Tag Archives: detective story

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (2016-2017 TV Series)

BBC America

Status: Complete (2 Seasons/18 Episodes)

My rating: 4 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience/rated TV-14

“Have you noticed an acceleration of strangeness in your life of late?” It’s an odd question to be coming from the man who just forced his way through the window into your flat then had the audacity to be affronted when you’re upset by his presence. And yet, for Todd Brotzman, it’s an oddly apt one as his life has abruptly gone from one of inane consistency to a flurry of strangeness, ending with himself unemployed, a person of interest in a frankly impossible murder case, and, oh yeah, with an odd man in a yellow jacket climbing through his window. And the fun is just beginning.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is one of those shows that is absolutely brilliant . . . as long as you have the patience to deal with the utter absurdity of it. The WTF-factor is huge here, with weird happenings and an accumulation of strange coincidences that all happen to connect somehow just piling on en masse. But the story has a way of rewarding viewers who stick around for the weirdness, bringing everything together in the end to make an odd sort of sense. The characters are well written, brilliantly cast, and quite interesting. Moreover, they’re relatable, perhaps more than most any characters in a TV show I’ve ever encountered. Seriously, they’re so utterly not pulled together, and it’s actually endearing and affirming to see them going about their lives, trying to make things work, while sometimes not having a clue and being so ridden with doubt and guilt. They’re very human in the midst of something that’s completely strange, paranormal even. Which isn’t to say that all the characters are normal–I would say that Dirk himself, as well as all the other Black Wing subjects, are extremely odd in their mannerisms and their way of interacting with the world, the whole “holistic” leaf-on-the-wind thing. But they make for fabulous characters. I feel like the filming is visually rewarding as well–case in point the very beginning of the first season, where we go from close-ups of Dirk’s face (too close to actually identify him immediately) to an impossibly violent and improbably crime scene to a kitten in rapid progression. Or the beginning of the second season, where we are confronted with a fantasy setting, complete with a pink-haired prince and giant scissors wielded as swords (I was almost convinced this was a preview for another show at first, it was so strange!). Seriously, though, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is one of those shows that definitely isn’t for everyone, but if you’re willing to be patient with the weirdness, it’s oddly rewarding.

Created by Max Landis/Based on Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
by Douglas Adams/Starring Samuel Barnett, Elijah Wood, Hannah Marks, Fiona Dourif, Jade Eshete, Mpho Koaho, Michael Eklund, Dustin Milligan, Osiric Chau/Music by Cristobal Tapia de Veer & The Newton Brothers

 

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Psych: The Movie (2017)

USA Network

Sequel to Psych

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Shawn and Gus have properly settled in to life in San Francisco (having been there for three years already). They’ve opened a new office in Chinatown, which Shawn has cleverly (in his own opinion) named psychphrancisco. Yeah, not the most successful psychic detective agency ever, but whatever; Gus has a full-time job to help support their rent and such when they don’t have cases. Oh yeah, and Shawn and Juliet still aren’t married . . . which may actually have something to do with why Shawn is snooping around shady areas of town wearing Gus’s Hagrid costume. Looking for a stolen ring perhaps? But it quickly becomes clear that the gang have more important (or at least more immediate) issues to handle when Juliet becomes the target of a mystery killer–one that will require all their combined skills to bring to justice.

The best way to describe Psych: The Movie is that it’s an extended episode of the show. So if you like the show, you’ll probably like the movie and vice versa. I have to say, it’s fun to see the gang back together again. The Shawn/Gus dynamic is going strong. I honestly think they sat down and figured out how they could cram as many of the classic running gags for the series into one episode as possible–and include some new plays off the old bits as well. As such, the movie is funny. Very funny in a goofy Psych kind of way. And did I mention random? Because it’s definitely random, right from the get go. On the negative side, I really, really wish we had gotten more of Lassiter than a video call offering support. I miss having him be a part of the gang–if for no other reason than that no one else is as good at picking on Shawn. But we did get a good cast, including Shawn, Gus, Jules, Chief Vick, Shawn’s dad, and (randomly but welcomely) Woody. The villains were kind of annoying more than actually menacing (other than the whole kidnapping thing), and the main plot didn’t really stand out to me. But let’s be honest, how many of us watch Psych for the plot, anyhow? We do get some cute Shules action here–including some resolution to the end of the TV series. Yay! So yeah, basically if you like the show, I would recommend the movie.

Written by Steve Franks & James Roday/Directed by Steve Franks/Starring James Roday, Dulé Hill, Timothy Omundson, Maggie Lawson, Kirsten Nelson, & Corbin Bernsen

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Psych (2006 TV Series)

USA Network

Status: Complete (8 seasons/121 episodes)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience (TV-14)

Just what are you supposed to do when your dad’s been training you to be a cop your entire life but you have neither the discipline, the motivation, nor the maturity to work within the regulations of an actual police department? Shawn Spencer has an idea–why not open up his own private psychic detective agency? Use his observational skills to solve cases. Indulge in a little (okay, a lot) theatrics on the side. Getting to work alongside the police department without being bound by their rules is a plus. Especially if it involves bugging their uptight head detective and flirting (or trying to flirt) with the attractive new detective assisting him. Dragging his best friend away from his boring job in pharmaceuticals to join the fun? Definitely happening, despite Gus’s protests.

