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Murdoch Mysteries; Caleigh Bacchus breaks down “The .38 Murdoch Special”

[Spoiler alert: Do not continue reading until you have watched “The .38 Murdoch Special.]

Named on of Playback magazine’s 10 to Watch in 2020, Caleigh Bacchus is a new member to the Murdoch Mysteries‘ writer’s room. She, along with Simon McNabb, penned Monday’s instalment, which investigated murder, racism and more.

We spoke to Caleigh Bacchus via email about the key storylines and what fans can expect as Season 14 closes out.

Welcome to the Murdoch Mysteries team! You’re a former track and field athlete. How did you end up working in Canadian television?
Caleigh Bacchus: I’d always been interested in storytelling, but it took me a while to figure out the best medium to do so. It wasn’t until I moved to Toronto that I saw film crews all around the city and I considered screenwriting. So I decided to go back to school for film and it was the best decision that I ever made.

And how did you end up in the Murdoch Mysteries writing room?
CB: I interviewed for MM in 2019, but I didn’t get the job that year. They remembered me the next year (2020) and offered me the script coordinator position.

You previously worked on Diggstown with Floyd Kane. What did you learn from him – about storytelling, the craft of TV or anything else – while working with him?
CB: Diggstown was a great experience and it was where I first learned how to break story and really break down a script. After that I was able to go back and apply what I’d learned to my own work. I also learned from Floyd that it’s important to have some ownership over your projects. To take the risk and invest in your work so that you truly have a stake in it.

How did the idea for the main storyline come about, regarding the opium den? Was it discussed in the room first and then fleshed out? What was the inspiration for it?
CB: We started breaking this story during the summer of 2020 while the BLM protests were happening worldwide and we thought that it was important to join in on that conversation of racial injustice. Upon researching the topic, we discovered the Vancouver anti-Asian race rots of 1907 and the Opium Act of 1908 which was also seen as an anti-Asian law. It was a great opportunity to highlight this bit of history so we decided to focus the story there.

It was interesting to get a little history on opium via Brackenreid, Murdoch and Watts. What was it like researching it?
CB: I didn’t personally know all of the history around the opium laws and anti-Asian sentiments in Canada so the research was both informative and heartbreaking.

What about the history of mayonnaise? I didn’t expect that little tidbit.
CB: While mayonnaise had been around since the 1700s, it wasn’t jarred and sold until 1907. So we thought it would be fun if Murdoch and Ogden tried it for the first time on the show.

How did the writing process work between yourself and Simon McNabb? Did you write first, and then pass it to him?
CB: Writing with Simon was a very smooth process. We would split the writing work 50/50 then put our halves together and then we would each do a round of edits to the entire document.

What was the idea behind not showing Miss Hart’s wedding? Was it just due to the shortened episode order?
CB: We thought it would be in character for Miss Hart to have her wedding without inviting any of her colleagues.

The addition of composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor as a historical reference was neat.
CB: Yes. A wonderful black historical figure.

Watts going to Ogden, seeking hypnosis as a “cure” was so heartbreaking. What has it been like to follow Watts’ journey this season?
CB: It’s been quite an emotional journey watching Watts’ plight. It’s good to see how far we’ve come as a society but also a reminder that there is work still to be done because, unfortunately, we can still draw too many similarities from Watts’ story and apply them to the issues facing the LGBTQIA today.

Racism has always been a part of Murdoch Mysteries’ storylines, in particular against the Black community. What has it been like telling Black stories like Momo and Nomi’s on Murdoch this season?
CB: I was really glad to be a part of telling this story and portraying some of the issues that the Black community faced and still face to this day through the characters of the world.

I feel like Brackenreid has put himself in danger with his revealing Nomi is his daughter. Should I be concerned?
CB: You’ll have to wait and see :)

There are just two episodes of Murdoch Mysteries left this season. What can you say about them without giving any secrets away?
CB: They’re a whirlwind. Prepare yourself for a lot of jeopardy and some heart wrenching twists.

Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.


Link: Hélène Joy reveals secrets to ‘Murdoch Mysteries’ success

From Rick Bentley of KGET:

Link: Hélène Joy reveals secrets to ‘Murdoch Mysteries’ success
“We have 10-year-olds who love the show. We have 85-year-olds who love the show. And, everyone in between. If ever there was a demographic in their 20s that we didn’t have, we have them now because we got them when they were 10. So now we have everybody across the boards.” Continue reading.


Why Are Thrillers and Mysteries so Popular in Canada?

