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Houdini & Doyle - Maggie's Redress - Review

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Houdini & Doyle premiered in May after months of anticipation on my part. A show about two larger than life historical characters, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini, investigating ghosts, how fun does that sound?! However, this American-British-Canadian drama could not have been anymore disappointing.

Houdini & Doyle, produced and distributed to viewers by various American, British, and Canadian studios - a situation too confusing to explain - feels exactly like how it was made. Set in 1901 Victoria England, the setting gives the show a certain British charm about it, the dialogue though, lacks that British subtlety that would have worked perfectly for a story such as Houdini & Doyle. Instead, it is American writing at its worst - hitting us over the head repeatedly and all too explicitly with this worn out theme of skeptic vs. believer. What we get is minutes on end of a shouting match between our two main protagonists - laid on thick and without much humor.

Part of the lack of humor is the non-existent chemistry between Michael Weston as Houdini and Stephen Mangan as Doyle. They are both fine, accomplished actors in their own right, no knock against them, but they seem to have clashing parts written for them. Mangan has a certain British class about him, he really does feel like Sherlock Holmes, while Weston has the brashness of someone in a modern-day buddy cop series. Being that Houdini is indeed American and Doyle, British, it is evident the writers were trying to contrast the two cultures in their personalities, American's have always been typecasted as being brash, but it all just didn't mesh well.

There is also Adelaide Stratton portrayed by Rebecca Liddiard. Through her character we see the injustices women face in the workforce, a real issue that is fine to explore. However, the issue is not examined without any subtlety or in an engaging way other than having characters explicitly commenting on their surprise of seeing a female investigator.

With any procedural we also had our case of the week, this first one wasn't terrible, but it didn't really elevate the show either. The question that had our protagonists bickering was whether a ghost or not was involved in the murder of two nuns. After some investigating, Houdini and Doyle find out that there is no supernatural involvement, but a "visual irregularity" caused by a passing train every seventeen minutes. The real killer being a nun taking revenge for her daughter during these irregularities. However, that does not mean the supernatural does not exist, as the show ends with a twist that may or may not prove otherwise.

This first episode felt a little rushed as it put most of its focus on the investigation, which acted as a crux for Houdini and Doyle to bicker about their ideologies. Very little time was left to slow it down and explore the nuances of these characters. Granted, there were some good characters moments like Doyle tormented by his wife's declining health, but this was few and far between.

Hopefully, as the series progresses, so too will the chemistry between the titular protagonists. So far, 'Maggie's Redress' introduced Houdini & Doyle as a generic, rushed, and matter-of-fact procedural. The show has a lot of work ahead if it wants to survive past its season first season.


What did you guys think? How do you think this show could improve, if at all? Leave your comments below?

About the Author - Kollin Lore
Kollin is an entertainment writer and a film and television, in particular genre TV, freak having grown up during the 90s and early 2000s a dedicated fan of Buffy and Angel. Current shows like Person of Interest, Supernatural, Ripper Street, Penny Dreadful, Grimm, The Blacklist, Game of Thrones, and dozens of other shows are currently occupying Kollin’s nightly hours.
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