Detective Duos I’d Love to Watch

On Tuesday night, I was bored and there was nothing good on TV, so I decided to watch a rerun of a show whose title had intrigued me for a long time: “Houdini and Doyle.” From what I understood, it was about a detective duo at the turn of the century, and I love detective shows. One of my all time favourites is the updated version of Sherlock Holmes called Elementary, starring the irascible Johnny Lee Miller, and Lucy Liu as Watson. I also adore Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC version of Sherlock, which I’ve rewatched several times on Netflix, so I thought I’d give Houdini and Doyle a whirl. All I knew is that Harry Houdini was a Hungarian-American magician, and that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was the Scottish author of the Sherlock Holmes series, among other things. I love magic and I love Scottish fiction writers (albeit a very small group) and I had high hopes for its ability to keep me happily occupied for the next hour while Atlas slept. Unfortunately, the TV show was—and I’m being polite here—absolute sh*t. Here are my main complaints:

  • The plot was ridiculous. This episode took place in a town where everyone except the local doctor and a little girl suddenly died. People were just lying on the streets in their period costumes, or keeled over their dinners of mutton and ale. Even the dogs were dead. And so were the mice—I know this because Houdini pointed out a nest of dead mice under a porch in a very obvious way in order to prove—well, I’m not actually sure what he was trying to prove. Houdini and Doyle eventually decided that everyone died due to a large cloud of carbon dioxide which had escaped from a nearby mine and which had asphyxiated the entire town. And as convoluted as that all sounds, it wasn’t even the ridiculous part. The most illogical part of the whole thing was their explanation regarding the survival of the doctor and the little girl. I was hoping beyond hope that since the show revolved around a famous magician that there might actually be a supernatural or magic-y rationale, like they were both alien mutants with cosmic lung capacity, or immune to the biological weapon that the government was experimenting with or something cool, but no. The doctor was in bed having a nap, and the little girl was sick and was also in bed. Therefore, they were BELOW the gas cloud and escaped its nefarious and deadly clutches. At which point, I yelled at the TV, “WHAT ABOUT THE DEAD MICE UNDER THE PORCH?! ? WHAT ABOUT THE DOGS? ARE YOU SERIOUSLY TELLING ME THAT ALL THE DEAD DOGS WERE TALLER THAN THAT KID’S BED?!” Yep, it made no sense whatsoever.
  • It made even less sense later, when having “solved” the first mystery, Houdini and Doyle then prevented the assassination of the President of the United States at a hotel because they had found a note with the words “King Edward” on it, and after thinking it was about killing the King, they realized it was the name of a hotel and got there just in time. All in one episode of 45 minutes (not counting all the commercials).
  • There were no magic tricks AT ALL. Considering the show stars one of the most famous American magicians of all time, there was a surprising LACK of magic-type stuff. Not even a f*cking card trick. They should have had Houdini in a locked closet, tied up with padlocked chains, racing against time to escape and thwart the assassination. Instead, he just knocked the gun out of the guy’s hand. Boring.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was Scottish, yet he spoke with an English accent. Yes, they sound different. The English always sound like they’re trying to schmooze you, and the Scottish always sound like they’re mad at you, thusly:
    English: Darling, can you please be quiet?
    But Doyle was always like “Good Heavens! What the devil happened here, my good man?” instead of “Whit? Awae wi’ ye, numptie!” Yes, I know that the actual Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was well-educated and spoke the “Queen’s English”, but it would have added something to the show if he’d used spicy phrases and unintelligible dialect. The plot didn’t make any sense, so why should the dialogue?
  • Houdini sounded Canadian and the whole show had a distinctly Canadian feel ie: it was kind of amateur-ish, like Murdoch Mysteries, where a Canadian detective in the 1890s “uses radical forensic techniques of the time, including fingerprints and trace evidence, to solve gruesome murders” (imdb) along with his partner, female coroner Dr. Julie Ogden . An episode was once filmed in the town next to mine—we were at Wine Bayou bottling wine, and when my mom found out, she ran out on us mid-cork just for a glimpse of Yannick Bisson, who plays Murdoch. I’ve never seen her move so fast. Anyway, I wasn’t sure WHY I felt like it was so Canadian, then I googled it, and it turns out that the show “has Canadian producers and comes from the same production company as Murdoch Mysteries.” Mystery solved.
  • Last, throughout the show, Houdini kept insisting that you always know when you’re dreaming because “You can’t read in your dreams.” This is patently untrue. Just last night, I was reading Facebook posts in my dreams and some of them were just as annoying as they are when I’m awake—I don’t give “amens” to anything, and NO, I will not copy and paste your anti-mask rant regardless of my state of consciousness. But the kitten videos were a-DOR-able.

