Did anyone watch the Frankie Drake Mysteries this week on Alibi? No? Just me? Thought so. I’ll be honest it’s the first time I have ever watched Alibi. On Sky it lies somewhere between the decent channels and the movie channels. It’s part of the UKTV group of channels so the likes of Dave, Gold and W (which we talked about here a couple of years ago). As the name implies it’s the crime channel and mainly shows repeats of old detective shows (a bit like ITV3). In our household we just call it “mum’s channel” as crime dramas are all my mother ever seems to watch these days. She’s even stopped watching QI as Sandi Toksvig “speaks a bit too quickly and your dad can’t catch everything she says”. Luckily the diction on Morse, Frost, Lewis and alike is perfect, so fine for octogenarian armchair detectives.
As well as UK shows, Alibi also shows some imports and has even put money into original programming with joint ventures with big players from across the pond. The Frankie Drake Mysteries proudly announced in it’s opening credits to be “a CBC original production”. “CBC?” I thought “don’t they mean CBS?” (who have their own CBS Action channel somewhere in the upper reaches of the programme guide on Sky). But no, CBC is of course the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. What you thought when I said “over the pond” I was refereeing to American? Pish! No of course I was talking about our Canadian cousins. This isn’t the first time we have reviewed international co-productions. Remember Houdini and Doyle? No, neither do many people which is why it never made it to a second series. When we reviewed it we pointed out that with it being a UK/US/Canadian production there had to be a UK lead (Doyle) an American lead (Houdini) and a Canadian lead (the police woman whose name escapes me).
Like Houdini and Doyle, the Frankie Drake Mysteries are period pieces, on this occasion set in 1920’s Toronto (although they never seemed to mention it was Toronto, which was surprising as they explained everything else that was going on in the episode). The Frankie Drake in question is a sassy private detective. (I think it is only ever acceptable to use the word “sassy” when referring to something from the 1920’s). She’s quite a gal! (again, the word “gal” is perfectly acceptable in this context). She’s a woman….who wears trousers (I know!). She’s a woman…who rides a motorbike (what!). And she’s a woman who boxes to keep fit…years before Barry McGuigan invented Boxercise (she also seemed to have invented the sports bra around thirty years before rest of the world as well). Each week we see how she and her business partner Trudy crack another case. In this opening episode Laurence Fox (Hathaway from Lewis) guest starred. Alas even he couldn’t save this show. So what’s wrong with it? Where do you start!
OK, let’s start with the story. They ‘aint Agatha Christie mysteries. My mum would have solved this in the first 15 minutes. But, just in case you are struggling to keep up, they constantly tell you what they have learned and what they are about to do. It’s as if they are channelling Basil Exposition from the Austin Powers films. Then there are the sets…or lack of them.
The external wides shots are obviously paintings and for the close ups they seem to have just suck a sign such as “Police Station” or “City Records” on an old building and hoped that we just went with it.
There was one scene where Laurence Fox fixed Frankie’s motorbike in the sparsest workshop I have ever seen. Ok, it was actually an air craft hanger, but hanging a few bits of plane on the wall just made it look like the numpties from The Apprentice had been employed as set dressers and that was all they could get for £500. Speaking of her motorbike, either the actress can’t or wasn’t allowed to ride it as whenever we see her riding a bike she seems to have turned into a man in a wig!
The whole production just screams “low budget”. There was a scene where a plane crashed, conveniently behind a tree, in a ball of flames. I have seen more convincing CGI in Candy Crush.
The episode ended with Frankie confessing to her priest in the Chinese restaurant about something traumatic which happened to her in the war (yeah sorry, I know I just threw a load of random facts at you in one hit there, but that’s just the way this show rolls). There was one thing that really niggled at me though. One of Frankie’s gang of helpers was a police officer who looked really familiar. A quick check on the IMDB confirmed my suspicions. It was the same actress who played the policewoman in Houdini and Doyle! Not sure if she is now being typecast, or whether there really are not that many Canadian actresses. Well, not enough who were willing to be associated with this programme anyway.
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