What makes the Canadian crime drama Murdoch Mysteries, airing on Ovation, Acorn TV and Hulu, so interesting and popular? It's not just the mysteries, it's the character of Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson).
A Catholic Cop in a Protestant City
A sub-theme running through the series is the fact that Murdoch is Catholic, which, in the late 1800s and early 1900s Toronto, was something that caused a conflict for him.
At that time, Toronto was mostly a Protestant city riddled with prejudices against Catholics. Being a somewhat prominent person in the city shines a light on his personal life.
When he applies to become an inspector, he is told he will never advance any farther than his current rank, due to his religion.
While not always a staunch Catholic, Murdoch shows his dedication to his faith whenever he sees a dead body. He makes the Sign of the Cross without even a second thought.
His religion is inbred deep within him, and he has a sister who became a nun.
Where Does Murdoch's Catholicism Come From?
Maureen Jennings, the author of the book series on which the television show is based and a creator of the series, said in an interview with Catholic Register:
“When I decided to set the book at the time, I was very interested in the potential for conflict,” she said. “To make my character Catholic, right off the bat, is a disadvantage… and we’ve dealt with that in the show a couple of times, where he could not advance very much further even if he wanted to.
"The prejudice against Catholics was very intense at that time, and we forget it was huge for a long, long time.”
Jennings also drew on her own background for the character. As the article also says:
Though she considers herself to be an Anglican, Jennings grew up in what she called “a very Catholic environment.” She said she owes much of her experience to her Irish Catholic mother.
Jennings was born in Birmingham, England, and spent many of her formative years there. At the age of 17, she immigrated to Windsor with her mother. Jennings said that her mother wasn’t “overtly Catholic” but her mother’s side of the family familiarized her with their Catholic traditions.
The Science, Celebrities and Fun of Murdoch Mysteries
Besides the underlying aspect of Murdoch’s religion, the show is also entertaining and even addicting to fans because of the seriousness with which Murdoch tackles his job, yet there is plenty of fun banter between the cast throughout the episodes.
William Murdoch is not simply a good detective, he is also an inventor. He comes upon the aspect of “finger marks” which we now refer to as fingerprints. He also periodically invents gadgets to help solve the murders.
But William Murdoch is not alone in the field of invention. Making periodic appearances throughout the seasons are Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and more.
And other historical figures also make cameos in the shows. They include Arthur Conan Doyle, Andrew Carnegie, Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, W.C. Fields, Henry Ford, Sigmund Freud, Florence Nightingale, Al Jolson, Jack London, Bat Masterson, President William McKinley, Annie Oakley, Mary Pickford, Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, H.G. Wells, Oscar Wilde, and Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed the Murdoch house.
Murdoch Mysteries is Old Enough to Drive
Murdoch Mysteries is currently in its 16th season. Last year, when he heard there was even going to be a season 15, Bisson told this interviewer he was a little shocked.
“Twenty-four one hours is a lot,” he explained. “At first, I was really excited ... but then reality sets in.”
Bisson said he had no idea when they first began the series that it would be this popular.
“Everyone I speak to seems to like something different about the show,” he stated.
There are so many aspects to this period drama that are unlike others. And as the characters evolve and the years pass by, the series evolves. yet it never loses its charm.
It's a Family Affair
The series is also a Bisson family affair, as Yannick’s daughters, wife/high-school sweetheart Chantal Craig, and even his dog, have made appearances throughout the seasons.
Bisson has directed several episodes, and he and co-star Helene Joy are executive producers.
The 16th season of the super popular Murdoch Mysteries still enthralls viewers, and all 24 episodes are filled with the intrigue, fun, as well as the entertaining personal stories of all the characters.
As of now, there is no word whether the show will return for another season. If fans have anything to say about it, it will be back next year.
For more background on the actors and characters, check out this video, where I delve into deeper into the show.
Parents should be warned that this is a detective show aimed at adults, so it does depict murder and the darker side of human nature. Sexual content and mild profanity are minimal (but not nonexistent).