Series one of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, other than being quite the mouthful to say, was a delightful way to spend approximately 706 minutes*. The DVD set has all thirteen episodes and plenty of interesting extras, none of which are long enough to wear out their welcome.
I had read the first two books in Kerry Greenwood‘s Phryne (pronounced fry-nee) Fisher series a little over two years ago, and while there was nothing inherently wrong with them, I just didn’t connect with either Phryne or the books. So why did I choose to view this series if the books didn’t do it for me? I thought the character of Phryne and Melbourne in the twenties might transfer to the visual medium quite well, and they did. Reportedly each episode cost $1 million dollars to make, and whether or not that’s a lot in television land, I don’t know, but it more than shows in every frame. Beautifully filmed with gorgeous costumes and sets, exquisite props, and fantastic CGI. It’s absolutely sumptuous!
I’d be remorse if I didn’t first mention the absolutely fabulous Essie Davis in the title role. While at first I thought her a touch old for the part, she deftly steps into the role with gusto and panache. She is Phryne Fisher through and through.
They literally could not have found a better actress for the part. Her delivery, her movement, her energy, her everything is just perfect! I am now a big fan of Ms. Essie Davis, who I wasn’t even aware of before this series. The rest of the main cast is superb and the characters and actors who play them are what make the show. Nathan Page as Detective Jack Robinson is a solid presence and brings a nice down to earth approach (it doesn’t hurt that he’s quite the dish either). The banter between Jack and Phryne is wonderful and they have tremendous chemistry. Ashleigh Cummings as Dot and Hugo Johnstone-Burt as Constable Hugh Collins are absolutely adorable and I love their scenes together.
Rounding out the cast are Richard Bligh as Mr. Butler, Travis McMahon as Bert, and Anthony Sharpe as Cec, who while aren’t overly used, add much to the show. The acting of other recurring characters and guest players is mostly great, with the exception being the actor portraying Lin, who came across rather anemic.
I’d say the mysteries are the weak point in the series, the first two episodes especially, and they run the gamut in predictability; some are quite good, others, not so much. While this is touted as a murder mystery series, I found myself watching more for the characters, their interactions, and all the fun involved. It’s light entertainment that’s somewhat on the embellished side. There is a story arc focused on the death of Phryne’s sister that I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, it’s cliche and shoddily done (it was touched on in the beginning and then neglected until the last few episodes), and on the other, there were some interesting aspects that were well done and made for good TV.
Even though this claims to have violence, coarse language, nudity, sexual situations, and drug use**, they aren’t as bad or prevalent as how it sounds. I don’t even remember any nudity other than a painting, but that could just be due to a faulty memory.This isn’t a flawless show by any means, the mysteries and story arc hamper it at times, but it is a stylish show featuring great characters, acting, dialogue, and humor that is comfort watching at its best. With a strong woman as its lead, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is visually stunning, and as long as it’s thought of as a separate entity from the books, should appeal to those who enjoy historical mystery series that are a tad racier than the norm (rather like Mrs. Bradley Mysteries). I give it four out of five stars.
*So says the back of the DVD case/cardboard slipcase
**Again from the back of the case