48 thoughts on “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries: 1920s on a Budget

  1. I was hoping you would cover this series on your fabulous website! I’m currently watching it for the third time and eagerly anticipating Season 3. I’m drooling over the costuming, while lamenting the fact that Phryne’s slinky silhouette would not suit me at all. But it’s still some tasty eye candy!

    I also have a major crush on Detective Inspector Jack Robinson. He and Phryne smolder like nobody’s business!

    1. We’ve had a lot of requests to review the show, & I’ve been devouring it on Netflix! So I was happy to write it up. The stories are so engaging & fun, & the costuming is spot-on, & the characters are people I’d love to know. So so good!

  2. Love Miss Fisher, which is currently airing locally. Interesting for many reasons, among them the references to the after-effects of WWI. It wasn’t for nothing that the survivors were called the “Lost Generation.” Also not the fact that Australia very sensibly never tried as foolish an experiment as Prohibition.
    If you like Miss Fisher, you might want to see “The Artful Detective” aka “The Murdoch Mysteries” now showing on Ovation, about a turn-of-the-last-century Toronto detective who pre-invents many now established forensic tools. His light-of-love is a lady doctor who is the ME in the early part of the series but moves on into politics. Series begins in 1895 and moves forward a year with each season. Good costuming over all, but sometimes lacking for one-time characters. A Mountie’s uniform is so clearly a costume rental it’s appalling. But by and large good, witty, and well done. Phryne Fisher and Dr Julia Ogden are definitely cut from the same cloth.

    1. I’ve been disappointed by a number of the women’s costumes on Murdoch Mysteries – both principal characters (Dr Ogden, Dr Grace) and supporting or one-time ones. But I LOVE the show all the same and am a big nerdy fan of it, lol. I’m from Toronto and while I don’t recognize all of the shooting locations they use, I do know some of them, which is fun for me. Mostly I think I love how unabashedly Canadian it is – it’s a show *about* Toronto/Canada rather than using Toronto as a filming location to represent somewhere else, that tickles me!

      So, if this Phryne Fisher (who I’m just finding out about here and now) is someone that Dr Ogden fans enjoy, I think I’ll have to look out for this….but somewhere other than Netflix, since the Canadian version doesn’t seem to have it. :o(

      1. Dr Ogden might well be Phryne’s grandmother, spiritually and intellectually, if not genetically. Both she and Phryne are mentors, she to Dr Grace and Phryne to Dot, who has loosened up quite a bit under Phryne’s tutelage. Also interesting that Dot and Murdoch are both Catholics in Protestant milieus.

    2. Thanks for the recommendation for “Artful Detective” / “Murdoch Mysteries” — I keep seeing it around on Ovation & PBS, but wasn’t sure if it was worth watching (& I’ve got a HUGE backlog of things to watch & review :-) ). But I’ll add it in.

      1. Definitely worth viewing. Aside from the retro science, there’s also some great potshots at history and historical characters. Geraint Wyn Davies appears several times as Arthur Conan Doyle. Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Edison and others also appear. The joys of 20/20 hindsight!

      2. I have mixed feelings about Dr Blake; he seems to be a rather unpleasant and angry man. The season just wrapped here with an important piece of backstory. Since I was around at that time, I can say that they seem to get it right, but most of the cars seem a bit out of date. This may be due to postwar shortages or just the difference between Australian and American car design. And speaking of cars, I’d like to see any series that featured the Auburn-Cord-Dusenberg lines. Which does bring me to one anachronism in “Murdoch.” Dr Grace refers to something as being a “doozy,” which wasn’t coined until the advent of the Dusenberg.

    3. I’m not certain I’d consider Murdoch Mysteries an outstanding costume drama. It’s mostly historically accurate, done on a string of a budget because CBC has zero money and fun for those of us interested in Toronto history, but not stunning like Miss Fisher and Downton mostly because the characters are supposed to be working class people.

      However if you’re from Toronto, or have an affinity for Canadian made television, this one is fun. They poke a lot of fun at modern things, they suggest that Murdoch invents a lot of now everyday things, such as ‘finger marks’ – their words for finger prints. They tie a lot of Toronto history to the story lines, obviously adding their fictional take on it. And most fascinatingly they use Toronto as Toronto, which is very seldom the case as many many films are shot here having TO substitute for New York, Boston, Chicago, and even DC. They also film in and around Toronto as finding period neighbourhoods gets harder and harder.

