Murder most fashionable: ABC’s Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

22 February, 2012 by IF

Traditionally, the murder mystery genre has been dominated by UK programs. Shows like Poirot and Midsomer Murders have been consistently popular with Australian audiences.

Every Cloud Productions’ new series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries will bring a local take on the genre to the ABC’s lineup.

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“We do true crime a lot, but that sort of slightly heightened world of murder mystery – the British do that, we don’t touch it,” says producer Fiona Eagger.

The 13-part series, based on the novels by solicitor Kerry Greenwood, follows the adventures of the Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher – an amateur detective in 1920s Melbourne played by Essie Davis.

“There’s nothing at all like it on Australian television and there’s nothing like this on international television,” says Davis over the phone. “It’s got the murder mystery element, but it’s also got a kooky sense of humour and a crazy recklessness about it.”

Originally titled The Phryne Fisher Murder Mystery Series, the name was changed on the advice of international distributor All3Media. The company wanted ‘murder’ in the title, and to avoid having to tell broadcasters how to pronounce the eponymous character’s name. (For the record, it’s ‘Fry-knee’.)

Davis is full of praise for the show, and the character of Phryne in particular, citing her as an actress’s dream role.

"It’s been the most fantastic thing, to have such a strong, sexy, clever, brilliant, flawed, beautiful woman to play. They’re few and far between," she says. "Phryne isn't Miss Marple and she isn't Murder, She Wrote. She's a cross between Sherlock Holmes in Guy Ritchie style, James Bond and Wonder Woman."

The Honourable Miss Fisher is certainly an intimidating character. Immaculately dressed and multilingual, she is a gifted dancer, a skilled lover, pilot, knife thrower and cat burglar.

Davis began taking lessons in tangoing and driving (she had an automatic license, but Phryne’s luxury hispano-suiza is a manual) two weeks prior to shooting. Once production began, tutoring in Russian, Mandarin and the foxtrot were squeezed in between filming and costume fittings.

“It was exhausting but the team was such a great team of people and the character is so loving of life and witty, that playing someone like that energises you,” Davis says.

Eagger and fellow producer Deb Cox were first drawn to Greenwood’s novels out of curiosity over their fan base. Their friends were reading the books, their mothers’ friends enjoyed them and even Cox’s teenage daughter was a fan.

“We were a bit curious to know what it was about it that could appeal to a 16-year-old and a 70-year-old,” says Eagger. “Phryne is one of the first feminists. She chooses to live alone, she chooses not to get married. She’s got many lovers. She’s a bit of a James Bond action hero – she’s much better dressed than James Bond though.”

Davis comes alive when asked about the show’s wardrobe. Over the course of the series, Phryne dons around 150 costumes, courtesy of costume designer Marion Boyce.

“Every couple of episodes something new would turn up and I would just go ‘Oh my God’,” she says. “I had the most incredible knee-high lace-up crocodile boots that I wore crossing a field, flying an airplane and to make love with an old lover of mine.”

The series had a budget of $1 million per episode. Eagger admits it was tough.

“I wanted every cent on screen,” she says. “I wanted the steam train, I wanted the plane, I wanted the ocean liner and the Hispano-Suiza. It stretched everyone, it really made people bleed.”

But that’s not to say that Eagger wouldn’t do it all over again.

“The ABC have asked us to start developing a second series,” she says. “We hope people will enjoy it, we want to make some more!”

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries will premiere this Friday, February 24, at 8:30pm on ABC1.


Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) in a scene from episode three

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Redmond

    I did not like the first episode.
    Why bother to set it in the 1920?

    It was full of anachronisms. The maid makes a reference to “Premier Hogan”. They didn’t talk like that then. He would have been The Premier, Mr Hogan. Hogan was premier from 1927 to 1928, and then again 1929 to 1932.

    The maid addresses Miss Fisher as “Phryne” – unthinkable in the 1920s.

    At one stage they showed five pound notes with King George VI on them – notes that date from 1939.

    The clothing was wrong is so many ways.

    If you are going to set it in 1927, try to recreate the era. Otherwise, just set it in the present.

  • Brenton

    Miss Fisher ASKED the maid to call her “Phryne” in the first episode. Not everyone was a snob in the 1920’s. Really Redmond, do you think that most Aussies are going to watch each episode to look for historical inaccuracies? What a joke! Friday evenings, with the traditional glass or two of ‘end of working week wine’, the viewing public are looking to relax and roll along with the ‘fun’.
    So Kerry Greenwood writes a hugely successful Twenties character and you want it to be set in the present? I suggest you watch something else and let others enjoy themselves!

