american whodunits

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american whodunits

Postby molly1216 » Fri Aug 26, 2011 3:48 pm

I watched too many BBC cozy mysteries lately - Midsomer Murders, Rosemary and Thyme reruns etcc..
I am stuck in a viewing loop
i pulled some discs from the library American versions this time.
Adventures of Ellery Queen (1974)
Nero Wolfe (2001)

Neither of which suck. btw.
surprisingly after years of watching BBC vintage whodunits and Mystery! series.
i am afraid i have neglected home grown shows that really hold up in comparison.

Because both series are deliberate efforts to emulate the experience of reading a whodunit
and NOT an effort to CONVERT the material to a new medium
they are both surprisingly clever

Sadly this version of Ellery Queen with Jim Hutton only lasted 1 season in american years - 22 episodes
which would have converted to 4 - 6 years of a BBC show.
And in that one season become ICONIC for both the character and the actor
Very clever, smartly executed...with a loveboat full of guest stars playing victims and suspects.
I had completely forgotten about the breaking of the fourth wall (which they do in the books too)
the 1st time Hutton turned to the screen and asked if i knew whodunit made me laugh outloud.
a lot of fun. very very few anachronisms that only goofuses like me would notice.
(hutton most often in bell bottoms?..but then he was 6'5" i am sure it was a cost cutting measure)

Nero Wolfe staring the son of Ellery Queen Timothy Hutton also an exec producer and a frequent director
followed the novel style with Voice over narration
and then does something strange which in retrospect seems enlightened
every week may have new Mystery but they use a revolving TROUPE of actors
i am sure that is a great shortcut and reminds one of practically the entire 1960s on television.
the production value is great and the scripts are smart and just modern enough to hold up well.
but i do find the ACTING is retro-style and tends toward the histrionic but that may be Nero Wolfe i don't know
27 episodes over 2 seasons of discs - seems just about right length.


I am now thinking of the HBO version of Philip Marlowe, Private Eye (TV Series 1983–1986) with Powers Boothe
now THAT Was pretty damn sweet. Good production values, great acting and very faithful to the material.

now a whodunit is a VERY specific thing....just being a detective series DOESN'T make it a whodunit.
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Re: american whodunits

Postby azul017 » Fri Aug 26, 2011 6:48 pm

Does Castle count? Eh, I think it's more of a light procedural show with a dash of whodunit thrown in.
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Re: american whodunits

Postby Steve T Power » Fri Aug 26, 2011 7:46 pm

NCIS before it became 24-lite.
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Re: american whodunits

Postby mkiker2089 » Sat Aug 27, 2011 8:27 am

Have you seen Muder She Wrote? It was on Netflix instant watch last I looked.

Bones isn't exactly a mystery in the classic sense but I think it works with a similar vibe.
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Re: american whodunits

Postby EdwardSung » Sat Aug 27, 2011 10:54 am

Some American shows that use the classic whodunit formula to varying degrees:

The Mentalist
Lie to Me
Bones
Monk
Veronica Mars
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Re: american whodunits

Postby mkiker2089 » Sat Aug 27, 2011 11:51 am

There's also Numbers on Netflix
and Remington Steele on Hulu Plus

all very good suggestions so far. That should keep you busy for quite some time.
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Re: american whodunits

Postby molly1216 » Sat Aug 27, 2011 1:25 pm

hmm Murder She Wrote... Remington Steele definitely
and sometimes those procedural and detective shows do use the formula
but not as a standard.

A whodunit gives you all the suspects and then rolls out the motives and clues up until the Denouement
it has to be FAIR for the viewer to guess the suspect, nearly no american detective shows do that anymore 8(
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Re: american whodunits

Postby Steve T Power » Sun Aug 28, 2011 9:55 pm

Molls, I think you'd really get a kick out of our own: Republic of Doyle

There's been a ton of notable guest stars - including Great Big Sea's Alan Doyle, Paul Gross, Gordon Pinsent and in Season 3 Russell Crowe will be stopping by.

Nice "crime of the week" style show that stays pretty down to earth.
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Re: american whodunits

Postby Kenneth Morgan » Sun Sep 11, 2011 2:14 pm

As I recall, the HBO version of "Phillip Marlowe" was, indeed, quite good. I especially remember that, in it's first season, it also had great theme music, with a fine title sequence by Maurice Binder. And I agree that both "Ellery Queen" and "Nero Wolfe" were really enjoyable. As a Wolfe fan, I was impressed that Timothy Hutton (who is, reportedly, also a Wolfe fan) went out of his way to make the shows as close as possible to the original stories.

As for American whodunits, you might try "Banacek" from the old "NBC Mystery Movie". That followed the classic formula pretty closely, including the final gathering of suspects and presentation of the solution.
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Re: american whodunits

Postby molly1216 » Wed Sep 14, 2011 6:56 am

Kenneth Morgan wrote:As I recall, the HBO version of "Phillip Marlowe" was, indeed, quite good. I especially remember that, in it's first season, it also had great theme music, with a fine title sequence by Maurice Binder. And I agree that both "Ellery Queen" and "Nero Wolfe" were really enjoyable. As a Wolfe fan, I was impressed that Timothy Hutton (who is, reportedly, also a Wolfe fan) went out of his way to make the shows as close as possible to the original stories.

As for American whodunits, you might try "Banacek" from the old "NBC Mystery Movie". That followed the classic formula pretty closely, including the final gathering of suspects and presentation of the solution.


Banacek! i remember liking it a lot on first run and i caught a few discs when it was 1st released. I will have to dig up the rest. Shocking that a show with only 16 episodes left such an iconic mark on american tv landscape. hmm smells like a separate thread.
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Re: american whodunits

Postby Polynikes » Wed Sep 14, 2011 3:35 pm

molly1216 wrote:I watched too many BBC cozy mysteries lately - Midsomer Murders, Rosemary and Thyme reruns etcc..


Apologies for nit-picking, but the two programmes you cite were actually shown on ITV (the main commercial terrestrial competitor to the BBC). Yes, they are a bit cozy - deliberately aimed at the Sunday night audience so as not to disturb or upset people before Monday morning, with weekday afternoon repeats in mind for the retired folk. I have only caught the occasional glimpse, but nothing wrong with gentle pleasures in these days of ever more violent/gritty TV drama. Hope you enjoyed them.
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