Anyway, in keeping with the current trend of unrealistic detective duos, like Murdoch and his Victorian female coroner partner, or Houdini and Doyle, I came up with a couple of my own.

1) “What The Dickens!”: This show stars Charles Dickens and David Copperfield, played respectively by Gerard Butler and Shia LeBoeuf. Because why the hell not? In the show, Dickens has time-travelled to the future and meets American magician David Copperfield. Together, they investigate the disappearance of many large buildings and monuments, and battle their arch-nemesis Uriah Heep, played by Betty White, who is as immortal as any supervillain. After they’ve solved every mystery (turns out it was Copperfield all along), Dickens returns to his own time and writes a very long novel called “David Copperfield” where he makes a LOT of stuff up, (he got paid by the word, after all) but leaves out the detective/magic part because he doesn’t want his heirs to get sued by Copperfield in the future for revealing his magical techniques.

2) “Fitzgerald and Wife”: In keeping with the fine tradition of married couple detectives, this show stars F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. Every week, they are presented with a new mystery which they fail to solve because they are too drunk.

3) “Robbie and Doug”: This is a Canadian show starring famous author Robertson Davies, who almost won a Nobel prize, and Doug Henning, a Canadian magician who ran for Parliament as a candidate for the Natural Law Party, which believes that all the problems in the world can be solved by learning the art of “yogic flying”. In the show, Davies just grumbles a lot about everything because he’s 90 years old and Scottish, and Henning solves all the crimes by flying around and meditating. The show is cancelled when viewers discovered that Henning isn’t REALLY flying—it’s only special effects. Yogic flying is actually just bouncing in a lotus position, and everyone knows you can’t solve crimes by bouncing.

As a side note, I know that neither F. Scott or Zelda were magicians, but I liked the concept too much to leave it out on THAT technicality. Also Ken just read this, and got really huffy:

Ken: I can’t believe you criticized Murdoch Mysteries.
Me: I didn’t criticize it.
Ken: You called it poorly made and amateurish.
Me: That was a generalization. ALL Canadian shows are poorly made and amateurish.
Ken: The BBC is just as bad.
Me: What are you talking about? The BBC is awesome!
Ken: Next time you’re watching Masterpiece Theatre, pay close attention to the terrible production values!
Me: OK, Ken.

Ken and I would make a great detective duo:

Me: Ken. The puppy just threw up.
Ken: It’s 4 o’clock in the morning…what does it look like?
Me: Pretty solid. Doesn’t look like food. Kind of stringy.
Ken: Stringy…string…rope. Ah ha! He swallowed that little chew rope he was playing with earlier.
Me: I don’t see it around here anywhere. Good deduction.
Atlas: Better out than in.

In other news, I was recently interviewed by Jenna Neece, writer and editor. If you’d like to learn more about The Mystery of Mydangblog, you can read it here

Spoiler Alert

One of the bonuses of not being able to go anywhere for the last few months has been the ability to binge-watch TV shows without feeling guilty. Did I do a Tiger King marathon, becoming increasingly more disturbed and fascinated over the course of one delightful evening? You’re damn right, and I did the same thing with the Criminal UK/Spain/Germany series, Sex Education, Better Call Saul, Queer Eye, Picard, every Rupaul’s Drag Race episode available to humankind on a variety of platforms, and a myriad of other shows. And I did it all on WEEKNIGHTS as well as weekends. No remorse whatsoever. One thing I struggle with though, like many people, is that there are SO MANY shows out there to choose from that I quite often end up scrolling through lists relentlessly looking for something that catches my eye. Because more often than not, the titles make it very difficult to judge what a show is about. Tiger King was simple—it’s actually called “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”. All three of those things are very enticing as far as I’m concerned. Same goes for The Haunting Of Hill House. There’s a house on a hill and it’s haunted—watch to find out what happens next! Then there’s The Witcher which is about a dude who’s a witcher—fairly self-explanatory if not a little derivative. And if you’re like “Hey! It was very original, dammit!”, let me summarize the premise for you thusly: a nearly immortal lone wolf-type who is very attractive to the ladies and has a relationship with a magical woman travels across a fantastical land with a group of dwarves. He and the dwarves skirt around a mountain containing their old mine looking for a dragon who is killing villagers nearby. Sound vaguely familiar? Of course, there are differences too—there’s a bloody and violent race called the Nilfgaardians who are kind of mutated elves—oh wait, that’s just like Orcs…anyway, it WAS a great show, and sorry for the spoilers, but if you’ve read Lord of the Rings, you already have a pretty good sense of the plot.

