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DVD Review

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Houdini And Doyle


Starring: Stephen Mangan, Michael Weston, Rebecca Liddiard, Adam Nagaitis and Tim McInnerny
Distributor: ITV Studios Global Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 23 May 2016

Houdini and Doyle (2016. 10 eps x 45 mins approx.) is a new comedy/drama show. The pilot episode was written by co-creators David Hoselton and David Titcher. The show starred Michael Weston as Harry Houdini and Stephen Mangan as Arthur Conan Doyle, who are joined by Rebecca Liddiard, Adam Nagaitis and Tim McInnerny as recurring characters.

The show tinkers with time in order to bring Houdini and Conan Doyle together. One quickly understands why as the two become the Victorian odd couple. Conan Doyle was in real life always investigating tosh like fairy photos and talking to the dead, whereas Houdini, a master at deception, felt that there was more sleight of hand involved.

This allows the show to have stories anywhere along the continuum of real ghost stories to uncovering bogus paranormal events. Of course, in real life the two would not have been allowed to just invade police investigations so the show gets around this by introducing Adelaide Stratton (Liddiard), Scotland Yard's first female constable.

Given that the show is set in the Victorian era Stratton is an anachronism, a woman in a man’s world, hence she is packed off with Conan Doyle and Houdini, but the more she works with them the greater the respect they have for her police skills.

The majority of the shows have a similar structure, something apparently supernatural happens and the trio go and investigate, Doyle is the great believer, Houdini, the sceptic. Only in episode six, The Monsters of Nethermoor, are the roles reversed with Houdini believing in aliens. The show also takes time out to touch base with other prominent Victorians, including Bram Stoker and Thomas Edison.

The show shouldn’t work with the absurd pairing and the competitive relationship between Doyle and Houdini, their opposite intellectual positions which are at odds with their public personas. Doyle is a believer to a level extent which would make The X-Files's Mulder blush, even though he is the creator of Sherlock Holmes and the deductive scientific approach and Houdini, master of magic who does not believe in supernatural phenomenon unless he can see it with his own eyes. What pulls the internal conflicts together, as well as supplying a stream of wit, are the superb scripts.

The three disc DVD set comes with audio options for 2.0 Stereo or the more superior 5.1 Dolby surround, with optional English subtitles. The set contains no extras.


Charles Packer

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