Hopping on to British TV screens with fantastic millinery, a peppy jazz soundtrack and the breathless perkiness of a moonshine fuelled Charleston are the FRANKIE DRAKE MYSTERIES.
Shot in Canada and set between the wars in 1920s Toronto - it has quite the eclectic cast, featuring Brits (including Laurence Fox), Canadians and Canadian-Americans. This international cast includes lots of familiar faces to viewers of inoffensively mediocre TV programmes.
The first episode adheres faithfully to the template for similar shows - a breakneck introduction to our eponymous heroine as she jumps headfirst into a precarious situation. Within minutes, Drake (Lauren Lee Smith) has foiled a kidnapping and found herself shoulders deep solving a crime with more red herrings than an Icelandic fishing tug.
Sadly, the show’s cracks are visible from the very start. Ms Drake is an independent, unconventional woman at a time when such a thing belonged in PT Barnum’s freak show. This aint subtle - Drake goes from avoiding a Best Baby contest to admiring an airshow, to motorbiking across a field in a show of derring do, all in the space of a few minutes.
While our lady detective must repeatedly overcome sexism as well as criminal intent, the Frankie Drake Mysteries otherwise offers up a blithely rose-tinted view of the 1920s. With colour blind casting and apparently no financial insecurity.
Unfortunately this happy-go-lucky tone, peppered with jaunty 20s vernacular like toots and gals - clashes uncomfortably with a plot involving eugenics and other dark deeds which robs the show of any real dramatic tension. There are guns, murders, explosions and an amusingly sedate chase sequence that takes place at a blistering 40mph - but no-one ever seems to be in any jeopardy. We learn surprisingly little of anyone’s personal history until the very end - just how did Frankie and Trudy join forces to become female detectives in 20’s Toronto?
None of this is helped by the visible budget constraints, or the fact that the first episode to air on these shores appears to be the 8th episode in the series. This probably explains why the pacing seems awkward and we learn little about any of the main characters.
Anyone tuning in to the latest show to cash in on the vogue for Agatha Christie golden age detective stories, not to mention the UK’s insatiable appetite for twee murder mysteries will most likely find it an enjoyable romp, full of just-in-time heroics. Sappy scripting and storylines aside, the show has a warm, nostalgic glow and a set of characters that promise to be pleasant, if not cutting edge. It’s good natured stuff - think Bugsy Malone crossed with Midsomer Murders and you’re almost there.
This isn’t for everyone, but if you’re a fan of similarly innocent fare such as Australian series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, you may find Frankie Drake’s adventures quaintly entertaining.
- Aired on Alibi, January 23 2018 at 21:00.