Ellery Queen Mysteries

TV review by
Elka Karl, Common Sense Media
Ellery Queen Mysteries TV Poster Image
Classic whodunit series may move too slowly for teens.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The show privileges brains over brawn, and rewards the "good guys" who use their smarts and talent to solve crimes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ellery Queen uses his powers of deduction and intellect to solve crimes, and doesn't resort to violence. He also is a cool operator:  when presented with a robber who brandishes a gun at him, he suggests they talk things out -- and then slips sleeping pills into the robber's tea. Ellery and his father have a loving yet cranky dynamic that's definitely relatable.


Violence is alluded to frequently. A dying woman is shown crawling across a room, though no obvious injury is shown. Another man jumps off a building to his death. Most scenes that feature a murder or death are filmed in a way that skirts the actual moment of violence. Weapons, mainly handguns, are shown and pointed at people.


Extramarital affairs are mentioned, but very little romantic contact.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke cigars and cigarettes (as was common for the era) and drink alcoholic beverages, but rarely to excess.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this 1970's-era television series deals with solving violent crimes including murder. The murders are rarely shown onscreen and violence is mainly alluded to, after the fact. There are brief mentions of sexual affairs, and some period-appropriate smoking and drinking.

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What's the story?

Adapted many times over from the original detective novels, this short-lived 1975 television series centers around detective Ellery Queen (Jim Hutton). Ellery often comes to the rescue of the New York City police force at the bequest of his father, Inspector Richard Queen (David Wayne). Set in the 1940s, the show features radio drama re-enactments, classic motor vehicles, period dressing and interior decorating, and other indicators of that era. Cases include murders, robberies, blackmail, and more. Each episode includes Ellery Queen presenting the mystery and its facts to the audience, just prior to the mystery's resolution.

Is it any good?

ELLERY QUEEN MYSTERIES is a smartly written and well-acted show with a lot of great chemistry between the two main characters, Ellery and Richard Queen. The show also provides an entertaining glimpse of the 1940s -- albeit therough a mid-'70s lens. Kids will enjoy the effects used by the radio drama players, as well as the retro technology, including typewriters, first-generation televisions, and speaker systems in offices. The mysteries are fun to solve, and there are plenty of red herrings along the way to keep both parents' and kids' deductive reasoning skills firing. However, the slower pace of this show, with longer scenes and less action, may be boring to modern teens.

Each episode features a breaking-of-the-fourth-wall dramatic moment, where Ellery Queen steps out of the episode and asks the viewing audience to consider the facts of the case, telling them that they have all of the evidence they need to solve the crime. This device, though a little hokey, does provide families the opportunity to pause the show and discuss the facts as a family and see if they can solve the mystery before Ellery does. 


Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how violence is presented in television shows past and present. How does this show compare to current crime shows? What does the level of violence say about our time period, if anything?

  • How do Ellery and his father work together on cases? Do you think that this show presents a positive image of a father and son relationship? What other shows can you think of that show father-son dynamics?

  • Even though this show was filmed in 1975, it takes place in the late 1940s. What examples of media and technology are shown on the show? Are you familiar with any of them?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills and mystery

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