Monday, 5 August 2013

The Great Detective meets Murdoch

Douglas Campbell played
Alistair Cameron in "The Great Detective"
CBC is now advertising the upcoming season of "Murdoch Mysteries" When the show moved to CBC a couple years ago it proved you can go home again. It completed a circle that opened more than 30 years ago.

The Great Detective
You see, I have always loved mysteries – books, movies, and TV shows. The first Canadian mystery show I watched was called “The Great Detective”. It was set in 19th century Toronto and featured Douglas Campbell playing Alistair Cameron, an investigator for the City of Toronto. Back then CBC ran shows at 10 p.m. and I recall staying up, huddled really close to the TV so I could hear without disturbing my parents.
Yannick Bisson plays William
Murdoch in "Murdoch Mysteries"

It was the case then, and still is now that CBC shows made a handful of episodes every year. Two in particular I remember were thus. In one, the Great Detective investigated a fire. When he arrived on the scene, he sifted through the wreckage and found a burnt-up dead bolt he dropped in his bag. In the other, a family of forgers was training their daughter to draw fake money. She showed promise, but got anxious and actually used one of her forged bills, which was quickly discovered because the portrait of Queen Victoria was crooked.
Cameron was based on a real-life detective named John Wilson Murray, who was Canada's first government-appointed detective. He solved hundreds of crimes and, in 1904 published a book of his most memorable cases entitled, "Memoirs of a Great Detective". It became the basis for the TV show. The unit Murray started would evolve into the Ontario Provincial Police.

"The Great Detective" aired from 1979 to 1981, and a total of 29 episodes aired. It was an interesting show, that was uniquely Canadian, as CBC productions should be. (Anyone can watch 24 of the 29 episodes on YouTube by clicking
John Wilson Murray, the real-life
detective who was the inspiration for
Alistair Cameron and William Murdoch

Deja vu
A few years ago “Murdoch Mysteries” debuted on City-TV. I never paid much attention until there was
a lot of promotion about the show moving to the CBC. That’s when I heard it was about a detective in 19th century Toronto. Immediately, I thought of “The Great Detective”.

It turns out "Murdoch Mysteries" was based on a series of novels by author Maureen Jennings. She was inspired by the greatest of detectives Sherlock Holmes as well as a real-life detective she read about in Toronto. She told the CBC's Deana Sumanac in an interview that, "He had to rely on being shrewd, very observant, hardworking, following things up and I liked that whole idea — that was the Sherlock Holmes model. He just couldn't go to his computer."

Who was the detective Jennings had read about, and patterned William Murdoch after – John Wilson Murray.

In effect, “The Great Detective” was the father of “Murdoch Mysteries”. When it moved to CBC it went home. The circle was now complete.

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