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TV Review: Houdini & Doyle S1E1 The Maggie’s Redress

Harry Houdini (Michael Weston), Arthur Conan Doyle (Stephen Mangan), and Constable Adelaide Stratton (Rebecca Liddiard) investigate the murder of a nun in a notorious Magdalene Laundry. A witness claims the killer is a young woman who was tormented by the nun. However, that young woman has been dead for six months. Has she returned from the beyond?

I hadn’t heard much about Houdini & Doyle until recent promotions on Fox and the idea of Harry Houdini teaming up with Arthur Conan Doyle intrigued me a bit considering the real friendship between the two. But, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. Right off the bat, the series has a distinct style about itself that reminded me a lot of British and Canadian television, primarily Orphan Black, Doctor Who, and Sherlock (and after looking up who’s behind it, this isn’t a surprise as it’s a project between Fox, ITV and Global).

The debut episode has a certain style and fun about it as it introduces us to our three heroes as they come together to solve a few murders. The formula isn’t too shocking and runs the usual set-up of the skeptic and the believer. In this case Houdini is the skeptic with Doyle the believer and Stratton is in the middle. We see this with Doyle’s famous creations of Sherlock and Dr. Watson. We also see it in the modern Mulder and Skully.

I mention Mulder and Skully because that’s what the first episode reminds me a lot of, a low tech version of The X-Files without the mythology of aliens and a cigarette smoking man involved. In that place we get a police department that’s not fans of the duo and also throw in some misogyny when it comes to Constable Stratton. The formula is familiar, but it’s rather fun and entertaining and really does not feel like something I’d expect from Fox (it has more of a PBS vibe about it all).

Part of the series fun is Weston, Mangan, and Liddiard. Mangan as Doyle is fantastic. He feels of the time in many ways and hides his pain quite well. Weston’s Houdini is the one that’s rather interesting in that he doesn’t quite feel of the time, and instead comes off as a Charlie Day doing Houdini. Liddiard is the one to watch though. She’s intriguing to me in how she plays off the two and her subtle reactions when dealing with the asshats in the police station. She’s the competent Skully compared to two Mulders in that department.

The first episode is a solid debut that has me wanting to come back for more and see where the series goes. There’s a lot here that has me entertained and the show is an intriguing one to see on a major network.

Overall Rating: 8.3