      As for costume’s you’ll find the men’s uniforms and suits appropriate, including details like the collars, with the women’s clothes they’re also fairly standard costume stock for early 20th century. Hair dyes and make up are a little more heavy handed, but not glaringly awful.

      Watch it for the history and the fun not for the costumes.

  3. If you like an Australian period murder mystery you should also see The Doctor Blake Mysteries. It’s based in 1950s country Victoria (Ballarat) and follows an ex military doctor turned police surgeon.

  4. I’d be interested in your take on the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. They were done in the late 80s, I believe (Edward Petherbridge) and are set between 1929-1935.

  5. I really like her hats, because instead ofKeep writing, Trystan! the bucket-like cloche, her signature hat frames her face and makes her attractive, rather than look like she’s trying to hide. Also love all her togs made from kimonos or kimono-like fabrics. . .very exotic for the time and the place. . .

    1. Yes, the ‘orientalist’ touch is gorgeous — very appropriate for ’20s & also for Australia, being on the Pacific Rim. After all, Phryne had a wealthy Chinese lover.

  6. Well, somehow my last comment was interspersed into the prior body of the post. “Dunno how they done that. . .” Anyway, enjoying this site and looking forward to seeing you ALL (?) at CoCo.

  7. My fave!!! Can we just discuss the sparkley green dress she wears at the beginning of the fashion episode???

  8. Squee! I adore this series, and eagerly await for season 3 to appear on Netflix.

    My question for the Frock Flicks trio is, how accurate/plausible is Phryne’s burlesque fan dancing “outfit?”

  9. The dance itself is certainly appropriate for the period. If I remember correctly, a woman named Sally Rand was one of the major exponents of the art.

  10. I too have watched both seasons multiple times, for obvious reasons.
    One of the most standout aspects of the show is the age of the two leads. Had this show been made in the US, they would have cast people in their twenties, or maybe early 30s. Yet here is a woman on the shady side of forty, who is brilliant, dynamic, sexual, and has real agency.
    Its also a tad shameful how much I would be willing to spend to get my hands on those hats.

  11. I watch the show & love everything about it: great chemistry between the actors, beautiful clothes, the period sets, the lighting, the plots, the music, the very funny and witty dialog, and those two beautiful fools, Miss Fisher and DI Robinson. I wish 1920s fashion would come back, wish we could still find the fabrics they had back then. One nit: It’s not ‘wondering wombs’, it’s ‘wandering wombs’. In an exchange between Phryne and Mac about wrong-headed medical dogma with respect to ‘women’s troubles’, Mac tells Phryne about the belief that celibacy caused the ‘wandering womb’ syndrome, and Phryne cracks, “Oh good, mine’s not going anywhere” because, well…she is far from celibate.

  12. I stumbled onto this blog looking for Miss Fisher info and am so glad I did!!

    I agree that the costumes are gorgeous, I just wish they were a bit more flattering to Dot. I know her character is supposed to be conservative but her clothing seems to have gotten worse. It annoys me, if for no other reason than subtly implying that those of us with fuller figures were completely out of luck in the 1920s.

    A quick pinterest search found the below pictures:

    1. Hmm, I don’t see that Dot looks especially ‘full figured’ just that she’s conservative, a little prim. The clothes suit her character, both have a strict religious background & being a no-nonsense gal. I like that Dot isn’t plain; her hair is waved, she wears excellent hats, & her clothes have lots of details like pleating & trims. I do think the designer is trying to say something specific about her character thru Dot’s clothing.

  13. At this point, I’ve seen every ep at least twice; I hope there are new ones out there. Worth the while to look up the name “Phryne” on Wikipedia. Apparently, her father named her in a drunken fit.

  14. Just saw the behind-the-scenes show. According to local PBS station (WHYY, Phila) the third season is now pending and the fourth is in production. The show has a worldwide fan base. Apparently, they try very hard to get the details right on the show specific to the year 1928.

