Acorn Media is branching out with the stable of detective shows they're bringing to Blu-ray. Most of the shows originate in the UK. 'Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries' joins 'Murdoch Mysteries' as an outside-of-the-UK production. 'Murdoch Mysteries' is a Canadian show, while 'Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries' is Australian. Like the tales of Detective Murdoch, the mysteries surrounding Miss Fisher are great for a lazy afternoon.
'Miss Fisher' is a serialized dramatic detective show that focuses on, you guessed it, the exploits of amateur detective Miss Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis). The series is based on a series of novels written by author Kerry Greenwood.
Set in the Roaring '20s the show takes on the detective procedural with a minor twist. The detective in question is Miss Phryne Fisher. She's rich, has social clout, and even a royal title. She's also completely obsessed with solving crimes whenever she isn't acting like a spoiled socialite. Why she's so good as solving crimes remains sort of a mystery, but it's amusing to watch her do what she does.
The detective show hinges on its primary character. If the character isn't interesting then attention wanes. Since these sorts of shows are a dime a dozen you've got to distance yourself from the herd with one or two changes to the formula. Miss Fisher is, indeed, a change to the formula, although not a terribly clever one.
She's extremely wealthy and has unlimited resources, which is perfect because she can spend her days gallivanting around town solving murders that happen whenever she's around. She's affable and energetic. She's also somewhat of a cougar. While she appears to be in her late 30's or early 40's she's still eying college-aged boys fiercely.
Compared to Acorn Media's other famous detective show, 'Poirot', 'Miss Fisher' has been put together with a much more structured storyline that arcs through the whole season. 'Poirot's episodes more or less standalone. An episode of 'Miss Fisher' usually continues directly after the previous episode, which adds some depth to the character and her story.
Miss Fisher might not show it on the outside, but she has a dark past that's eating away at her. Something about her sister and her disappearance. The details are revealed slowly over the course of the season, giving you something to carry from one episode to another. Miss Fisher also has a habit of collecting people. Whether she's truly lonely, or is just friendly isn't said. However, whenever she meets someone she likes and trusts she invites them into her life and asks them to stay.
'Miss Fisher' is a decent enough detective show. Essie Davis gives a charming, gleeful performance as the wealthy heroine with a golden gun (yes, really). It's pretty corny at times, but like I said, for a lazy afternoon of television watching this show is perfect.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is an Acorn Media release. It comes in a 3-disc set. The first disc has five episodes while the next two discs have four. A swinging arm is used to house two discs back-to-back, while another hub inside the back cover holds the third. A slipcover is provided.
'Miss Fisher' is presented in 1080i, like most Acorn productions. For the most part, it shows a richly detailed, stylized version of the 1920s. The production design shines here. The sets and costumes never look chintzy. Instead they appear detailed even under the scrutiny of high definition.
Fine textures leap off the screen. It doesn't matter what Miss Fisher is wearing, be it leather, lace, or a mixture of both, it's all rendered nicely. The textures of woven clothing and hand stitched seams can easily be seen. Colors like the crimson red of Miss Fisher's lips or the gleaming gold of her gun are presented with the utmost vibrancy and clarity.
There are some problems with darker scenes though. Banding is present during many of the dark nighttime shots. Crushing is a bit of a problem too during those scenes. Flat blacks are a little too common.
I still fail to see why a recently filmed TV series such as this should be stuck with a 2.0 track. Acorn does provide a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio mix, but it would be nice if they started treating their more recent shows with surround sound mixes. At least it isn't some paltry Dolby Digital track that most Acorn releases are saddled with.
Dialogue is presented clearly through the front speakers. There isn't much depth here since everything is centered right up front with no room to spread around. There are plenty of scenes that would benefit from a full surround sound mix, yet they're hampered here.
For what it's worth the lossless mix does sound really good coming from the front speakers. Sound effects carry some weight. There's even some good low-end involvement during an episode where a train chugs down the tracks. The audio could be improved though.
I enjoy most things from Acorn Media and this show is no exception. I had no idea it existed until now, so I must thank them for bringing it to my attention. Does it follow most of the rigid formulas of detective shows? Yes. Is Miss Fisher interesting enough in her own right to warrant a show about her? I'd also answer yes. The video looks good, but it's a shame that Acorn Media hasn't upgraded to surround sound yet. At least they've gone lossless here. It's worth a look if you're into detective procedurals.