Tag Archives: Murdoch Mysteries

Interview: Murdoch heads to Manhattan

Murdoch and Julia’s wedding ceremony was pretty unorthodox–they almost skipped the whole thing to solve a crime–so it really should have come as no surprise that their honeymoon would veer off the beaten path as well.

“Murdoch Takes Manhattan” found the pair embroiled in a plot to assassinate President Teddy Roosevelt in New York City while back home Brackenreid and Emily were tasked with solving the murder of a man found run over on a Toronto street. Not to be outdone, Crabtree, Higgins and Jackson invested in a car and tooled around the city on a quest to impress. The offbeat, more lighthearted episode contained some very funny moments, including what may be the most outrageous case of double entendre ever used on Murdoch Mysteries, and uttered by the show’s normally staid lead character.

I spoke to Simon McNabb, the episode’s writer, about everything that went down.

How did you decide to have William and Julia go to Manhattan for their honeymoon? Was that figured out in the writers’ room or when you were writing the script on your own?
Simon McNabb: The idea of William and Julia going to Manhattan was something that came out of the writers’ room. Obviously we needed to do something that was exciting, unusual and something they had never done before for their honeymoon and we wanted to do something a little more grand than going to a nice hotel in downtown Toronto. New York seemed like the place that two cultural people of that era would go if they were taking their first vacation together. The step in the thought process was, ‘OK, how do we do it?’ So we came up with something that was set in their hotel. A bit of a Manhattan Murder Mystery scenario.

Because William and Julia were in Manhattan, that left Brackenreid and Emily to solve the “hit and walk” crime. That was a nice change of pace, especially their dialogue. He’s the old guard and she’s the new.
SM: The advancing of society and social mores is something that the show has always dealt with but it’s something that we’re really tackling a lot this year. You’re going to see that even more as the Suffragette story that we introduced in the two-part premiere advances this season. We’ve been cognizant of keeping that alive throughout. In terms of the characters, I love it when we put Emily and Brackenreid together because they are complete opposites. Emily is the most progressive and youngest of the clan, and Brackenreid is sort of the one character who is allowed–because of his gruff affability–to embody what most people at that time actually felt. He’s the guy who gets to say that women shouldn’t be driving, that things are better when left in the hands of a capable man. And when you throw one of our more progressive-thinking, feisty characters up against that I think it’s a lot of fun and does allow us to make a bit of a commentary on the time and how far things have come.

Putting Crabtree, Higgins and Jackson in that car together was brilliant. It made total sense that these three would buy a car together and hope to appear cool.
SM: That was an idea that came out of the writers’ room as something fun that we wanted to do. Something that had to do with a road trip; how much fun would that be? So when that idea was first batted around we didn’t know how it would fit or if it would even be a case. Maybe it would just be a fun C-story jaunt. We weren’t really sure. At some point the idea of carbon monoxide as a murder weapon came up and that’s when it all kind of tied together. The road trip would become an element of the case.

Sudz Sutherland is no stranger to Murdoch Mysteries. He’s directed several episodes. What does he bring to the table directing an episode like ‘Murdoch Takes Manhattan’?
PM: Sudz is fantastic. He’s a unique director and a unique talent. He directed the wedding episode as well. The way we work is that we shoot two episodes simultaneously, going back and forth from scene to scene. He had his work cut out for him because they’re both big episodes. He has a great sense of humour and is incredibly funny. He knows what the jokes are and where they all are and he also knows where to let his actors play. We have a cast, to a man and a woman, who can be very funny. He also identifies humour in spots where maybe you don’t write in on the page, just in a passing background actor or in a performance from a day player. Casting had a lot to do with it, but finding the bellboy brought a lot of energy and humour to  that storyline. When I wrote it, I thought the road trip would be hilarious but I didn’t think of the other storyline as being particularly comic, but Sudz found a lot of humour in the Manhattan Murder Mystery storyline as well.

