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This British TV series, shot almost entirely on videotape, dramatized short mystery fiction by authors who were contemporaries of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Many of these authors were virtually unknown to modern audiences, although all of the detectives portrayed had appeared in popular ongoing series of short stories or novels. "Rivals" featured the only dramatizations to date of such period characters as Jacques Futrelle's "The Thinking Machine" and W. H. Hodgson's "Carnacki The Ghost Finder". Production values were high, although the limitations of early '70's video technology are painfully obvious. The casts included the cream of British television's character actors, featuring a few faces that will be recognizable to American audiences. Written by
Doug Ferrar <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I discovered this series on '70s American public television by accident while channel-surfing (or whatever we called it back in the days when you twisted a knob and then had to fine-tune the receiver). I felt like it was almost my personal secret then, something like Jean Shepherd's Ralphie feels before he decodes Annie's message. Except, this doesn't turn out to be a disappointment. The stories were intelligent, accessible, and timeless. This is TV doing what it should, before everything was about teen angst. (You know, I was a teen once and I don't remember having any angst. Maybe that was partly because my TV entertained me without suggesting I had to be glum to be cool. Maybe not.)
I've never seen it since and I've often wondered why not. It seems like the kind of thing that modern mystery fans would love to have, even if that meant buying it on DVD.
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