Speaking of spoilers, Ken and I were watching TV a while ago, and a commercial came on for a 6-episode mini-series about a female doctor who kills people with a hypodermic needle. The show was called “Mary Kills People”.

Me: Way to give away the ending.
Ken: Well, the whole commercial showed her killing people. It’s not like the title was the REAL spoiler here.
Me: Couldn’t they leave just a little bit to the imagination and call it “Mary May or May Not Have Killed People”?
Ken: At least we don’t have to watch it now.
Me: It’s such a dumb title. Can you imagine if the first Star Wars movie was called, “Luke Blows Up the Death Star”? What would be the point of seeing it? Why would anyone read Pride and Prejudice if it was called “Elizabeth Marries Darcy”? I like the trailer for Cardinal better.

Cardinal is another series I want to watch, but I have no idea what it’s about , except that there are two detectives investigating a murder in a cold town somewhere. The trailer doesn’t show much, except the one detective says to the other, “I’m happy to be working this case with you,” and then a block of ice containing what looks like a body is pulled out of a frozen lake. See, THIS is how it’s done, because at the end, I was like “What?! I need to watch this show and find out what happens. And who the hell is Cardinal? Is it a guy? Is it a bird? I need to know.”

It’s a certain fact that people HATE spoilers. Have you ever just seen a fantastic movie and you want to share it with a friend, so you only tell them the beginning? And then they say, “So what happens at the end?” and you have to first confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt that they will NEVER see it themselves, because you don’t want to be the one who spoils it for them? Have you ever accidentally given away the end of a book, and had people look at you like you bought the last remaining rolls of toilet paper in the store?

Of course, there are people who deliberately give away the endings of movies just to be a dick, and they’re hated almost as much as racists. And they probably get punched in the face more frequently, even though the racists deserve it more. Seriously, I think the only way Donald Trump’s supporters would ever turn against him is if he finished every press conference and Nuremberg-style rally with “And by the way, the head in the box was Brad Pitt’s wife. Such a great movie.” So the people who decided to call the series Mary Kills People are not very astute, in my books. Unless…maybe the series isn’t really about a female doctor who kills people. Maybe it’s just a ploy to get people who’ve exhausted all other options to watch it, and then those people will be like, “OMG, it was SO good! I can’t tell you what happens, but it’s not what you expect…Oh god, I wish I could tell you! Are you sure you’re never going to watch it?!” And maybe the body in the lake in Cardinal was put there by a female doctor named Mary. Don’t tell me. Don’t spoil it.

In other news, my puppy’s a ho.

Oh, he’s as sweet as pie most of the time, but he has two teddy bears. One is name Blue-beary, the other is named Thurston, and he is regularly having relations with both of them. Indiscriminately. It’s simultaneously hilarious and horrifying. We play a PG version of a certain game that we like to call Marry, Make Merry, or Murder. He decided he wanted to marry me (he demonstrated this by licking my face, rolling over on his back and waving his paws at me), make merry with Blue-beary, which he did with incredible gusto for such a tiny thing, and murder poor Thurston by attempting to rip his furry face off. And then he made merry with Thurston right after, and murdered Blue-beary. But he still wants to marry me, which I suppose will wear off when I tell him that not only am I his Ma, we’re not even the same species. Spoiler alert.

