Two mystery shows are arriving now, just when we really need some fresh, scripted shows.
One, “Endeavour,” is in PBS’ prestigious “Masterpiece” series, with rich craftsmanship and subtly nuanced performances. The other, “Coroner,” is on much-less-prestigious CW.
And the surprise? This time, the CW show is much better.
“Coroner” (9 p.m. Wednesdays, starting Aug. 5) is a summer surprise, a Canadian drama with smart stories wrapped around excellent performances. It introduces a character (Dr. Jenny Cooper) we care about, played by an actress (Serinda Swan) we like instantly.
Then there’s “Endeavour,” which has movie-length stories at 9 p.m. on three Sundays (Aug, 9, 16 and 23. check local listings) on PBS. A prequel to “Inspector Morse,” it follows Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) as a young police detective in Oxford. It’s beautifully filmed, but this time it tries too hard.
WAY too hard, actually. The opener leaps skittishly between an endless array of stories. Morse meets a mysterious beauty in Venice; he also meets a cheery guy who’s a world traveler. Then there’s Thursday, his former mentor (and father of his ex-girlfriend), now in a general funk. And their boss Bright, struggling to help his ill wife.
These people come across fresh murders – one involving ESP researchers, others involving people who take latenight, riverside walks. There’s even a hint of a supernatural element, which doesn’t fit.
The show makes little effort to explain what’s happening or to tell us how (or if) it all connects. In the first film, some stories are left open, others are unsatisfactory; we have to wait until the final film to get it sorted out … and even then, there are parts that require coincidence or don’t make sense.
That doesn’t mean these richly filmed shows can’t be worth watching. I sort of enjoyed them; then again, I didn’t have to wait two weeks to get it all semi-straightened out.
What this three-film season lacks is the quick, Canadian clarity of “Coroner.”
The story starts with a life-changing event for Jenny. The next time we see her, she has a new job – Toronto coroner – and a new haircut.
(Hair has been a big deal in Swan’s roles. In ABC’s awful “Inhumans,” she played Medusa, complete with a giant red wig that could transform into lethal snakes. In this one, she cuts her hair and looks like Demi Moore in “Ghost,” which is a good thing.)
From there, we have good characters and solid stories. Particularly well-drawn are Jenny’s relationship with her teen son and with a handyman who lives nearby.
Then there are the murder stories, crisp and sharp. The first involves a juvenile detention center; the second involves a rich guy in his penthouse.
The latter has one flaw: One person who’s interviewed sounds like he’s delivering a treatise, not talking with fellow humans. Overall, however, these are good stories that wrap up at the end of the hour … and make sense when you think about them later.