Houdini & Doyle

Houdini & Doyle

I know. I know.

My blog posts have been spottier than a leopard. They have been as infrequent as a UFO sighting.

Well, there are reasons for that. Some are good. Some, not so good. As I have said before I share a body with an artists named M. D. Jackson who has been too busy doing “art” stuff and has had little to no time for writing.

The “art stuff” came to an end, though and I found myself a little burnt out. So I took to binge watching some television series. I wanted to write about them each individually, but I found I’d lost my blog writin’ mojo. Nevertheless, I’m trying to stage a comeback so… here goes:

HOUDINI & DOYLE

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This series is a British, Canadian, American co-production. The premise revolves around the friendship that existed between Harry Houdini, the famous escape artists and spritualist debunker, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, writer, creator of Sherlock Holmes and famous champion of spiritualism.

doylehoudiniThis is historically true. Doyle and Houdini were friends until they had a falling out in the early 1920’s over Doyle’s belief in the supernatural. This tension between the two famous friends forms the basis for the series.

Houdini is the skeptic. Doyle the believer. Set in 1901 the series is like a turn-of-the-century X-files, or, a more apt comparison would be a turn-of-the-century Scooby Doo as pretty much all of the mysteries presented in the episodes turn out to have prosaic solutions despite their supernatural trappings.

Houdini is played by American actor Michael Weston, while Doyle is played by British Actor Stephen Mangan (who played the role of Dirk Gently in the short lived BBC adaptation of the Douglas Adams novel). Mangan plays Doyle without any trace of a Scottish accent, though, which seemed off to me, but no more odd then Weston’s Brooklyn accent for Houdini.

Houdini and Doyle are joined in their investigations by Adelaide Stratton (played by Canadian actress Rebecca Liddiard), the very first female constable on the London Police force. She is assigned to both the famous men as a way of getting the meddling duo (and the troublesome female police officer) out of the Chief Constable’s hair.

Although the episodes cover fairly familiar territory (Supernatural seeming mystery investigated and revealed to be merely ingenious criminal activity — shades of Scooby Doo –) it is the contentious relationship between skeptic Houdini and believer Doyle that drives much of the action of the story. As the series progress we learn more about Houdini’s relationship with his mother, Doyle’s homelife raising two children while his wife lies in hospital in a coma and his disappointment over the lack of enthusiasm over his just released book about the Boer War (Not surprisingly, his readers only want to talk about Sherlock Holmes).

This is probably the best reason to watch the series. The mysteries themselves range from fairly interesting to somewhat turgid, but discovering more about Doyle’s life and about Houdini’s past and the revelations of the mysterious past of their companion, Adelaide Stratton, make this series compelling.

The entire first season is still available on demand through various services (and, obviously, through certain less than legal backchannels — not that I am advocating internet piracy, understand?) and at only 10 episodes it is certainly worth a look.

Sadly, it seems as though the first season is all that we’re gonna get of this series as Fox, the American network that carried it, has opted not to renew it for another season. The question is up in the air now whether Britain and Canada will continue to produce the series on their own. Still, as I said, season one is worth a look even if there is to be no more Houdini and Doyle.

 

 

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