The third season of 'Murdoch Mysteries' is the first time I've ever watched the show. Acorn Media has brought it to Blu-ray, but before now I didn't even know the Canadian show about a detective William Murdoch even existed.
'Murdoch Mysteries' would end up being just another detective procedural if it wasn't for one key element that makes the series worth watching. It's set in the Victorian age. Murdoch is a professional sleuth, but he's only using the technology given to him up to this point in history. It's a fascinating time, because forensic science is just barely starting to blossom. For example, they have a basic understanding of fingerprints, which they refer to as "finger marks," but they have no real idea how to use them yet.
William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) calls Toronto home. He investigates everything from murders to kidnappings in the city. He's not as charismatic as other famous fictional detectives like Sherlock Holmes. Murdoch has a quiet demeanor about him. A refined type of detective that figures out crimes by observation, deduction, and rudimentary forensic science.
Murdoch shares the police station with a few rambunctious characters. Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig) who sort of reminds me of the Raylan's cheeky US Marshal boss in 'Justified.' Dr. Julie Ogden (Helene Joy) is Murdoch's love interest and the resident scientist/autopsy specialist. Rounding out the cast is Constable George Crabtree (Jonny Harris) who provides much of the show's comic relief as the wide-eyed young officer in the force.
'Murdoch Mysteries' is an easy series to get into. You can practically jump in at any point and understand what's going on. It's almost like a Victorian age 'CSI'. Most of the season's episodes are standalone episodes that really have no major cliff hangers that carry on into the next episode. Around mid-season we start seeing some storylines begin to get carried over into the subsequent episodes, but they really aren't earth-shattering in nature. The recent BBC version of 'Sherlock' played out almost like a movie. It had a serialized feel to it as storylines were carried over from one episode to the other. 'Murdoch Mysteries' isn't that way. It's a show that you can sit down, watch, enjoy, and then forget about the next day.
Even though 'Murdoch Mysteries' ends up being a pretty standard police procedural show, it's an easy enough watch. It's cases are rarely obvious. Most of the time I'm guessing until the end which is nice, and even when I do guess whodunit, I still am surprised to find out how they pulled it off.
'Murdoch Mysteries' is for people who enjoy a decent detective show without too many frills to go along with it.
'Murdoch Mysteries' was filmed digitally in high definition. The 1080p picture looks sharp and clean for the most part, but there are a few quibbles I have to bring up which have to do more with the HD source than the actual transfer.
The show has that all-too-familiar flat video look to it. Blacks never appear deep like they do with shows that have been shot on film. Instead blacks lack depth and shadows end up crushing out some of the smaller details in faces and textures. In the daytime, clarity and detail are top-notch. Facial and textual features shine distinctly. When the lights go out, however, is when the flatness invades the picture.
I did notice that there were more than a few instances of banding that appear in gradated skies, and the show's blacker spots. Compression noise hampers darker scenes also, distracting the eye from the show's presentation. Skintones seem like they're all over the place at times. Sometimes they appear natural and other times they take on an unnatural reddish hue. Colors are solid with lush greens and earthy browns dominating the mood. The CG horizon shots of different cities looks distinctly fake in HD. I don't think that you could really expect anything better than what is presented here for a show like 'Murdoch Mysteries'. It simply is just a flat looking television series, but looks about as good as it can on Blu-ray.
Even though 'Murdoch Mysteries' has been afforded a lossless codec, the 2.0 Liner PCM stereo mix seems dreadfully understated here. It does what it's supposed to do, but is limited by its meager two channel presentation. No rear speakers, no sub woofer, just the two front speakers spouting all the dialogue along with the show's soundtrack and effects. It's just too much for two channels to handle. There's no sense of engaging immersion into the show here. A stereo mix makes it almost impossible to be sucked into the show by its sound. Even though this mix does everything it's supposed to do and I can't really find any qualms with its clarity or fidelity, I've got to think that a 5.1 lossless presentation would have been a much better way to go.
'Murdoch Mysteries' is a breezy detective show that becomes borderline generic after a while. Even so, it makes for an easy watch with some memorable characters. You may want to watch something like BBC's 'Sherlock' instead, but if you are still jonesing for some old-timey detective work, then 'Murdoch Mysteries' makes for a decent distraction. It's worth a look.