The series Houdini and Doyle is a clever detective drama that recently began airing on Fox in the United States. I was excited to watch this series as soon as I saw the previews because I love anything involving detectives in London, England. Beyond that I have adored the character Sherlock Holmes for as long as I can remember. Now Sherlock might not appear in this series, but his creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle does. Add a touch of the supernatural, the amazing Rebecca Liddiard, and the setting of London in 1901, I knew I’d be hooked.My assumption about this series was that it would adhere to the basic format of a British based detective drama. The two male leads most often consist of an older man who is a bit stodgy and research minded and a younger man with an eye for the ladies and a penchant for being a bit spontaneous. While Doyle and Houdini do fit this mold there is a bit of a twist. Doyle believes in the supernatural, which is something that the older, stodgier male characters in these dramas normally refuse to even consider. Well, unless everything possible has been eliminated. Houdini, as a stage magician, refuses to accept unnatural events could happen in real life. Though he is the younger, womanizing partner his refusal of the supernatural’s existence is much more in keeping with the older detective model. Beyond that both of these men are often shown up by a woman.
Having a young career minded woman holding her own during investigations is very unusual for this type of show. Often women are kept in the position of spouse, assistant, or love interest. Adelaide Stratton is a key figure and helps to make sure that the investigations move forward. I am loving Rebecca Liddiard in this series. She can be both serious and humorous, and is just a wonderful actress. She also did a special series online called Houdini & Doyle: World of Wonders. Each video shows an illusion or explains something that is connected to the series. They even did the psychic surgery we saw Houdini perform in the most recent episode. Constable Stratton is strong and confident and honestly a character that I wish would appear more in detective dramas.
The other aspect of this show that I would like to applaud is their inclusion of characters of color. In the most recent episode the faith healer and his sister were both black actors and Houdini’s doctor was also an actor of color. You might be thinking I am applauding a small feat, but in British detective period dramas the casts are typically all white or the only time an actor of color appears is to play a servant or a low class member of society. This whitewashing is actually tied to issues within British history. While researching crime and detectives in Victorian London in grad school I noticed that historians and writers during the period often left out any references to people who were not from a white ethnic background. This means that when shows are created the source material often skews casting in a less diverse direction. I’m hoping to see even more diversity in upcoming episodes.
I love this series and I look forward to watching it every week. If you like mysteries, Sherlock Holmes, strong women, or the supernatural you really need to watch this show. It airs Monday nights at 9 pm on Fox.
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