I feel like we—and the most lovable lug in Station House No. 4—have gotten a proper sendoff thanks to this season’s Murdoch Mysteries web series The Book of Jackson.
Written by Noelle Girard, the six-episode series—available now at CBC.ca—kicks off with the members of Station House No. 4 continuing to grieve the loss of Constable Jackson as they pack up his belongings. But the arrival of a distraught woman looking for the deceased Jackson and the discovery of a hidden notebook filled with a secret code lead Murdoch, Crabtree, Higgins and Watts working to unravel the case Jackson was working on in secret before he died.
I spoke to Kristian Bruun about playing Jackson for so many years and what it was like to return to the Murdoch Mysteries set to film The Book of Jackson.
I’ve watched The Book of Jackson and it was nice to take the time to really have a heartfelt goodbye for Slugger Jackson. He was taken so suddenly at the end of Season 10, it was hard to really grasp his exit.
Kristian Bruun: Yeah, it was nice. At the beginning of Season 11, we’re worried about Murdoch being framed for murder and that Crabtree is OK. They did have a nice little salute to him at the end of the episode that misted me up when I watched it. But it was so nice for me to have the opportunity to put the uniform back on and say goodbye my own way. I was pleasantly surprised and honoured to come back and put the uniform on.
What was the production schedule like? When did you film The Book of Jackson? It sounds like it was after Season 10 wrapped.
It was sort of similar to how we did the previous year’s web series, Beyond Time, which I was a part of as well. It’s best to film it when the season is up and running when everybody is around, the sets are in order and nothing has been shut down for the winter. Basically, they use the weekends to film the web series, so it’s extremely daunting for the cast and crew that are there all the time because they’ll shoot the regular work week and then will come in on Saturday and Sunday to shoot the web series, followed by another work week. It creates two straight weeks of super-long days. I think we shot this in November, so it was already near the end of the [filming] season and everyone was exhausted. And they fit so much into those two days. I mean, I remember working on the last one and trying to cram so much time travel jargon into my brain. It was such a blast but it’s a whirlwind.
So, I came in in November—I’ve been living in Los Angeles for a year now—and at the end of Season 10, we had a feeling one of us was going to die. We filmed the season finale and didn’t know who it was going to be at the time. I wish I’d known it was going to be me at the time because I would have taken the opportunity to say goodbye to the cast and the crew. But, they wanted to figure out what would be best for the fans and the mystery. I wanted to come back because I love the show, but I also understood that logistically I was the one actor who had moved away and that was just a timing thing because of my career and looking for the next thing after Orphan Black. I knew I was on the chopping block but I was hoping it wouldn’t be me. [Laughs.] But that’s the way it goes.
I was very sad to get that email from Peter Mitchell. He’s such a funny guy. He was like, ‘You’ll land on your feet, don’t worry.’ He wasn’t worried at all; meanwhile, I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, what do I do? I had two shows but they just ended at the same time!’ It was stressful, but having the chance to say goodbye this way and see the crew one last time … who knows, maybe this isn’t the last time. Who knows? But it was certainly nice to come back and do some flashbacks with everybody.
It must have been emotional to return for those two days after time away and reunite with the cast and crew working that weekend.
There were a lot of strong hugs. [Laughs.]
It’s interesting to hear the circumstances surrounding your departure from Murdoch. I did think perhaps you asked to leave because you were heading to L.A. on the heels of Orphan Black ending.
I was a little bit concerned people would think that; that I had left the show for so-called greener pastures. That’s absolutely not the case and I want the fans to know that. It was a story decision and if I were to do that, I would have released a statement. It was not my decision but it’s one that I fully understand. [Laughs.] It was almost like, ‘Sorry we killed you off, here’s a web series!’
I was sorry that the relationship between Jackson and Watts wasn’t explored more fully before Jackson’s demise.
Daniel Maslany and I are good friends now because we’ve gotten to work together and because I’m really, really good friends with his sister, Tatiana, of course. I loved working with Daniel because we just had so much fun together with the dynamic between Jackson and Watts. They are two very different characters, which always makes for good TV. We were just starting to find our stride as those characters and having fun working together.
Jackson is a wonderful character. He wears his heart on his sleeve and is fiercely loyal to his friends.
They really gave me the opportunity to make him more human. Getting a chance to grow a character is an honour and you don’t always get that chance. Jackson started off as this rival constable from another station way back in Season 5 and grew into another member of the gang. In the memorial to Jackson and the picture up on the wall, they don’t forget him.
Watch all six episodes of The Book of Jackson via CBC.ca.
Were you happy to see Jackson back in the world of Murdoch Mysteries? Do you have a message for Kristian Bruun? Let me know in the comments below.
Link: Women Behind Canadian TV: Christina Jennings
“It’s important to do and it’s important as a company, actually, to stay in touch with the young people coming up behind us. If you’re there at the CFC, at Sheridan or Humber, and you’ve given some time, you’ve done a course, you had them in to intern here at the company, and they have a project, they may just come to you first. It’s always about looking for the next generation of people behind you. And we think the way to do that is to give back.” Continue reading.
The dividing line between Before and After was drawn on October 28, 2014, in a Vancouver General Hospital operating room. This is where Harvey underwent a surgery that changed nearly every aspect of his life. Continue reading.
