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'Dead Still' is a Victorian Murder Mystery Filled with Laughs
May 18, 2020  | By David Hinckley  | 1 comment

As possibly the most humorless man on television, Brock Blennerhasset (Michael Smiley, top) has found the perfect job.

He takes formal portraits of the dead, which would sound pretty weird today, but was a respected profession in 1880s Victorian Ireland.

The new murder mystery series Dead Still, a marvelously layered title, pokes into Blennerhasset’s world starting Monday on Acorn.

Dead Still, no relation to the 2014 horror film of the same name, revolves largely around a series of murders. It also offers a surprising measure of humor – some of it generated precisely because Blennerhasset has none.

The first client we see him prepping for her close-up is Mary, a woman who seems to have been in the prime of life. Brock chats with her as he fusses with her makeup and carefully styles her hair, telling her she looks beautiful.

Then her family piles into the room and starts falling all over her, literally, compromising Blennerhasset’s precise preparation. Eventually, they retreat enough so Blennerhasset can prop her up in a chair and take a formal photograph with her grieving family lined up behind her.

It’s lovely, one of the survivors tells Brock. We only wish Mary had been alive to see it.

Now there’s a Catch-22.

In any case, Blennerhasset cruises along doing his job, looking perpetually dour and tolerating his bumbling, equally humorless helper Cecil Carruthers (Jimmy Smallhorne).

It feels as if a small ray of life might be entering his life when his niece Nancy Vickers (Eileen O’Higgins), of whom he seems legitimately fond, asks if she can stay at his home for a while.

She wants to be an actress, and apparently, Brock was the only member of the family who didn’t tell her that was an awful idea, though he hasn’t done much to actively support her, either.

Nancy doesn’t seem to be a barrel of laughs herself, although at least she dresses in something other than black.

Then something odd happens. The glass plate from his photograph of Mary goes missing, and of course, that’s the only source from which Blennerhasset could create a physical print. So his reputation is at stake, and, being a meticulous man as well as a humorless one, he is considerably perplexed at how the plate could have disappeared.

On a sort of impulse, he hires the man who dug Mary’s grave, Conall Molloy (Kerr Logan), to discreetly check out other post-mortem photographers and see if any of them might have pilfered the plate. Seems photographing the dead is a cutthroat business in Victorian Ireland.

And he doesn’t know the half of it. Soon a nice man from the constabulary shows up, one Frederick Regan (Aidan O’Hare). Apparently, there have been a couple of murders in which the victims were “staged” the same way that post-mortem photographers stage the likes of Mary. Regan isn’t accusing Blennerhasset of anything, mind you, but he does want to see if Brock could help him find a connection.

Blennerhasset’s reaction is dour, of course. He does not break character.

But it does set up an unusual and somewhat offbeat dynamic for a murder mystery, particularly when Conall and Nancy are drawn in.

Dead Still runs six episodes, which gives us plenty of time to see if Blennerhasset ever cracks a smile, and Fred Regan can crack the case.

The story is engaging enough that it’s too bad Mary isn’t around to enjoy it with us.

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linda walker
where is dead still showing
May 18, 2020   |  Reply
acorn. While you're there check out the lucy lawless (xena) mystery series "my life is murder. "
May 19, 2020
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