    1. Yep, the 3rd season is airing on many PBS channels & all of it’s available on Netflix as of October 2015! I may have to write a new review bec. there’s a BIG finish. Plus, there’s talk of a Miss Fisher movie.

  15. Your review was very fair. I’m glad you pointed out the budget involved in this production compared with shows of the caliber of Downton and Thrones. I also noticed the lack of jewellery, or the inadequate use of what they showed.

  16. I am deeply in love with Phryne’s wardrobe, but it’s amazing how she can wear white silk and furs into a coal mine and emerge without a single smudge on her. Not to mention climbing in and out of windows and racing motorcycles and nary a snag or tear. If only all clothing were so durable!

  17. Nevenah. It’s all due to pure thoughts. Oh, wait, we’re talking about Miss Fisher…I could listen to her voice forever. Why do so many American actresses sound like crap?

  18. Having just binge watched all three season’s, I adore this series. I think they hit their costume stride in the second series – the third wasn’t quite as good in the costume area, but the final shortened series hit some interesting story lines and the big finish(es) in the last episode will somewhat satiate fans.

    For those of us who watch or have access mostly to American made television it’s so refreshing to see woman and men of varied ages, varied sizes and who do not all look exactly alike.

    The dvd’s have lovely behind the scene features and of course i watched the costume ones twice.

    1. You can blame the Australian government for the lack of costumes, episodes, and anything else in Season 3. Because of funding cuts to the ABC which produces the series, Season 3 wasn’t going to be made at all. Thank you overwhelming public backlash for making it happen!

      As for costumes, I’ve always thought that Phryne’s jewellery was too cheap for her expensive tastes and that any hosiery seen close up has to be custom made for the show. And I’m really jealous of her shoes and hats.

      I’m impatiently waiting for the costume exhibition to open in Sydney in a month’s time. It’s a good thing that Phryne’s clothes wouldn’t fit me, otherwise I’d be too tempted to ‘souvenir’ them!

  19. I was lucky enough to see the exhibition in Adelaide. The costumes were amazing up close and they had fabric swatches so you could feel the fabric and see the detailing, it was great. A couple of the outfits were genuine 1920s but a lot of it I think was made for the show, which is amazing! But yes the Australian government is cutting funding to the ABC which annoys me greatly.

  20. Speaking as a person that has as pale and as translucent complexion as the Actress Essie Davis does in the Fisher series, I absolutely adore jewelry – but it does not like me back.

    Also, forever as a youth while designing costumes and attempting to wear outlandish pieces while climbing trees and exploring 18th century ruins and boggy swamps in the country side can do a number to heirloom jewelry/clothing, I declare!

    I think a combination of the vigorous activity required for the show mixed with tendencies for the actors to have a vivid, splotchy, and painful reactions to dog collars, sautoirs, and so on could account for the lack of jewelry.

    I care not, for I believe the series is perfect! Give me witty dialogue, a women’s POV, and gorgeous antiques and clothes any day!

  21. I am just beginning to watch the third season on Netflix, and have so enjoyed the costumes so far. However, being from Canada, and knowing the weather is much warmer in Australia, would there have been so many coats, especially with fur used in that climate?

  22. Fantastic show, no doubt. But some of the costumes really are inexcusably questionable. I doubt anyone woman would have been wearing slacks as much as she does. Khaki pants when on safari or a photo shoot? OK. Walking about town in trou’? I think they are off by 20-30 years. Portrayal of the clergy is ludicrously anachronistic. In S1E13, the priest is wearing, under his cassock, a black shirt with a pop-in plastic collar — something that was invented in the mid-1960s. He would have been wearing a white cotton shirt with a badly starched line collar. Dr Mac’s outfit is too over the top for words. Why not just hang a sign around her neck saying ‘dyke’? A woman doctor in the 1920s — already being a major icebreaker, is hardly likely to have run around as a cross-dress.

    1. I have a variety photographs of my great-grandmother wearing trousers in the late ’20s and ’30s. Slacks are not really that off-base.

  23. I love the show and the costumes, but I wonder why Miss Fisher wears so many kimonos, wraps, and robes over her garments. Was that the norm for the period? I also agree with many comments about Dot’s clothing, which while nicely detailed, is rather dreary in color. I presume this is so most eyes are (deservedly) on Miss Fisher, herself

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: