By Diane Wild of TV, eh?
The first new Murdoch Mysteries season to air on CBC will start Monday with an episode on the invention of human-controlled flight, a theme star Yannick Bisson finds fitting considering the series is finding new wings with a new network. He promises an intensified look at William Murdoch’s romantic life plus intriguing guest stars such as Thomas Howes (Downton Abbey) as Winston Churchill , Andrew Gower (Being Human) as Sherlock Holmes and Geraint Wyn Davies reprising his role as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
“The feeling that someone cares and considers the value of the show has made it night and day for us,” Bisson said about the transition from CityTV to CBC in a recent interview at CBC’s Vancouver Open House and Food Bank Day. “It’s put some jump in our step. I couldn’t be happier.”
Even CBC’s airing of season 5 this fall – a season that had just aired over the summer on Citytv – were getting bigger ratings in reruns than the first-run episodes on CityTV. The public broadcaster has a bigger reach across the country, but Bisson also considers it a better fit for the show and is grateful for the consistent timeslot and major promotional efforts.
Even before the move, though, Murdoch was a hit with audiences in Canada and the UK especially. Bisson points to one possible explanation for its success.
“Some journalists have said the show hasn’t quite found its tone – is it a comedy, is it a drama? Well, it’s not any particular thing. We started doing period when no one was doing it. It’s sometimes funny, it’s sometimes macabre, it’s sometimes fraught with drama. It’s not always the same thing and that’s what I like about it, and I think what a lot of people like about it. Plus you can sit down with your family, there’s a resolution, and it touches on a lot of topics.”
Though he’s been acting for 30 years, Murdoch is the most time he’s spent with one character, and the one he jokes has legitimized his career choice to those close to home. “Until Murdoch crept over to Quebec, most of my family said ‘oh yeah, I hear Yannick’s an actor, whatever.’ Now they actually believe me.”
He’s also directed the season premiere for the last few years, allowing him to keep even more invested in the show and to “exercise some creativity I wouldn’t ordinarily be able to.” It helps stave off any boredom a star might end up feeling during a long-running series, enough that he sees a long future ahead.
“We could continue for several more seasons – there’s so many places the story could go. I mean, you have 200 more years,” he laughed about the series that’s just now entering the 20th century. “OK, so let’s say another 10.”
Murdoch isn’t his entire life, of course. He pursues other acting jobs as his schedule allows, and also has three daughters who have various interests in performing. He wouldn’t necessarily advocate for them to follow in his footsteps, especially when they were younger, given his own experiences in the industry.
“I would definitely encourage my kids in anything … but I’m not going to do anything to make it too easy for them,” he said. “It’s a long haul being an actor. It takes a lot of sacrifice and a lot of work. On the surface there are a lot of misconceptions about the industry, and it is no place for kids. I was quite young and that’s why I feel comfortable saying that. People throw their kids to the wolves and it’s not because they’re bad people, it’s because it’s business. Even if your kid was a prodigy and had a mind for engineering, you wouldn’t throw them in a 9 to 5 or worse job writing code or designing a bridge. That’s what showbiz is — it’s long hours and a lot of pressure and not always the nicest people.”
Murdoch Mysteries has been a positive experience for him, however, as well as for the audience who, it would seem a safe guess, will only grow as season six runs on CBC.
“The great thing about the show is you can pop in any time,” he said. “There are continuing arcs – the romantic aspect of the show is examined more closely this year, but the episodes are self-contained. There’s a little for everybody, like seasons past, if a little slicker now.”
Murdoch Mysteries season six premieres January 7 on CBC.