Research has found that thrillers and mysteries are the fifth-most watched TV genre in Canada, with 45 percent of the population enjoying this type of content. Making up the other top four genres are comedies, dramas, news, and documentaries. There seems to be a high volume of top-quality content being released and rather than the thriller genre becoming over-saturated, viewers are hungry for more. This has spread out into other forms of entertainment as well, with games and books also featuring a heavy number of thrills and mystery.

Top Thrillers and Mysteries in Canada
One of the primary reasons for the rise of thrillers in Canada could be the success of Criminal Minds. This is the fourth-most popular TV series in Canada according to IMDB, behind The Expanse, Vikings, and the popular comedy, Schitt’s Creek. The procedural drama began in 2005 and ran for 15 seasons until 2020. In total, there were 324 episodes, and the original series also led to two spinoffs called Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. Similar offerings like Murdoch Mysteries, Frankie Drake Mysteries and Cardinal are also hugely popular across the country.

Now that the CBS series has finished, it has left a vacuum in the market for thrillers. Canadian viewers are hungry for more of the same, so it is not surprising to see a vast number of other options emerging in Criminal Minds’ wake. The multiple award-winning series also led to other Criminal Minds-related content in different forms of entertainment, as well as a South Korean version that was launched in 2017.

Other types of thriller and mystery have been successful in Canada as well, and some of these are worlds apart from the procedural structure of the Jeff Davis offering. Some of the other most popular mysteries also belong in the fantasy and sci-fi genres. These include The Magicians, The 100, and the iconic sci-fi offering, The X-Files. Perhaps the main reason why the thriller and mystery genre is so popular in Canada is down to the fact that it is so broad, and can encompass a wide variety of shows.

Thriller and Mystery in Other Forms of Entertainment
The thriller genre isn’t just making waves on television, it is also prevalent across all other forms of mainstream entertainment. For example, it is a common source of inspiration for slot developers. This could be because it is associated with being exciting and intriguing. Agent Jane Bond Returns and Hitman are two examples of thrilling slots that have attracted a lot of players and are used on the front pages of slots sites to draw people in. The ubiquity of Sherlock Holmes across various forms of entertainment also shows how people have a strong desire to experience mystery. There have been eight games in the Frogwares Sherlock Holmes series, with the ninth installment, Chapter One, due for release in 2021.

Thrillers and mysteries continue to rank among the top genres in the world of books. Some of the most notable titles of the last 20 include Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and Before I go to Sleep by S. J. Watson.

What Other Great Thrillers and Mysteries Should Viewers Watch?
For Canadian viewers who simply can’t get enough of the thriller and mystery genre, there are plenty of great options to check out in 2021. As long as the market is there, studios will keep creating content. And because there are so many offerings in the genre, it serves to maintain a high standard.

One of the most popular Netflix series of recent times is Lupin. This is a French mystery thriller starring Omar Sy as an expert thief. Another one to watch out for in the year ahead is Clarice. This offering from CBS Studios focuses on the FBI agent Clarice Starling from Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal. It is set one year after the events of the 1988 novel and stars Rebecca Breeds in the title role.

With the thriller and mystery genre being so diverse, it’s no wonder why it is so popular in Canada. It can span numerous other genres, from sci-fi to fantasy. As long as there is an audience for it, developers will keep creating enjoyable content. 2021 should see some great new offerings hitting television screens.


Murdoch Mysteries: Christina Ray talks “The Ministry of Virtue”

[Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading until you have watched “The Ministry of Virtue.”]

Christina Ray is one of two new additions to the Murdoch Mysteries writer’s room for Season 14. No stranger to Canadian television, Ray has penned and/or produced for series like The Collector, The Best Years, The Pinkertons, Blackstone and Tribal. And, on Monday night, she turned in one heck of a script for Murdoch.

Amid a main storyline about arranged marriages was a tragic blow to the Watts/Jack relationship, as well as a major jump forward in Miss Hart’s bond with Arthur Carmichael. We spoke to Christina Ray, via email, about “The Ministry of Virtue.”

Welcome to the Murdoch Mysteries writer’s room! Give me your backstory. I know you’ve written for shows like The Pinkertons, Blackstone and Tribal. How did you end up in writing in the Canadian TV industry?
Christina Ray: A lot of Canadian writers seek their fortunes down in L.A., but I did the opposite. After winning a screenwriting award in Austin, Texas, I married a Canadian and moved here. I have no regrets. I love Canada.

And how did you end up on Murdoch Mysteries?
CR: I’d worked with executive producers Paul Aitken and Peter Mitchell years ago when we were developing a show about Bulgarian vampires. Alas, that show never came to be and the world will forever be deprived of our Bulgarian vampire brilliance. Flash forward 10 years and I get called in to an interview for Murdoch. I was thrilled by the prospect of working with Peter and Paul again, because they are such witty, fun and generous collaborators.