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Yannick doesn’t really get to flex his comic muscles that much. Murdoch is supposed to be fairly stoic, so to see his facial expressions in that scene with the bellboy was hilarious.
SM: Because we have a main case of the week that Murdoch has to solve, usually when we have the chance to do something funny and fun and light it ends up in a B-story and in someone else’s hands because Murdoch is busy solving a crime, which is a murder and usually pretty serious. So in this episode, although there turns out to be a murder in it, he doesn’t know there’s a murder at the beginning of it, so there is this framework that he and his wife are off on this fun journey together. So it opened up some more comedic things to do with him. Everyone in the writers’ room is acutely aware that Yannick can be very funny and he nailed it with his reactions. He always delights us, usually with his reactions to Crabtree. In this episode we got to do more of it and he ran with it.

That leads into my favourite line of the night, but before we get to that, can you tell me who wrote the following lines from the episode? ‘Drunken stupor.’
SM: Drunken stupor came from our showrunner, Peter Mitchell.

‘Beside driver.’
SM: That was me.

‘Ontario is ours for the discovering.’
SM: That came out of the fact that we’re doing a behind-the-scenes series sponsored by the Government of Ontario, so that came out of the writers’ room somewhere. I don’t think it was my idea. But whoever said it, it was very funny.

And finally: ‘It’s so big, but it goes in quite easily and reaches into the perfect spot.’
SM: [Laughs.] Yes, that was Mr. Yannick Bisson. That scene in particular was when he was able to run with the comic vibe of the whole storyline and started ad-libbing. I was not on-set for the entire shooting of the scene and he may have consulted with Sudz Sutherland a little bit, but I do know that it didn’t come out of my script or the writers’ room.

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

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Comments and queries for the week of Nov. 7

I literally jumped up out of my chair and applauded when Inspector Brackenreid laid down the law [on Murdoch Mysteries]: no leaving the church until the ceremony was complete. Finally! Now to get Crabtree & Edna Brooks together.–Sue

It seemed to me like they played the wrong music for Julia’s walk down the aisle. The one played was Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March,” which is usually played after the ceremony. But I loved the show!–CW

In a series where Murdoch’s faith seems to be an integral part of his actions, it struck me as extremely bad writing to have them talk all the way through their vows and tell the priest to hurry up! I could see them realizing who the culprit was and leaving the church in haste after the ceremony and everyone in the dark as to why they left, only to reappear at the reception with it all solved and taken care of.–Merle

Got a comment or question about Canadian television? Send it to greg@tv-eh.com!

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Interview: Murdoch Mysteries ties the knot

It took eight seasons, but Murdoch Mysteries fans got the storyline they wanted. After what felt like an endless string of will-they-or-won’t-they moments Dr. Julia Ogden and Det. William Murdoch finally tied the knot in front of friends and family in a ceremony that wasn’t without hiccups. Script writer Paul Aitken threw one more wrinkle at the pair by having them realize who the real culprit in a murder case was while kneeling at the altar. Cracking the case caused the pair to stand up and make ready to depart the proceedings … until Inspector Brackenreid ordered them to say their vows and make the wedding official.

In what I hope will become a weekly column with Murdoch‘s writers for the rest of the season, I spoke to co-executive producer and writer Aitken about Monday’s landmark 100th episode and the wedding we’d all be waiting for.

After teasing fans for so long, it was fun to have that final twist where it looked like William and Julia would forgo their vows one final time to solve a crime.
Paul Aitken: We came up with the wedding idea before we even came up with the central plot. And we wanted them to do exactly that; run away from the altar and then have Brackenreid stop them. We built the rest of the episode kind of around that moment. What we didn’t want to do was what they did on Bones, which was essentially to devote the last act entirely to their kind of gushy wedding. We wanted to basically play a bit with our fans who have been expecting, I think, something to go wrong and immediately set that right.

