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Acorn Presents Holiday Cheer in July with 'Once Upon a Murdoch Christmas'
July 24, 2017  | By David Hinckley

If after a few weeks of July heat you’re ready to cool off with a Christmas movie, the Canadian series Murdoch Mysteries has a candidate as inviting as a plate of tree-shaped sugar cookies.  

Once Upon a Murdoch Christmas becomes available Monday on the streaming service Acorn, and it features all the characters who have made the series a long-running favorite north of the border.

That most prominently includes the dashing Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson, top), who solves heinous crimes in Toronto around the turn of the 20th century.

What sets him apart from his peers is that he constantly seeks the most modern technology, making him, in a sense, a less hyper version of Sherlock Holmes or Dr. John Thackery from The Knick.

Murdoch’s style is methodical, and he generally maintains a pleasantly straight face, which fits in perfectly with one of the show’s signatures: Even in the face of deadly violence, it always keeps a bit of its tongue in its cheek.

The show is fond, for instance, of making humorous allusions to things that haven’t happened yet for the characters in the show, but which viewers know are going to happen.

That doubtless makes it fun to write, not to mention fun to watch.

Once Upon a Murdoch Christmas stays very much in that spirit.

For instance, at the risk of revealing a minor spoiler, one of the characters is an aspiring comic artist and he creates a character named Jack Flash.

Jack Flash’s skills include exceptional leaping ability, so a friend asks why the artist doesn’t call the character Jumping Jack Flash.

The artist makes a face and says no way, who’d do that?

In any case, the plot of this Murdoch Mysteries episode has been gentled down a bit for the Christmas season. Instead of ghastly killings, Murdoch and his boss Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig) are asked to solve a series of brazen robberies.

The unusual element is that the victims of these robberies all seem to be the very rich, which means they are all well-connected in Toronto and they demand a full-court press to find the perps.

There’s a bit of an embryonic Batman element to the chase, and if you’ve connected that hint to the earlier Jack Flash spoiler, well, good for you.

Murdoch Mysteries, like almost all procedurals, tends to have happy endings or at least endings where justice is served.

For the Christmas episode, that notion is enhanced. Both the resolution to the specific mystery and the resolution to the larger issue of appropriate sanctions for criminal behavior are satisfying enough to border on heartwarming.

It’s true we get plenty of that during the actual holiday season. For late July, it’s in somewhat shorter supply. Just saying.

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