Where did the idea for the main storyline, arranged marriages, come about? Was it inspired by research you did or was it pitched in the virtual room by someone?
CR: Executive producer Simon McNabb had discovered an article published in The Globe and Mail in 1906 about “Salvation Girls,” women who’d been convicted of various offences in England who were offered the chance to start new lives in Canada as servants, wives and mothers. This was an actual program sponsored by the Salvation Army at the time, and we felt the concept of mail order brides was a juicy one to explore as a Murdoch storyline.

Detective Watts has evolved into a complicated character and he does a lot of heavy lifting with story in this episode. What’s it been like writing for him? Daniel is fantastic in the role.
CR: I loved writing the Watts and Jack scenes. The arc of their relationship is especially heart-wrenching in this episode. Watts is wonderful, quirky and complex in a way that is quite lovable. It’s compelling to watch him navigate the difficult reality of a being gay man at a time when his very identity was against the law.

Miss Hart is another interesting character on Murdoch Mysteries. People love, or hate, her. What’s your take on Miss Hart? Is she just misunderstood?
CR: Violet Hart is a sly, feisty survivor. Despite the challenges of being a woman of colour during the turn of the century, she pursues the life she wants, and I admire her moxie. She’s surprising and mysterious. Her personal dynamic is unlike anyone else in the show. She’s definitely polarizing, but I love her character.

Miss Hart and Arthur Carmichael shared a kiss that was not shown on-camera. Was that a reflection of the shock of the time? Was it written in the script that way or was that a decision director Mina Shum made?
CR: You can thank COVID-19 for that! I would have loved to have shown the kiss on screen, but the pandemic affected our creative choices. As one of our many pandemic related precautions this season had a ‘no kissing’ rule! Many other precautions were taken to keep everyone in our cast and crew safe: daily health check questionnaires, temperature checks, location disinfection, mask requirements, etc. Shaftesbury really knocked it out of the ballpark when it comes to finding a way to continue production during this crisis.

Jack Walker’s butcher shop was vandalized and he and Watts broke up. How could you break them up?!
CR: The course of true love never did run smooth, said Shakespeare. The fact the audience cares that we broke them up is exactly why we broke them up! It’s called drama. Hearts and flowers all the time would be dreadfully dull. All I can say is we’re not done with Jack and Watts. Stay tuned for future twists and turns!

What kind of writer are you? Do you prefer a noisy coffee shop (remember those?) or a quiet room? Do you like to play music while you write? What works for you?
CR: I could never work in a noisy coffee shop. I like a quiet room, with as few distractions as possible. I do listen to music, but it can’t have lyrics. No words, just instruments. I need to hear the dialogue that’s going on in my head without interruption. I love all kinds of music, but while I’m writing what works for me is to listen to ambient electronic grooves like Fila Brazilia, Tosca, or Kruder and Dorfmeister.

Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.


AMC Networks and Shaftesbury enter into new strategic partnership, further expanding the global audience for Shaftesbury’s content

From a media release:

AMC Networks, the entertainment company behind some of the most popular and award-winning brands in television, streaming and film, and award-winning production company Shaftesbury, announced today they have entered into a new strategic partnership. Through its investment in Shaftesbury, AMC Networks will gain access to Shaftesbury’s award-winning slate and expand its content and development capabilities in Canada. Shaftesbury CEO and Chairman Christina Jennings will continue to spearhead the creative focus of the company and lead the day-to-day operational control alongside Executive Vice President, Scott Garvie. Jennings, Garvie and Shaftesbury board member Michael Levine will remain on Shaftesbury’s Board of Directors. They will be joined by two new AMC Networks directors, Harold Gronenthal, EVP of Programming and Marketing for AMC Networks International, and Matt Graham, GM of the AMC Networks-owned Acorn TV streaming service. Shaftesbury and its shareholders were advised on this strategic investment by RBC Capital Markets.

The new partnership will create growth for Shaftesbury’s existing and future slate of content across all genres, creating more opportunities for Canadian creators in front of and behind the camera. The partnership also builds on AMC Networks and Shaftesbury’s existing production relationship. Shaftesbury is the studio behind some of the biggest titles on Acorn TV, including all 14 seasons of Murdoch Mysteries. In addition to Acorn TV, AMC Networks operates the entertainment brands AMC, SundanceTV, BBC America and the fast-growing streaming services AMC+, Shudder, Sundance Now and ALLBLK.