We’ve just had an ITV drama featuring Sherlock Holmes creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but now the network has announced that it is returning to the 19th literary boss for more fictional stories. Like Arthur & George, Conan Doyle gets a partner in solving crime, but not quite the person you would imagine – the legendary escapologist Harry Houdini. Sound strange? Why yes, it does. But there’s a method behind the madness…
Houdini & Doyle, which sounds like an odd detective agency, executively produced by House creator, David Shore, and is written and created by long-term collaborator, David Hoselton and David Titcher. It will also be broadcast on Fox in the US, although the 10-part series is ostensibly a UK/Canada co-pro and will air on ITV Encore in the UK. Stephen Mangan plays Sir Arthur Conan Doyle alongside Michael Weston as Harry Houdini, who were real-life friends, real-life adversaries, real-life crime solvers.
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Harry Houdini: master magician, escape artist, born penniless and now the highest paid performer in the world and he wants everyone to know it. He refuses to believe in the paranormal. As a professional magician and master of illusion he knows there’s nothing supernatural about magic. To him, everything unexplained is a trick, a gimmick, or a fraud.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is the creator of the greatest detective of all time – Sherlock Holmes – but is also a passionate believer in the paranormal. Because, having lost someone very close to him, he desperately wants to find a way of communicating with them.
This fundamental difference between the two men leads to conflict… and humour… and competition. High-minded competition in the pursuit of the truth and ridiculous petty competition because they’re… guys. But despite all this, they need each other. Doyle needs Houdini because he is gullible. Houdini needs Doyle because he is wrong.
Houdini & Doyle will draw heavily on the rich history of the period. At the turn of the 20th century the Metropolitan Police, mired in the ways of the 19th century, were overwhelmed with bizarre and often inexplicable cases so they turned to outsiders including, believe it or not, Houdini and Doyle, who collaborated with New Scotland Yard on some unsolved and inexplicable crimes.
What can we believe? What should we believe? Is cynicism to be admired or is it what makes us human? Is reason the antithesis of hope?
It sounds high concept to the max, but historical crime drama is fun and, especially, in the Victorian era.
Joining the international cast of new and established talent are exciting new Canadian actress Rebecca Liddiard as Constable Adelaide Stratton, whose character in the series is the first female PC ever to work for the London Metropolitan Police Force, Tim McInnerny as Inspector Horace Merring, fast rising star Adam Nagaitis as Sergeant George Gudgett.