Novel Spaces is in its 10th year! Over the coming months we'll be featuring some of the most popular posts from our archives. This one was first published January 21, 2018.
By Maggie King
As a writer, I love TV shows that use intricate plots and settings to show the ups and downs of being human in a less-than-perfect world. As a crime writer, I am especially fond of shows in the mystery genre. Regardless of the genre, the best TV features conflict as a common denominator.
The following are my top picks:
As Time Goes
By (1992-2005) was
a BBC-produced romantic comedy of manners about Lionel and Jean, who were
lovers in their youth only to be separated due to a communication failure
(communication issues dog every relationship, don’t they?). But they meet up
again thirty eight years later and resume their relationship, in fits and
|Cast of As Time Goes By from BBC|
As Time Goes By portrayed well-drawn characters in relationships that were very real. The humor was natural and not manufactured. Lionel and Jean loved each other, despite occasional minor conflicts. My husband and I share the same affectionate marital banter that Lionel and Jean enjoyed. Their story has gladdened the hearts of romantics everywhere.
I try to emulate this tone and interaction for my characters. Most stories have a romantic component and my Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries are no exception.
Writers can learn much about creating riveting stories and compelling characters from watching Beck.
Midsomer Murders Don’t be fooled by the idyllic-looking county of Midsomer—its murder rate beats that of any urban area. Passions run high and evil lurks everywhere. Midsomer Murders is a slightly quirky British detective drama based on the crime novels by Caroline Graham. The main characters enjoy satisfying relationships, and the guest characters tend to be eccentric and harbor pasts (and often presents) ridden with secrets and scandals. They are often involved in the arts, academia, and the occult: painters, actors, writers, professors, fortune tellers, etc.
I especially liked the episode “Written in Blood,” where murder took place in a writing group.
There are countless adaptations of the stories and a number of actresses have played Miss Marple. Joan Hickson is my favorite as she best matches my picture of how the character looks, acts, and speaks.
Agatha Christie has influenced many crime writers over the years, especially with plot development. I expect that she’ll do so indefinitely. I think the Columbo character played by Peter Falk often channeled Miss Marple, with his bumbling ways that concealed a sharp mind.
These gritty stories are set against Glasgow’s grand architecture.
In my estimation Taggart is a must-see show for crime writers.
This show inspired me on many levels. At the beginning of my debut mystery, Murder at the Book Group, the main character, Hazel Rose, is standing at a crossroads. She is at loose ends in her life and is hard pressed to make even the smallest of decisions. Solving the victim’s murder gives her the opportunity to grow and get out of her rut.
Writers can get inspiration from many more great shows: Brokenwood, Janet King, Inspector Morse, Maria Wern, Wallander, West Wing, and Winds of War/War and Remembrance are just a few.
Tell us your favorites.