The subtle trick Showtime's "Penny Dreadful is that it is far less about the blood, gore and the specter of gruesome death than the sharp pain and exhilarating pleasure of living, and the terror of feeling alone even in close company. Read our review in the May Picks section.
Former high school English teacher and famed mystery writer Jessica Fletcher has a gift for solving mysteries. You see, it seems murder follows her around, whether it be to the houses of her seemingly endless number of friends, nieces, and nephews or right in her hometown of Cabot Cove, Maine. Jessica is sometimes assisted by her friend Dr. Seth Hazlitt or the local sheriff, Amos Tupper (later Sheriff Metzger). Sometimes, later in the series, Jessica would only narrate the episode, which would be a dramatization of one of her novels. In later seasons, Jessica moved to New York City to be closer to her publisher and also closer to crime. Written by
Mike Hatchett <firstname.lastname@example.org>
You don't have to be an old lady to like this show; I'm sixteen years old and a male to boot. I am a big fan of whodunits, and always have been. This is one of the best. In the first few seasons, several episodes featured creative and delightful gimmicks. Although creatively the series sagged a bit in the "middle years," the last two seasons showed a resurgence in quality. Throughout the series' twelve years, however, very few episodes failed to deliver in terms of the mystery itself: it's always fun to try to find the clues and deduce their meaning before the detective does, but if you don't, it's also fun to hear the explanation.
Although there are several lovable recurring characters, the only real regular in the series is Angela Lansbury. Consequently, the format is refreshingly free, and the writers aren't forced to bog the stories down for a boatload of regulars. However, there are always plenty of interesting characters acting as suspects. Frequently there are famous beloved older guest stars, especially in the first few seasons, but the special guest star is not always the killer; the mystery always comes first! This is an old-fashioned mystery series, unmarred by an overdose of violence or melodrama. Plus, Jessica Fletcher is a character that one can't help but love, and Angela Lansbury plays it to charming perfection.
There is, of course, the obvious creative license: that Jessica Fletcher always accidentally stumbles across a murder. If you are willing to put this aside, this is a show one can really enjoy. (Note: The show pokes fun at itself on occasion, including one where Jessica reveals that she is nicknamed "the Bloody Mary of murder.")
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