Psych has got to be one of the weirdest yet most fun detective/police series I have ever watched. Typically, not my genre. But this show has a lot going for it. The characters are fabulous, both because the actors are amazing and because the characters are just written well. The dynamics between them are interesting, and there’s a ton of character growth over the course of the series. The Shawn and Gus bromance is off the charts, but it manages to avoid sappiness. More like an overload of nerdiness, actually, but it works for them. The balance of the story elements works well–you’ve got drama, police/detective work, romance, and comedy all mixed together into this rather weird but wonderful conglomeration. I do have to admit, the humor can sometimes be a smidge off-color, at least compared to what I’m used to, but never to the point of being offensive (I think). And this show is definitely funny, making me laugh out loud at least once or twice an episode. Recommended, especially for those with a quirky sense of humor and an interest (at least somewhat, or you probably won’t like this) for detective shows.

Created by Steve Franks/Produced by Pacific Mountain Productions & TagLine Television/Starring James Roday, Dulé Hill, Timothy Omundson, Maggie Lawson, Kirsten Nelson, & Corbin Bernsen

 

 

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Psych: The Musical

USA Networkpsych-the-musical

Psych Season 7, episode 15/16

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Santa Barbara: murder capital of the world . . . or so fake-psychic detective Shawn Spencer would have us believe. But when former playwright and suspected murderer “Z” escapes from the institution (where he had been kept since the night he was found in the burned theater with the murdered critic who was going to ruin his show), Shawn’s assertions begin to appear more accurate. Especially when his only lead is an escaped serial killer with an addiction to show tunes. As the body count begins to rise, it seems Shawn’s gut may just be wrong . . . perhaps the obvious suspect is also the correct one.

I love when TV shows do random musical episodes, and Psych: The Musical is no exception. This extra-long double episode is classic Psych, playing up the both the strengths and the long-running gags of the show with aplomb. I do feel that, since such a large portion of the focus is on the music, a bit of the detective side of the show slips to the wayside . . . but you do still get a solid murder mystery with an interesting twist here. Really though, the main focus is on the humor and hijinks, and that comes through strongly in the songs and choreography. In fact, I would almost say that the whole point of parts is solely to be goofy and mess around–which is not to say that the music and choreography is not impressive in its own strange way. The cast actually has a remarkably solid pool of vocal talent; James and Dulé are quite good, and I’ve mentioned previously that I love hearing Timothy Omundson’s singing. His duets with James are probably the best (and silliest) parts of the show. Maggie’s ability to dance in heels is quite impressive as well. The music was pretty typical showtunes, although nothing majorly catchy. “I’ve Heard It Both Ways” is probably the most memorable as well as the song which embodies the characters and the show the best; it’s probably the only track I would listen to outside of watching the episode. All in all, Psych: The Musical was neither my favorite Psych episode nor my favorite TV musical, but it was still a fun show–mostly recommended for Psych fans as opposed to musical fans in general.

Written & Directed by Steve Franks/Music by Adam Cohen/Produce by James Roday & Dulé Hill/Starring James Roday, Dulé Hill, Timothy Omundson, Maggie Lawson, Kirsten Nelson, & Corbin Bernsen/Guest Starring Anthony Rapp, Ally Sheedy, Barry Bostwick, Brooke Lyons, Kurt Fuller, Sage Brocklebank, & Jimmi Simpson

 

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Ouroboros (2015 TV Series)

TBSouroboros

Status: Completed, 10 episodes

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Growing up together in the orphanage of Mahoroba, Danno Tatsuya and Ryuzaki Ikuo found love, inspiration, and strength in their caregiver, Yuiko-sensei. . . . That is, until one night when she is murdered and the case is covered up by a police man wearing a gold watch. Young Tatsuya and Ikuo vow to find Yuiko’s murder and exact their own justice. Twenty years later, Tatsuya is a leader in the yakuza and Ikuo is rising through the ranks of the police, working together to ferret out any clues as to Yuiko’s killer. But will they be able to handle the truths they find?