Was there a point when everyone decided the wedding would happen this season and during the 100th episode, or did it happen that way as a happy coincidence?
PA: It was entirely a happy coincidence. Because the wedding was going to be a special episode and the 100th was going to be a special episode, we had actually planned for two special episodes out of this. The original plan was to have the Murdoch origin episode, which was written by Maureen Jennings, be the 100th episode. But we found it was difficult to work the present mystery into the origin mystery so we couldn’t solve that in time. So we defaulted to the wedding being the 100th episode, and in the end I think it was the right decision.

Did anyone on the team want to wait and perhaps have the wedding at the end of this season or even push it to future seasons. Or have them never get together?
PA: No. Never having them get together was never an option. We’ve been promising the audience pretty much from the get-go that these two belong together and you simply can’t end the series without them ultimately being together. We would have absolutely kept them apart if we could think of a single reason how. Without stretching plausibility to the breaking point. Everyone is a little nervous that they’re married now and there won’t be the same dramatic kind of thrust to the show and we’ll see what the audience thinks. We may lose some audience, but we simply could not maintain it dramatically and have it be at all believable.

Do you have those same fears?
PA: Not too much. Ultimately we’re a murder mystery. We always tell good mysteries and our return audience will always be there. I think those that were in the show only because they were waiting for Murdoch and Ogden to get together, we may lose some of those people. I don’t think they were our main audience base and I don’t think people tune into our show to see a soap opera. They tune in to see a mystery that has elements of soaps and of characters and of continuing storylines.

How did the writing of this script go? Did Peter weigh in with some notes or did you have carte blanche because you’ve been with the show for so long as a writer and producer?
PA: This is true on almost every episode; it’s a room-based story. The writer goes away and does a draft and the writers’ room weighs in with notes and it’s very much a product of several different hands and several different voices. It’s very collaborative and this was no different. We broke the story in the room and then I went away and wrote the script and then I got notes. This is the result of all that.

The audience wanted more Margaret Brackenreid [Arwen Humphreys] and you gave it to them. She was great as the frenetic wedding planner.
PA: Arwen is great and I love the character of Margaret Brackenreid. I’ve written her several times and I take particular pleasure in writing her because she is the only person who tops Brackenreid. Brackenreid is the boss of everybody, but she is definitely the boss of Brackenreid!

Is there anything that you’re particularly proud of, looking back over these past 100 episodes?
PA: I’m very proud of the show. I think we hit the sweet spot right out of the gate. We had great characters and great actors playing those characters. As actors do, they bring something to the role that ignites our interest as writers, so we tend to write to that. That happened very quickly. It’s largely luck as much as anything. I feel an enormous amount of pride about the whole enterprise and am very happy that we’ve kept it going as long as we have. When we first started I said, ‘We can only go two seasons because that’s as many ideas that I can come up with!’ I come into every season with zero ideas and somehow it works. Somehow we come up with the ideas as we go through. As long as the audience sticks with us we’ll come up with ideas.

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

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Review: Murdoch Mysteries gets wild in Western themed tale

After having the first two episodes of Murdoch Mysteries deal with some pretty dark subject matter–human trafficking and the after effects of Brackenreid’s awful beating–I was glad for a rollicking good ride thanks to a couple of miscreants from the annals of history.

“Glory Days,” written by Peter Mitchell and Jordan Christianson and directed by star Yannick Bisson, welcomed Robert Leroy Parker and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh–also known as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid–to Toronto where they became embroiled in a storyline focusing on William Barclay “Bat” Masterson (Steven Ogg), the frontier lawman, gambler and sports writer who pulled a gun on the notorious duo moments before a prize fight featuring Canadian boxer George “Little Chocolate” Dixon. Higgins and Jackson were in the audience and tackled Bat before he squeezed off a shot in the packed room.

Bloody hell indeed.

With Bisson directing, the somewhat light-hearted episode turned its focus to not only whether the dastardly duo was in Toronto but to Murdoch and Julia’s upcoming nuptials. Turns out Margaret Brackenreid wanted to take over the planning of their happy day. Or something as small as taking care of the flowers. Anything, Brackenreid confessed, to get Margaret to stop talking about it during dinner. Speaking of the wedding, Julia wasn’t so sure she wanted to have the ceremony in Murdoch’s Catholic church, so she went to speak to Father Clements (Anthony Lemke) about it and was challenged to consider her own faith in the church.