My Week 70: PaintNite, Reality TV

Wednesday: I go to PaintNite

Last Wednesday, I went with a group of people from work to something called “PaintNite”. If you’ve never been to one of these, you HAVE to do it. You get sent a link to a painting, and then you go to a bar and everyone has to recreate the same painting. While drinking. It’s the most fun I’ve had in a while. Our painting was called “Caribbean Cove” or something like that—it was a painting of a tranquil tropical sea with a beach in the foreground, seen through the opening of a cave. Initially, I wasn’t going to go, even though I’d already paid—in fact, I thought it was the night before, and I was lying on my couch happily wrapped in a blanket, watching an episode of Brooklyn 99 that I’d PVR’d, drinking wine and eating chicken wings. I felt bad about missing it, but I’d been really sick, like ‘coughing up a lung’ sick, and I didn’t want to go ANYWHERE. As a side note, I hope that the walls to my condo are actually soundproof because I was barking like a seal all night long for a week, and spending a long time in the morning trying to clear my lungs in the bathroom. If you were my neighbour, you might have thought an eighty year-old, emphysemic man had moved in next door. And that’s pretty much how I felt. So when I woke up on Wednesday morning and saw an email from PaintNite telling me that it was only “hours away”, I realized that I hadn’t missed it at all. But I still didn’t want to go. At the end of the day at work, though, I was talking to one of my colleagues—the same one that I went to the Toronto Circus with in Week 53, and he said that he wanted to go too, and that he was willing to meet me at my condo and go on the subway with me, etc. And that relieved my underlying fears: First, that I would have to traverse the streets of downtown alone. This might sound paranoid, but I should mention at this point that, right before Christmas, there was a string of random stabbings in my neighbourhood, including a man who lived in my building, who was stabbed to death two blocks away. He was very nice—we would say hello to each other in the elevator, and he would hold the door for me, so it was pretty upsetting. It was described by the police as “a random crime of opportunity”, although I’m not sure what kind of “opportunity” you get from killing someone—perhaps fulfilling your dream of living the rest of your life in maximum security? At any rate, I was happy to have someone to walk with. I mean, I HAVE pepper spray, but I’m terrified that if I ever had to use it, I’d point in the wrong way and shoot myself in the face with it. I’m a total klutz, for the record—in fact, just this past week, I slammed my bathroom door into my own face hard enough to take the wind out of myself, and give myself a huge bruise. When I called Ken and tried to recreate the moment so I could understand how the f*ck I had managed to do it, I almost did it again. Second, (and I realize that it’s taken a while to get to “Second”, sorry about that) was that I would show up to PaintNite and feel awkward and weird because the rest of the people there were mostly math types, and they can be very intimidating, what with their knowledge of numbers, and pi, and sh*t like that.

So we arrived at the place, and headed for an area of long tables covered with plastic dropcloths, set up with easels. As we put our coats down, a young woman ran over. “No!!” she exclaimed. “I’m not done setting up yet! You can’t sit here!” She was obviously a little high strung, so I reacted like I would to a toddler throwing a tantrum, and said, very slowly and calmly, “It’s OK, dear. We’ll go over there and wait until you’re done.” Then I turned around and laughed. (This is exactly what I did to K on the single occasion that she threw a sh*tfit at the age of 2. She never did it again, innately understanding that I would just find her amusing rather than upsetting.) The PaintNite was at a bar/restaurant called “Poutineville”, whose claim to fame was the numerous types of poutine on the menu. If you don’t know what poutine is, it’s a Canadian delicacy consisting of French fries topped with cheese and smothered with gravy. I suppose ‘delicacy’ isn’t quite the word, but that’s Canada for you. Our delicacies are more ironic than ‘delicate’—they consist of hearty things like back bacon, beer, big-ass doughnuts called “beaver tails”, and maple syrup, which is made from TREES. I ordered the pulled pork poutine, expecting a heap of savoury pulled pork IN BETWEEN the fries, cheese, and gravy, but what I got was sadly disappointing—the fries were overcooked and the pork was neither pulled nor savoury, and was just tossed on top of the gravy in big chunks. For a restaurant that’s named AFTER poutine, it was crappy poutine. In fact, I’ve had better poutine from Kentucky Fried Chicken. (By the way, Ken and I just had dinner at a local fish restaurant—they were out of perch, chicken wings, AND white wine, but they had fries and gravy on the menu. I asked the waitress if they could toss some cheese on top. “Oh, like poutine,” she answered. “Sure thing.” It tasted better than Poutineville and was a third of the cost.) My disappointment didn’t last long though, because then it was FINALLY time to come to the back tables and get ready to paint. Our instructor, Rachel, was calmer now, much like toddlers get after you leave them alone for a while, and we took our places in front of our canvases. Then we had to take an oath, mostly consisting of not drinking from the paint water or dipping our brushes in our drinks. This sounds quite ridiculous, but trust me—after an hour of drinking and painting, it became clear just how easy it would be to actually do either of those. Rachel was a pretty good instructor, although she had to scream over the rest of the bar crowd, who were drinking but NOT participating. She WAS a little off-putting at the end, when she announced that, because our group had paid with a Groupon, she wasn’t getting as much money, so she held up a clear, plastic pitcher and yelled, “This is the tip jug! Don’t leave without giving me a tip!” She claimed she was a ‘starving artist’, but she looked pretty well-fed to me. My painting ultimately came out a little different from the tranquil beach scene we were SUPPOSED to painting. I know people assumed I was expressing my inner artist, or maybe I was just having a bad day, but the fact is that, when I was painting my lovely blue sky, I accidentally got a little black on the brush, and suddenly my blue sky was threatening rain. I decided to go with it, and added dangerously high breakers, dark clouds, and a stormy beach.