Ouroboros is probably the best J-drama I’ve seen to date. Of course, part of that is the fact that it stars both Shun Oguri and Toma Ikuta, two of my favorite actors. They have a really great dynamic when they work together, and their part in this show was definitely a huge plus for me. But I think that even for those unfamiliar with these two, the show has a lot to offer. It’s a cops and yakuza story, with lots of interconnecting plots, tragic backstory, and a nice balance of drama and action. There are some nicely choreographed fight scenes, even. And an adorable but tragic love story (more than one, depending on how you look at it). Of course, being a J-drama, there’s a certain amount of just plain goofiness, especially at the beginning (then again, can you put Toma in a show without some goofiness?). But again, it balances out, and by the end of the show, it’s just plain heartbreaking. This is a tear-jerker, to be sure, but I think the writers did a great job of making the story fall the way it needs to, not the way you necessarily want it to. . . . It feels like hitsuzen when you get down to it, I guess. Also just have to mention that the character development is remarkably well done–especially for this sort of show–and even the relatively minor characters are interesting. And one last point of note: the casting for the childhood versions of Tatsuya and Ikuo are fabulous. So often, kids seem just picked at random, but the kids chosen for the roles here are perfect, both in appearance and in how they act. Ouroboros is high on my list of recommendations, both for those who enjoy J-dramas and for those who like detective stories in general.

Note: At this point, I don’t know of an official English version of this show, but there are some quite decent fan-subs available.

Based on the manga by Kanzaki Yuya/Directed by Yasuharu Ishii/Music by Kimura Hideakira/Starring Toma Ikuta, Shun Oguri, & Juri Ueno

 

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iZombie (2015 TV series)

izombieThe CW

My rating: 5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience (16+)

Medical resident Olivia Moore’s life takes a drastic turn when a boating party she attends goes crazy, leaving most of the party-goers dead . . . and Liv with a taste for brains. To cope with her new undeath, Liv distances herself from everyone close to her and takes up a job in the morgue–what better place to find a ready supply of brains? But she can’t keep her secret from everyone; soon her (amazing) boss Ravi discovers her secret and, instead of freaking out (except in a purely scientific and nerdy kind of way), becomes Liv’s accomplice, ally, and friend. And along the way, Liv discovers something that may just lend some meaning to her life–when she eats someone’s brain, she re-lives some of their memories (as well as taking on some of their personality traits). Useful when you’re trying to solve that someone’s murder.

Okay, no summary of this show is ever going to do the story true justice. It’s amazing, truly. I love that iZombie defies any normal explanation, any attempt to shove it into a genre. Because it’s so much more than your typical show. It’s part cop show, part romantic comedy, part nerdy drama, part paranormal but with a scientific/geeky twist. All inspired (loosely) by a comic series and all executed with aplomb by an incredible cast and infused with the perfect amount of humor and sass. The acting is phenomenal, and the characters are spot on, every single one. Of particular note is Rose McIver’s brilliant work on Liv’s role; the way in which she pulls characteristics from each of the brains Liv eats while still maintaining Liv as a cohesive character in herself throughout is phenomenal–at least on par with Eliza Dushku’s execution of Echo in Dollhouse. I also really enjoy the way Blaine’s character is being developed, going from villain to . . . I’m not quite sure, maybe awkward family member? It reminds me of Spike in Buffy or Crowley in Supernatural, that kind of change, it’s really nice and I’m interested to see where it goes. On that note, the show is currently ongoing at two seasons (with a huge cliffhanger ending on season 2) and a third season due for release next year. The only caution I have regarding this series is that it is definitely a more mature show–sex, violence, language, etc.–so I would recommend at least a 16+ audience. But seriously, iZombie is a show that I would recommend giving a chance even if you don’t think it looks like your sort of thing . . . I had no interest until my brother forced me to watch it, and I’m super grateful that he did.

Developed by Rob Thomas & Diane Ruggiero-Wright/Based on the comic by  Chris Roberson & Michael Allred/Starring Rose McIver, Malcolm Goodwin, Rahul Kohli, Robert Buckley, David Anders, & Aly Michalka/Music by Josh Kramon/Produced by Rob Thomas, Diane Ruggiero-Wright, Dan Etheridge, & Danielle Stokdyk

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The Red House Mystery

Author: A. A. Milnethe red house mystery

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Mr. Anthony Gillingham has made a life of wearing many hats, switching from one to the next as soon as he has mastered the first. And his sharp wit and photographic memory make doing so rather easy–not that he doesn’t work at excelling at whatever he chooses to do. So when he stops in at the countryside residence of Mark Ablett (to visit an old friend who is also staying there on holiday) and discovers a murder has just occurred . . . well, why not try being a detective?

I absolutely love Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh series, so I was pretty excited when I discovered he also wrote other books, including this one, solitary mystery. For those who love fast-paced, tightly plotted mystery thrillers, The Red House Mystery is nothing like that. For those who enjoyed Milne’s children’s books, this is that sort of story, just for adults and a murder mystery. Which makes no sense at all, I know, but it’s true. This book is quaint and bucolic, there’s a period-specific air of leisure–and indeed a very period-specific vibe in general–that shine throughout in that natural way that historical fiction can never quite emulate. Which isn’t to say that the mystery itself isn’t interesting and perhaps even clever. It’s just developed in a more leisurely sort of way. I liked the characters, even though Mr. Gillingham is a bit larger than life–how many detective stories are written about characters who aren’t? In any case, The Red House Mystery isn’t groundbreaking or marvelous, but for a nice, easy-paced, fun read, I think it suits quite nicely.

 

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