As it turned out, the men Bat saw at the fight weren’t Butch and Sundance but the lawman (who took great pleasure in showing Julia his, um, six-shooter) wasn’t about to give up on the hunt. He grew only more bold when two men robbed the Bank of Toronto at gunpoint and were identified by the stuttering manager that Butch and Sundance were on the loose. Things got serious when a train headed to Simcoe, Ont., was robbed of its Grand Trunk Railroad payroll by the criminals and a man was killed in the process. It was then the truth came out: Butch and Sundance weren’t really in the city but Bat lied they were because he missed his “glory days.”

There were several funny moments during the chase, most notably Brackenreid, Crabtree and Murdoch standing outside a house of ill repute while Bat “questioned” a young woman who claimed to have seen the two. Murdoch Mysteries can be serious to be sure, but it can be very, very funny too. Who else howled when Murdoch stumbled into the table after he was proffered by the prostitute or snickered in anticipation of Crabtree’s bachelor party for the detective?

And a special thank you to Mitchell and Christianson for including “horseback ride” in Monday’s script; having the Toronto coppers play cowboy–complete with an expansive accompanying soundtrack–was a great nod to the wild West. And Murdoch’s football tackle of a baddie through the wall of a hay loft? Just awesome.

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

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Review: Det. Murdoch’s dark edge

The prevailing tone consuming the first two episodes of Murdoch Mysteries this season has been one of darkness. That’s a pretty odd thing to say about a TV series that deals with a murder of the week, but Murdoch Mysteries has always juxtaposed that with a pretty large dose of humour thanks to Crabtree and Higgins, and even a well-timed “Bloody hell!” courtesy of Brackenreid.

And while those two young coppers did supply a few chuckles–along with the fantastic Patrick McKenna as Inspector Hamish Slorach–much of “On the Waterfront” parts one and two showed darker sides to characters we’ve loved for eight seasons.

Leading the pack was, of course, Brackenreid. He’s always had an edge to him, a willingness to throw a few fists around in the interrogation room if it meant getting a confession. But his lone wolf act–seeking out the O’Shea brothers with nary a badge nor a care about his own well-being in their search–was very different. When those dastardly brothers ended up dead I must admit I wondered if Brackenreid had had a hand in it.

Story-wise, the tale of corruption at Toronto’s wharf took a horrible turn and delved into adult territory with the realization that overseas women were part of a human trafficking ring that was coming out of the city docks; pretty mature stuff for 8 p.m. on a Monday night.

Murdoch, rightly disgusted by the whole thing, took out his frustrations on one man by decking him. I like it when Murdoch is willing to get his hands dirty and use them instead of his intelligence, so I was more than happy to see him dole out some 10-fingered justice. That rough side came out later when Murdoch faced off with Leslie Garland, with the former telling the latter–who had just lost his job as a lawyer thanks to Julia–that if he ever showed his face around again Murdoch would take off his badge throw some punches. I’m secretly hoping Leslie drops by so I can see that happen.

And while the boys were getting physical, Murdoch’s girls were fighting with their minds. Things looked bleak after their arrest for staging a protest in support of the Suffragette movement and Emily’s assault charged hinted she’d be spending time behind bars. That was until Clara Brett Martin entered the fray. Murdoch Mysteries’ latest real-life historical figure, played by Patricia Fagan, is the first female lawyer in the British Empire. Her spunk, willingness to play the legal game–and use a little blackmail supplied by Julia–got all of the charges against the accused dropped. (I was hoping Leslie’s little game of scaring Julia into thinking James Gillies was still alive would come back to haunt him.) Clara, another high-ranking female in Toronto’s circles will no doubt inspire Julia and Emily to push women’s rights even further this season and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

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

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