From the brief descriptions I had seen of the show Queens of Mystery, it sounded like Murder They Wrote — three crime-writing aunts help their niece with her police investigations. It wasn’t sounding promising, but shows with smaller ideas have made it to renewal. On a coin toss, I would predict CANCELLATION, sight unseen.
Now that I’ve watched Episode 1 and 2 (they’re two parters), I’m not completely sure what to predict. The basic description is still apt — DS Mattie Stone returns to the area she grew up, and starts working for the local constabulary. Her first case? A murder at a small mystery writers festival, and one of the suspects is an aunt. The story unfolds a bit like a Christie whodunnit, with each person getting a turn in the barrel as the lead suspect, and slowly they are eliminated until the killer is found.
Mattie is played by Olivia Vinall and I’ve not only never seen her before, I also don’t care if I see her again. For 90 minutes of the two-parter, she is wooden. A completely passive character. There is no emotion, no movement, NOTHING. An android would show more emotive capacity. Her character is done as a Sabrina look-alike for some reason, but I thought I was watching a zombie movie. In the one scene where she actually has to move and do something, a small action scene, she’s relatively alive, and relatively bad. Pass.
By contrast, her three aunts all have some presence. Aunt Cat is played by Julie Graham, and while she has a long list of credits, I’ve seen none of them. Here she plays an aging rocker with a bit of hard-living sass to her. Not perfect, but at least she’s interesting. Siobhan Redmond plays a very bookish Aunt Jane, and while I have seen none of her credits either, she is good here. Very prim and proper but an active little sleuth…could easily see her playing a young Miss Marple. Sarah Woodward plays a down-to-earth simple Aunt Beth, and she has very little to do in the episode (except get arrested for murder), and it’s hard to see if she has much to offer other than looking dough-eyed.
There are five or six guest stars as the suspects of the week, and they’re okay, but nothing exceptional. Ditto the supporting police cast.
But, if I’m being honest, the real problem with the show is the narration. The whole show is set up as if someone is narrating different connecting bits of the show…so the backstory for Mattie is told by a narrator who has a “Once Upon A Time” style with a Brothers Grimm-type voice doling out the details. When Mattie meets an attractive man, she shakes his hand, all action stops, and the narration explains how for a moment her heart is going pitter-patter, etc. The problem is that it is constantly taking you out of the story. CONSTANTLY. It is hard to get into the episode when every couple of minutes, the narration does some exposition of context before moving on.
In the end, I thought the murderer was obvious (if not the motive), the acting okay but not stellar, and the narration very oft-putting. Pushing Daisies-like, though, which some people love.
Overall, I’m still going to predict CANCELLATION even though it has a different business model (two double episodes at a time, more like little mini-series).