General Question

luigirovatti's avatar

It might be a bit unusual as a question, but between "Murder, She Wrote" and "Murdoch Mysteries", which of these TV shows has the most realistic deductions?

Asked by luigirovatti (2392points) November 15th, 2020

I’ll try to answer myself. For me, it’s “Murdoch Mysteries”, though not in its earliest seasons. But, the detective encounters such wonderful personalities (I mean, in the very first episode, Tesla himself! Wow!).

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9 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

Aha. Now I think I know what you’re up to, @luigirovatti: you’re working on a TV script or series. Right?

As it happens, I watched the first Murdoch only last week. (I thought it was too bad they didn’t hire an actual actor for the Tesla role.) I wasn’t especially engaged and didn’t go on with the series, but maybe now I will. Should I skip ahead?

I watched Murder, She Wrote as it was coming out on broadcast TV, back in the 1980s, when I still watched broadcast TV (and there was no such thing as streaming video). I stayed with it for 5 or 6 seasons and enjoyed the series a lot. Angela Lansbury was a delight to watch.

There were three things about it, though, that took it rather far into the realm of the improbable:

• The number of homicides that happen right in or near tiny Cabot Cove is wildly disproportionate. I live in San Jose, where a lot of things happen, some of them not good at all, and there weren’t enough homicides logged last year to support an old-fashioned 39-episode TV series, especially if some of them were multiples. Everybody in Cabot Cove should be barricaded behind iron doors, not out gossiping by the white picket fence.

• The “old flame” and “old friend” tropes came up way too soon and way too often. And if Jessica Fletcher went to a conference, man, everybody keep your hand over your drinks and bar your hotel room door.

• The solutions hinged far too often on some kind of coincidence, such as Jessica’s seeing the way a spilled beverage puddled on a counter and suddenly realizing that the bloodstains had pooled in the wrong way. Too much irrelevant inspiration for a sudden “aha!” moment rather than actual clues and deduction.

You can’t beat the Sherlock Holmes stories for actual clues and deduction. The problem is, you can reveal the detective’s spotting of a clue among the red herrings in one line of a short story, but as a dramatized action scene it can be slow and boring unless you enhance it. How does the viewer see what the detective (or his assistant) sees and yet not see it? And if you just focus on it, you’ve killed the suspense, so you have to show irrelevant distractors too. So—presto, a lot of coincidence and divine revelation when the stories are adapted for the screen.

Likewise, the Nero Wolfe stories meet the test on paper but may be far less satisfying in dramatic form (and no one has got either Wolfe or Archie right in film).

Brother Cadfael is a perfectly lovely detective, and so beautifully written by Ellis Peters, but damn, how many stories hinge on the discovery of a tiny filament or scrap of fabric or other substance caught on a thorn, a door frame, or a reed?

Mystery fans will accept a lot of flaws for the sake of the story, but I’m sure you know they demand a puzzle with enough clues that the reader (viewer) could have figured it out, and the solution has to respect logic. Most important, of course, is that justice must be done, although it doesn’t always take the form of legal justice.

janbb's avatar

@Jeruba I only watched a few episodes of “Midsomer Murders” because it was so improbable that that small English village could have two or three murders at a time. And only a few “Grantchesters” because the murderers always seemed to be jilted lovers – and usually female.

Did you watch the latest “Sherlock Holmes” series with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman? Very well done and complicated. My son sometimes had to explain parts to me.

Jeruba's avatar

@janbb, those first two are on my radar, but I haven’t given them much of a look yet. I’ve also seen that British TV murder mysteries (unlike their print counterparts) are apt to be especially gruesome. I like ‘em cozy, for the most part.

I watched the first two seasons of the Cumberbatch/Freeman series. They were entertaining, and I liked the word play on real SH stories, although I never thought either of those two was right for the part. But I quit when suddenly Holmes went all Monk and couldn’t handle an ordinary social situation—I think it was a wedding reception—as if he’d never heard of giving a toast before. From his own background, education, and experience, Holmes ought to have been very adept and smooth at it and not blather on like some fruitcake at a bus stop. False characterization, bah.

janbb's avatar

@Jeruba I prefer cozy to gruesome too.

And in the new SH, I think Holmes is being portrayed as on the autism spectrum. My son was an avid reader of Sherlock all through his life and even joined the Sherlock Holmes Society in Philadelphia for a while. I actually love Martin Freeman as Watson.

LadyMarissa's avatar

I don’t know that I can claim it’s because she’s more realistic, but I’m a huge fan of Murder She Wrote. When Murdock first came out I really enjoyed watching it; however, I soon grew bored with the series!!!

YARNLADY's avatar

I never have seen the point in analyzing stories so unless they are just poorly written, I simply enjoy them, plot holes and all.

SEKA's avatar

I agree with @YARNLADY in that I prefer to enjoy and never analyze the style of telling the story. So what if it doesn’t make perfect sense as long as it makes me laugh, smile, or cry before the end

Jeruba's avatar

I suppose you (one) might tell an astronomer that you have never seen the point in calculating the size and composition of stars. You just look up and enjoy them. But what you might overlook is that thinking about the stars, knowing what they’re made of, being able to measure them, etc., is an essential part of how the astronomer enjoys them.

The OP is obviously interested in composition, and that’s what he asked about: specifically, which of two scripted series in the mystery genre does the better job of presenting logical threads from puzzle to solution. That’s what I answered, because awareness of things like that is an essential part of how I enjoy fiction.

dabbler's avatar

Huge fan of Midsomer Murders. 17+ seasons
Besides the lovely theremin theme music (played live for 17 seasons by BBC’s Celia Sheen) we found the characters and costumes charming, and the stories fun for their fictitious injection of several famous characters. Detective Murdoch’s style is very scientific and involves a lot of science that was very new around that turn of the century. Murdoch’s relationship with the Toronto Coroner teases us along for several seasons.

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