Monday, January 27, 2014

Now on Netflix: Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

Every once in a while I come across a rant that says "There's nothing on Netflix." The complaint is usually how Netflix isn't as good at keeping up with new movies as it used to be, and has a lot of B-material. That's all true. But, what this view ignores is that for many of us, Netflix has opened up an entire world beyond American movie and television making. Case in point: the delightful Australian-made Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.

I must admit that I came across this show by mistake. I was looking through the programs recommended for me because I'm a fan of British police mysteries such as Inspector Lynley and the usual suspects from PBS/BBC-land. I also happen to be a sucker for shows that have strongly drawn women lead characters. So when this show appeared on my list, I decided to take a look.

As it happens, Miss Phryne (pronounced 'fry-knee') Fisher is the heroine of a series of novels set in 1920s and 30s Australia by Kerry Greenwood (who also writes for the series). Phryne (played by Essie Davis, who is apparently a big name in Australia) came from an impoverished background but through a series of deaths in the family, ended up inheriting her noble family's fortune. It seems that before that happened, she had quite a series of adventures, including being an artist's model and driving ambulances during World War One. During the series we find out that she knows what cocaine tastes like, owns a diaphragm, and is a qualified pilot. She also ends up having quite a string of lovers. Out of a desire to have something to do other than wear fabulous clothes and dance the tango, she becomes a 'lady detective' and solves murders in and around Melbourne while flirting with the local police detective, John 'Jack' Robinson.

Is the show good? Yes. The clothing is proper to the period, the cars are fabulous and the stares are way entertaining. I also enjoyed the acting and the 'modern' situations, which include everything from abortion to interracial marriage to child slavery. Phryne's friends and helpers are wonderful fun, as well as seeing a female lead who is able to save herself and other women without a man coming to her rescue every five minutes.  I would definitely put this on the recommended list. It's a perfect show to binge-watch on a rainy or snowy weekend.

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