My colleagues, on the other hand, had these gorgeous, turquoise seascapes, some adding sailboats and seashells. I felt a bit “the odd man out” so to speak, and worried that my unplanned non-conformity might raise some eyebrows, especially since we were all told to bring our paintings to work the next day for a “fun” competition. I must have hit a chord with other storm-loving people though, because after all the ballots were cast, my artistic endeavour placed in the top three and was given a place on the wall. That makes me sound so braggy, but honestly, I don’t win many competitions, and certainly not for my artwork. Best of all, our CEO came by to congratulate me and the other two “winners”. I hope he doesn’t think my painting represents any deep-seated anxiety. Because I sure don’t want him to know about THAT.

Saturday: Reality TV

Ken and I were watching TV last night, and a commercial came on for Oka cheese, which is a particular kind of cheese that you get in Quebec. The couple in the commercial were trying to smuggle some Oka through customs, and while I don’t really understand the point of them doing that, I was up in arms immediately.

Me: God, Ken—that’s so unrealistic. Look at that couple. She’s young, thin, and blonde, and he looks like he’s about 60. His hair is thinning, he’s pudgy—there’s no way they’re a real life couple. And he’s so cheap that he’s trying to smuggle cheese under his jacket, so he’s obviously NOT her sugar daddy.
Ken: It could happen.
Me: Not as often as it does on TV. Commercials are so clearly written by men. How many times have we seen a young pretty woman with an old pudgy guy and we’re supposed to believe she’s more than happy to deal with his “sudden onset vomiting”, which, by the way, isn’t even a THING. You ALWAYS know when you’re going to vomit. This is just male fantasizing.
Ken: About the women or the vomiting?
Me: Both. TV is so unrealistic.
Ken: Gosh, you think?

Now, I don’t want to come off as critical of older, pudgy, balding men because that’s not the point. Just once though, I’d like to see a commercial where a hot, young guy is married to an older, dumpy, gray-haired woman. But as Ken and I agreed (well, I think we agreed, but it’s hard to tell when Ken’s being sarcastic or not), TV has no connection to reality. Then again, if the American election campaign is any indication, REALITY has no connection to reality. Who other than Donald Trump could threaten on public television to randomly shoot someone on the street and NOT get arrested? What’s next? Hilary Clinton threatening to ‘cut’ Anderson Cooper? Bernie Sanders making crank calls and having pizzas delivered to Megyn Kelly’s house? Anyway, when I was 5, I was on a reality TV show called “Romper Room.” It was one of the most popular shows on Ontario television, and it consisted of a different group of children each week just playing and doing activities under the supervision of a kindly, teacher-type lady. At the end of each show, Miss____ (there were several women who played the role—mine was Miss Grace) would hold up a magic mirror, and say, “I can see Johnny, and Sarah, and Ian, and….” Kids across the province would sit fixated, desperately hoping to hear their name. I don’t know why my parents decided to put me on the show, but two incidents cemented for me the fact that TV was not grounded in reality. First, I kept jumping up and down, prompting the director to tell me to stop. “You’re TOO excited,” he said. But I was excited. A SUPER f*cking excited 5 year-old, and I had to stifle my enthusiasm because it was TV. Second, they taped all five episodes for the week on one Saturday, and I kept getting into sh*t for contradicting Miss Grace when she would start the next segment with “What day is it today, boys and girls?” Everyone was supposed to say ‘Tuesday’ or whatever, but I yelled “Saturday!!” every time. Once again, the director had to talk to me about how we were only “pretending” and to just play along. Yep, that’s me—a non-conformist pain-in-the-ass from an early age.