Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries

It’s always a tricky thing for sequels and spin-offs: how prominently do you reference your blueprint original when it’s crucial to be seen as your own entity?

Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries lifts off at a zippy pace. There’s a swingin’ soundtrack, bursts of colour in its production design and peppy performances.

Peregrine Fisher (Geraldine Hakewill) drifts from job to job in Perth until she receives a letter to visit the The Adventuresses club in Melbourne to discuss her inheritance.

The club is chaired by ex-WW2 Special Forces member Birdie Birnside (Catherine McClements) and includes a girl-power strong tribe including the first woman to conquer Mt.Kilimanjaro, a trouser suit designer, and fighter for the resistance. Another was the revered Phryne Fisher, Peregrine’s aunt, last seen flying over the highlands of PNG. Only her precious golden revolver remains….

When designer Florence Astor (Libby Tanner) bursts in detailing the murder of a young model at a fashion show, Peregrine’s family instincts kick in. In no time she is offering up clue-solving tactics that lead her to the Police Station headed up by Chief Superintendent Percy Sparrow (Greg Stone) who has a penchant for the word “girly” and where the female cops bring the blokes cups of tea in between their own desk job.

But she also meets the dashing Det. James Steed (Joel Jackson), who is taken by her spunk, if hopelessly trying to discourage her active participation in the case. Just like her famed aunt, Peregrine wont take ‘No’ for an answer.

As the adventure unfolds you will also meet Samuel Birnside (Toby Truslove), the only non-threatening male in The Adventuresses court; Violeta Fellini (Louisa Mignone) another awkward but cluey club member; Constable Fleur Connor (Katie Robertson) and oft-overlooked boyfriend Eric (James Mason).

Guests in the first episode are Andrew McFarlane, Maria Mercedes, Irene Chen and Lulu McClatchy.

Seven’s series gets a lot of things right. The casting of Geraldine Hakewill and Joel Jackson, both individually and as a duo, is on target. Hakewill is a delight, driven with determination and a twinkle in her eye. She is easily able to handle the procedural and personality elements of a very entrenched franchise. Joel Jackson (is there anything this guy can’t do?) is positively debonair on screen, fitting for the era.

There are nods to politics and 60s sensibilities and the location team has done a great job in picking  colourful locations. You can’t do Miss Fisher without spending up on costumes, hairstyles, cars and props and again this is money on the screen.

But it’s just a shame the pacing drags due to the telemovie length. The script doesn’t quite pack enough punches to sustain the length and I can’t help but wonder if that’s due to the show now being on Seven with commercials.

At this early stage we’re also not quite hitting the mark with the supporting cast relationships in the way the original did. That may come, but Seven is only offering 4 telemovies. Eagle-eyed viewers may also spot telltale contemporary signs (ie. Melbourne City Council signage, window film) that will doubtless wind up as Green Guide letters.

The Every Cloud production is clearly faithful to the whodunnit genre and while TV is missing some of its favourite ABC sleuths, it is arguably Seven’s gain. I suspect its biggest challenge is forging a new identity with those obsessed with Essie Davis and the roaring ’20s original. For this to work it needs to move on quickly from Phryne references and claim the turf as their own.

Geraldine Hakewill can do just that.

Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries airs 8:30pm Thursday on Seven.

12 Comments:

  1. It is nice to know they have done it justice by ‘spending up’. –It could have been done so cheaply, allowing it to be pulled apart in every direction. If, even ‘Ms’ is picked on , it will be in for a rough ride ,because most of us were around in that era and will all, not only claim to be authorities in the matter but will want to be the first to expose a fault. —Not that there is anything wrong with that.

  2. A great review, David. I am now looking forward even more to this series.

    A review of MFMMM in today’s TV lift-out in the Herald-Sun also looked at some of the 1960s references that MFMMM calls upon, such as The Avengers and Get Smart. And Geraldine Hakewell said that she was influenced by Audrey Hepburn’s role in the very stylish 1963 film, Charade (this being one of my all-time favorite films).

    I agree with Chief, the term Ms was not used during the 1960s. Though I struggle to recall exactly, I think that Ms emerged as a term progressively during the 1970s.

    • Ms or Ms. (normally /ˈmɪz/) is an English honorific used with the last name or full name of a woman, intended as a default form of address for women regardless of marital status. Like Miss and Mrs., the term Ms. has its origins in the female English title once used for all women, Mistress. It has its origin in the 17th century and was revived into mainstream usage in the 20th century.
      In the UK and the majority of Commonwealth countries, a full stop (period) is usually not used with the title; in the United States and Canada a period is usually used
      Source:Google/Wikipedia
      I use my maiden name but I was married, briefly…so neither Miss (unmarried) or Mrs (married) works for me…Ms does.

    • The earliest known proposal for the modern revival of Ms. as a title appeared in The Republican of Springfield, Massachusetts, on November 10, 1901:
      Source: Wikipedia /Ms

      • Yes and suggested again in 1961 & 1969, and then a feminist’s group published a magazine named Ms. in 1972 giving it oxygen. (From your source.)
        As I said, no body used it in the 60’s.

        • If just one woman used it in the 60s, then your statement is fault. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to claim that “no one” did something in a certain era, unless we’re discussing an object or a term that had had not been invented or developed at the time in question. We can absolutely say that “no one” had an iPhone in the 90s, because they didn’t exist then. While it’s certainly unlikely that many women were using the term, “Ms”, back in the 60s, it’s just not possible to say that “no one” was.

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