  • Brett Harrison

    The modernisation & Americanization of the dialogue annoyed me.
    “Premier Hogan” was pretty bad (I had no idea what they meant, actually), but a later mention of “fire trucks” was the last straw.
    Some of this may be sloppiness, some deliberate. Perhaps some of it is done for overseas sales. If so, it’s foolish – the BBC makes accurate period dramas that sell all over the world, especially in the US. No-one has to change a word.

    By episode 5, will we hear someone say “Awesome, dude!” ?

  • Lu

    All I really want to know is where can I buy the clothes? Of course those styles don’t suit anyone without a divinely slender and small chested figure. Oh well I can dream. I would like to see Phryne play against someone like Marton Csokas for some real romantic tension with acting chops.

  • Richard

    The scripts can be pretty clunky, but as an exercise in “production values” it is quite fun to watch.

    I get a kick out of spotting the anachronisms and other clangers.

    In the first episode, a “guitarist” claws at the strings with no relation to the music, and a group listen to 1920s jazz on a vinyl LP!

    Tonight. a victim lies on a floor of Westminster carpet tiles circa 1975, and a tower-block is seen briefly behind Phryne’s 1890s mansion.

    Make a game of it – the stories move slowly enough so you won’t miss anything!

  • judi

    Is ther a web site that shows the fashions and where I can get some of these cloths love the 20s and Bryney wears them well

  • Tony Gain

    Anyone know where I can get (some of) the music featured in the series?

  • domi brown

    this is so amazingly inaccurate for the 20s. i mean, in australia, the federal magistrates court didnt exist. it wasnt introduced until 1999. and there was no such thing as no fault divorce, so a) jack couldnt get a divorce unless one of them had cheated/been abusive or something like that and b) the court he was getting divorced in didnt exist.
    šŸ™

  • Hans Bock

    Thank god for Phryne!!! Im a fan of Agathe Christie and cant get enough!! When my counrtys TV (Denmark) bought this FAB serie, i was happy! Have only seen 2 episodes, but ill be glued to my TV for more! Stop all your hopeless argues on wether this or that is periodicly correct!!!! It’s NOT a newsprogram, nore a documentary …..its a DAMN good fun and I love it!!!!!!

  • Kimberly from the US

    Since viewing the first preview of this show months and months ago, I have been eagerly anticipating its entry on the American market. Thank you Acorn Online!

    I love the show – yes, there are historical inaccuracies – but who cares? It’s fun and it’s the most stylish, most glamorous show out there right now. I even like it better than Downton Abbey!

    The only questions I have are where can I get the music featured and most of all, the wardrobe!!

  • Iris JaKay

    I enjoy the series. I love the clothing. I would hope someone will introduce a line of clothing based on the late 1920s.
    Regarding the accuracy, or not, it has never distracted from a very good story that is well paced.

  • susan

    Love love love the series.i am in to murder mysteries espically british ones, Foyle’s War, Midsomer Murders, Endeavour etc…
    Miss Fisher herself is an interesting character, delightfully intelligent yet can come across as warm and caring..don’t care much for her behaving like a tart at times. The main reason I enjoy the program is due to her wardrobe, where can I purchase
    hats and the rest of her attire? I am so taken with the wardrobe.
    Please don’t stop making more series…….enjoy them!!!!!!!

    Thank you
    SP

  • Jessica

    I would like to know if you had a catalog from a station close Utes on how close beautiful if you do I would love to know

  • Maria

    I just finished watching all 26 episodes available on Netflix. I love everything about this series. All the characters are endearing and the storyline is always fresh and interesting. Miss Fisher and the Inspector certainly keep us guessing.
    I want to see season 3 asap.

  • Delores Young

    I love the series, No complaints what so ever. Miss Fishers wardrobe is the best 20’s costumes I have ever seen, where can I get them, and the music. Marion Boyce you are the greatest in fashion design, I love all of them.

  • Bonnie Jo goings

    My mom and I love this series! We don’t care if it has faults in the year this was done or this was available or this existed. It is very fun, funny, exotic and keeps you on the edge. We watch it on Netflix, so the third series is not on yet. Hope they purchase it, have already watched the first two twice! They need to produce more like it.
    Thanks,
    Bonnie Jo Goings USA