With all of the police, mystery and plain old whodunits available to fans today, it has become rare when a show appears something unique. Fox attempts to do just that Monday with an import from Great Britain and Canada — “Houdini and Doyle.”
Picture this in your mind: The greatest grand illusionist of the 20th century and the grandmaster of mystery writers, creator of the
legendary Sherlock Holmes, team up to solve unusual, strange and baffling cases for Scotland Yard. These cases are truly unique ones, involving suspects who have been dead for months, past lives, faith healers, and of course, ghosts and phantoms.
I have had the opportunity to view a few episodes, and frankly, I enjoyed them. Now, if you are looking for the eloquence of the BBC’s “Sherlock” or similar programming, you won’t find it here. You will find a show, drawn from some historical facts, trying to not only entertain, but to highlight the unique friendship and conflicts between these two gentlemen.
It is a historical fact that Doyle and Houdini were friends in their time for many years. Theirs was a friendship with some very clear opposites. Houdini was an individual who had to see things for himself before he would believe. Doyle was a believer in all things supernatural and was out to prove them to be real. This unique chemistry, now brought into this show’s premise, makes for interesting viewing.
The writing of this show is very good. Each episode presents an interesting mystery and some very interesting dialogue between the two main characters. The whodunit part of the stories are well presented. The third episode, “In Manus Del,” was especially intriguing as I did not see the ending coming until literally just before it is revealed.
The cast presents the story very well, but my highest praise goes to Michael Weston for his portrayal of Houdini. Playing Houdini is a very demanding role, especially physically. Add to that the fact that one is stepping into a role that has been played by such legends as Tony Curtis, Paul Michael Glaser, and a recently masterful performance by Adrien Brody, makes it truly a challenge. Weston delivers, capturing not only the performance but the very spirit that history tells us Houdini presented.
Now there are flaws and problems with the show as there are with any other presentation. There are historical facts that have been altered, or totally ignored. Doyle is presented as a younger fellow when he was much older when he met the master illusionist. There are some things in a future episode that go way out in left field historically.
However, one must keep in mind that this is entertainment, not a history lesson. If this were a history presentation, it would truly be the pits. This show is purely an new angle on one of the most traditional forms of entertainment in print or drama, the whodunit.
The cast and writers have given us something increasingly rare, if not almost extinct from Hollywood, creativity. I urge folks to check out the show and decide for yourself. I believe you will find yourself intrigued and entertained.
“Houdini and Doyle” premieres May 2 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.
Dennis Rayburn is a fan writer whose work has appeared on many sites over the years, including Roddenberry.com. He returns to Airlock Alpha bringing his unique insight and “no holds barred” writing style. He lives in Radcliff, Kentucky, with his wife, Jill.