What I'm grooving on, Summer 2016 edition
Every once in a while, I get sucked into something I hadn't expected, and find myself enjoying a property is just so perfect in its conception.
I'm speaking, of course, about Fox's Houdini & Doyle
The series is set not too long after author Arthur Conan Doyle has just published "The Final Problem," a short story in which the great Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarity have plunged over Reichenbach Falls to their deaths. It was a move to allow Doyle to move on to other pursuits.
In the television series, Doyle (played by Stephen Mangan) teams up with showman and escape artist extraordinaire Erich Weiss, better known to the world as Harry Houdini (played by Michael Weston) in order to investigate crimes that at first blush have a supernatural origin. This is based at least partly on the real-life friendship between the two, and their respective worldviews: Houdini as the skeptic, Bradly debunking most paranormal claims because as a magician and illusionist himself, he knows ask the tricks, and Doyle, as the true believer (Doyle was once fooled by paper cutouts into believing that fairies had been photographed). To balance these two opposing philosophies, the pair is joined by Constable Adelaide Station (played by Rebecca Liddard, who reminds me of a young Rachel Weisz from there Mummy movies).
The show seems to be attempting an X-Files-but-set-in-the-Edwardian-era vibe, which I think they pull off rather well, despite a few glaring anachronisms.
What I really like about the show is that each of the main characters' views carries enormous personal stakes: Doyle desperately wants the supernatural to be real, as he is struggling with the impending death of a dearly loved member of the family, and Houdini is struggling with the guilt of leading a young widowed mother to kill herself, orphaning her children because she desperately wanted to believe that she would be reunited with her recently deceased husband. Houdini insists that people look to the near and now and not be so preoccupied with death that they forget to live
For Geekklesiastics, this tension holds a special appeal. As believers, we are totally on board with the supernatural. We get that when we die, we will be reunited with our Creator and Savior. But on the other hand, we are called to remain in this world as long as possible, being salt and light. The Apostle Paul echoes this tension when he writes in his letter to the Philippians:
I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (Philippians 1:23-24 NIV)
But this tension is resolved in a very famous passage just two verses before:
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21 NIV)
It is possible to live within both extremes. We can both believe in a world to come after this one, but we cannot allow ourselves to become "so heavenly mined that we are no earthly good." But Jesus promises us that although we do well to look forward to heaven as our eternal home, He will make our lives in this world completely worth living.
This is (was) a joint US - British production and as of this writing, there is no word on whether or not it will be renewed for a second season. However, the ratings for the putative first season were not promising. There is an official Facebook group dedicated to the series, but there has been no announcement one way or the other. Which is a shame, as I would love to see them explore this tension even further.