Welcome to Pilot Perception, in which we break down the first episode of each new show — here, historical crime miniseries Houdini and Doyle — in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.
The Pedigree: The premiere was written by David Hoselton (Chicago P.D.) and David N. Titcher (The Librarians) and directed by Stephen Hopkins (House of Lies).
The Cast & How You Know Them: The show stars Stephen Mangan (Episodes), Michael Weston (House), and Rebecca Liddiard (MsLabelled).
The Premise: Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle help Scotland Yard solve murders.
What Works: As someone who’s into both historical mysteries and histories in general, I was really excited about the idea of this, though it didn’t live up to my hopes. (See below.) The one part I did like was the dynamic between the central duo and female police officer Constable Stratton — the guys are clearly rich dilettantes investigating murders on a lark, and Stratton wastes no time in pointing out how what’s going on actually matters, both to her career personally as a groundbreaking female officer and to getting justice for the victims.
What Doesn’t: Unfortunately, this just wasn’t executed as well as I’d hoped. The first episode somehow seemed to drag but also be hard to follow, and it would be okay if the mystery were somewhat lost amid the characters except that these two figures, which should have been so strong and dynamic, didn’t really grab my interest at all. If I hadn’t known they were supposed to be famous historical people, I wouldn’t really have been able to tell from what was in this episode. The whole thing just felt very flat.
Our Favorite Line: “Con artists and fools shouldn’t be allowed to use the world ‘science’ in defense of a dream.”
You Might Like This if you like historical mysteries that weave in famous figures and ideas of the time period, like Ripper Street. It also reminded me a little of NBC’s Dracula in tone, though, you know, fewer vampires. (I assume.)
If You’re Interested: Catch a rerun of the premiere on Saturday at 8/7c on both FOX and Global TV, or find it on demand, on Hulu, or on the FOX or Global TV sites. Then set your DVR for Monday at 9/8c.
(Photo courtesy of FOX.)