Murder Mysteries on the Small Screen

I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but somehow I became completely and thoroughly addicted to the murder mystery genre. When I stretch my creative muscle and attempt to write fiction, this is the only thing that comes out of me. Perhaps because this is all that I read. And watch.

If you are lucky enough to live in Howard County, Maryland, you have access to one of the finest library systems in the entire country. This is where I get my mystery DVDs. Yes, I do have cable TV, but all the decent shows are on at 10pm, which is my bedtime. And no, I don't have TIVO or any other recording device. So that's where the free library DVDs come in.

My amazing library system has an incredible (and constantly growing) collection of movies and television programs from around the world. I enjoy a few American shows, but the British and Swedish television shows are some of my favorites.

I first watched Season One of the American version of The Bridge. I found it confusing, with too many disparate and disconnected plot-lines. I recently tried the original Swedish version of the same show, and found it vastly more satisfying. The acting is superb, the script is much tighter, with no loose ends left dangling. Everything makes sense, which is important in this mystery genre! There is an element of humor which is sorely lacking in the American remake. And the main character, a female detective who seems to have some type of (unexplained) autism, is much more human and likable. There are currently two seasons available on DVD, with 10 hour-long episodes per season.

Wallender is another Swedish police drama which has been remade in English, with Kenneth Branaugh playing the main character. The original also outshines the remake in this instance. I'm learning that it is worthwhile to seek out the original versions, in the original language, in order to get the true essence of a work--even a television show.

As far as excellent American detective shows, we do have a few. The Killing (first two seasons only--after that, it goes downhill) starts off with an intriguing mystery. (I believe this show is a remake of a Danish program, but I haven't seen the original.) The lead detectives are seriously flawed characters, a former drug addict (played by Billy Campbell) and an emotionally scarred control freak (Mireille Enos). Neither will give up, despite the extreme cost to their lives and careers. The mystery is eventually solved, but it takes two full seasons to reach the conclusion. Almost every character is damaged in the process. The ending will leave you stunned. After two strong seasons, the third was a disappointment. Haven't seen the fourth season yet.

True Detectives will not disappoint in Season One. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson shine as a mismatched pair investigating a strange series of ritual murders in the South. The writing and acting are both superb. I've heard the second season doesn't live up to this very strong debut, but I have to wait for the library to get the DVD set.

I have MANY more recommendations for mystery programs and novels. But I don't want this blog post to become a novel! Please comment below with your favorite mystery or detective programs. And visit your local library to check out the selection. You might be happily surprised.