I don’t know about you, but real-world travel hasn’t been much of a thing for me in the past year or so, for hopefully obvious reasons. And this post would probably have been more welcome earlier in the whole pandemic lockdown cycle, but the idea just came to me, sorry! My wife and I like to travel, we like history, and while we don’t watch a lot of television, our go-to genre on television is mystery shows. I realized that we actually combine all of those interests, because many of the shows we watch come from outside the United States, and several are period shows to boot. I thought it might be fun to go through them, and maybe give you some suggestions for binge-worthy shows in these COVID times! I’m including streaming availability as of now, which is March 2021.
Note: These are generally murder-mystery shows, so obviously there’s some violence and sometimes mild gore. We tend to steer away from shows with a lot of rough stuff, so I’d say these are generally rated PG to PG-13ish.
So, in no particular order:
Murdoch Mysteries (Canada)
One of our favorites! The show follows William Murdoch, a detective of the Toronto Constabulary, and his colleagues, starting in 1895 (each season bumps that up a year, so they’re now in 1909 or so). It’s generally an episodic show, though there are through-lines and recurring characters, including a who’s who of historical figures of the day like Nikola Tesla, Harry Houdini, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The tone can vary from simple whodunit procedural to sci-fi silliness, with some episodes even veering towards (made-for-TV) horror. The ensemble cast is great, and a lot of fun to watch. It’s interesting to see how they speak to modern social issues from a historical perspective, and we chuckle at watching Murdoch “invent” new technology we take for granted these days. (Sidenote: There’s a sorta-spinoff show called Frankie Drake Mysteries, also set in Toronto but in the 1920s. It centers around female private investigator Frankie Drake and her gal pals, solving mysteries, of course! Recently canceled after its 4th season, but worth a watch if you enjoy Murdoch and want to see more, with a heavy dose of girl power.)
Where to watch: Hulu has the first 12 seasons (the show is currently in season 14).
Detective Anna (Russia)
We discovered this one while browsing Amazon Prime Video. It’s set in Tsarist Russia (again, late 1890s or so), in the small town of Zatonsk. It follows nobleman’s daughter Anna, a young woman who discovers an ability to see and communicate with the spirits of the dead. She works with newly-arrived police detective Stolman to solve murders around town, with a heavy side of will-they-or-won’t-they romantic tension. Beautifully filmed with clever writing and great acting from a solid cast. The first season consists of 28 feature-length episodes, each split into two parts. I must warn you, the first season ends on an unsatisfying cliffhanger with many dangling story threads, but season 2 is currently being broadcast and hopefully will reach us before too long!
Where to watch: Season 1 is on Amazon Prime Video (Russian with English subtitles). Hopefully they’ll add season 2!
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (Australia)
Another favorite, this one from Down Under. The show follows Phryne Fisher, a wealthy socialite in 1929 Melbourne with senses of style, feminism, and adventure far ahead of her time. Again, episodic but with recurring threads of backstory. Phryne starts a detective agency and butts heads with the local Police inspector Jack, which of course soon enough evolves into a partnership and possible romance. It’s heavy on the girl power and plenty of fun to watch. They sadly packed it in after 3 seasons, but there’s also a fan-funded film that’s not as good as the show (in my opinion) but still worth watching.
Honorable Mention: There’s a spin-off called Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries, set in the 1960s and centered around Phryne’s niece, Peregrine. Only one season of that one so far (with a second currently in production), but definitely worth the watch if you enjoy Miss Fisher.
Where to watch: Hoopla and Acorn have all 3 seasons to stream (plus season 1 of Ms Fisher), or you can buy on Amazon/Apple/Google.
Let’s go modern! Another Amazon Prime Video discovery, this is a neat one, following an unnamed and rather prickly main character known as the Sniffer: He has a super-powered nose which enables him to detect and identify the slightest traces of chemicals and substances, an ability he uses to assist his police detective friend in solving crimes. It’s an interesting concept, nicely executed. We’re only through season 1, but so far we like it a lot!
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video has the first 2 seasons (Russian with English subtitles). The show is currently on season 4, hopefully those will be added.
Shakespeare & Hathaway, Private Investigators (Great Britain)
This one is a fairly recent discovery–it follows Frank Hathaway, a retired police detective turned private investigator, and his new partner, Lu Shakespeare, as they solve various mysteries around modern Stratford-upon-Avon. The leads are fun, but we really watch for Sebastian, the young aspiring actor who works as the agency’s assistant (and often undercover operative). This is a good one for cozy, not-too-heavy watching.
Where to watch: Britbox has 3 seasons, or you can buy on Amazon/Apple/Google. The show is currently in season 4.
Hudson & Rex (Canada)
Another recent discovery; we’ve only watched a couple episodes, but like it a lot so far. This one follows a police detective in the town of St. John’s, Newfoundland, and his partner–a K-9 German Shepherd named Rex. Fairly standard police procedural from there, but the dog helps to make it fun! Fun fact: This show is based on a 1990s Austrian show called Kommissar Rex, and the dog who plays Rex is a descendant of THAT show’s Rex.
Where to watch: Recent episodes available on CityTV, where the show is in season 3. Previous seasons unfortunately not streaming yet.
No 1 Ladies Detective Agency (US/Botswana)
This show was sadly short-lived (just one season of 6 episodes), but is so good! Based on the novels of Alexander McCall Smith (one of my wife’s favorite authors), it follows Precious Ramotswe (Jill Smith) as she starts a new life (and a detective agency) in a small town in Botswana. Great concept, clever writing, fantastic cast, and obviously a setting you don’t see every day. Definitely worth the watch–we wish they’d made more of this one!
Where to watch: This was an HBO show, so it’s on HBO Max.
So there are some suggestions for you. I’m always on the lookout for new shows we would enjoy too, so feel free to share any you think are up our alley!