The Day of the Jackal, For Your Eyes Only and Predator are the three movies Graham Clegg drew on while co-writing Monday’s newest episode of Murdoch Mysteries. I’m always fascinated to hear what inspired a particular story, so it was fun to hear Clegg recount how he and co-executive producer Paul Aitken broke the story for “The Great White Moose” and then fleshed it out.
Monday’s newest instalment was a rollicking adventure involving fan favourites Allen Clegg (Matthew Bennett) and Terrence Meyers (Peter Keleghan) trade barbs—and bullets and crossbow bolts—in a tale involving President Teddy Roosevelt (Marty Moreau).
The duo discuss the inspiration for the episode, which cartoon characters Clegg and Meyers resemble and what makes Aitken jump off his couch.
Graham, you were a writer on Murdoch Mysteries a few seasons ago. What have you been up to?
Graham Clegg: I worked on a show called The Pinkertons and that was a great load of fun. We had enough money for one-and-a-half horses and one gun. I think we did quite a good job and it, unfortunately, lasted one season. Then I went off and started working on some of my own projects and they continue. One of them is a feature film and one of them is, hopefully, an upcoming series that will be shot in England.
How did you end up co-writing this episode?
GC: Peter Mitchell and Paul very kindly came back and asked me if I’d be interested in working with them again and doing another Murdoch script. Of course, I jumped at it and said, ‘Yeah, let’s go!’ [Laughs.] They came up with the premise of the episode and then Paul and I were set loose to crack the story. As we have done five or six times on Murdoch scripts, it’s a process and we hit some of those moments. [Laughs.] Paul will play the guitar and think about things. He has this great whiteboard in his upper office and past that is his balcony. We would do the writer’s thing, pacing back and forth, going ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, but what if?’ Paul also has a huge screen downstairs and we were able to project where we were going with the story, whether it be ideas or story beats.
I remember when we were breaking ‘The Great White Moose,’ we were trying to figure out what the personal connection would be between Clegg and Roosevelt. I’m a research junkie and I’d found that he was at Harvard and in the navy. Paul and I came up with the idea of, ‘Of course! This is fantastic. Clegg and Roosevelt knew each other at Harvard and they almost came to blows—some of the dialogue was cut—what it meant for the United States to extend their power. I remember Paul jumping off the couch and then jumping up and down saying, ‘Yes, yes, yes, yes!’ We found the emotional link between the history of Clegg and Roosevelt and that was a fun moment.
I remember talking to Paul, saying ‘You have to watch The Day of the Jackal!’ because we have a foregone conclusion. We know Roosevelt is not going to be assassinated. That’s not the emotional thread to the story. What we don’t know is, throughout the thriller, who could die? What we have, really, on the plate is [Meyers] and we also know that Clegg could die.
Paul, how often do you jump off the couch when a story is broken? Does it happen a lot?
Paul Aitken: Yes. I think I do but I’m not fully aware of it. I do get excited. When you’re breaking story you’re looking to solve problems.
GC: If he gets up off the couch, you know you’ve got something.
PA: If someone suggests something that opens a path to solving a problem I do get excited. That’s part of the fun in the whole business of writing.
Paul, how did it end up that Graham and yourself were teamed for this episode?
PA: This was an episode that we thought Graham would be good for. I think it was because it was the action-adventure part of it that we thought he was well-suited for. He also knows the characters. Clegg was named after him, for God’s sake!
GC: This has to be said! Seasons ago, when I was on staff, we were coming up with an American spy character. We came up with different character traits. He’s wily, he’s covert. What do we call him? Paul said, ‘Clegg!’ [Laughs.] What was a joke in the story room then made it to script and I said, ‘Please guys, don’t.’ And they said, ‘Nope, it’s Clegg.’
There were a couple of things that I fought for and Paul said, ‘Whatever.’ I’m so thankful and massive kudos to director Leslie Hope. She just nailed it. One thing I fought for and it was kept in was the final shot of the legendary great white moose alive on its own. I said, ‘We’ve got to have that’ and Paul said, ‘OK.’ In terms of Clegg using a crossbow, I didn’t want any muzzle flare coming from anything, so it’s creepy. And that partially came from my love of the film For Your Eyes Only, the James Bond film, where Melina uses it in the first act. The other thing is, and Paul helped me out greatly with this, is the bolometer [Editor’s note: The script refers to it as a bolograph.]. Paul and I were talking and trying to figure out how to get some Murdochian technology in. I sent Paul a link to Predator, the 1987 film with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I said, ‘I want Predator technology when you see heat registry.’ Paul came back and said, ‘Well there is something,’ and it could see up to 400 yards through the darkness. It couldn’t see heat registry but it could sense something. That’s the way the bolometer came in and it was so fun to work with. Craig and the visual effects people in post-production nailed it.
Paul, the relationship between Clegg and Meyers is an interesting one.
PA: I always thought the relationship was a working relationship, kind of like the sheepdog and the coyote, Frank and Ralph. One of them is charged with saving the sheep and the other is interested in killing the sheep. They respect each other and, deep down, some fondness for each other. But they exist to take each other down and we’ve done several incarnations where they try to do that quite directly. It’s a fun relationship and it’s fun to write for because of these inherent complexities. At the same time, we don’t take either character too seriously. As a writer, I am very fond of both of them.
Murdoch Mysteries returns with new episodes on Monday, Feb. 26, at 8 p.m. on CBC.