Houdini & Doyle

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Houdini & Doyle TV Poster Image
Strong lead performances deliver compelling dramedy series.

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Positive Messages

All three main characters are real-life figures, though their stories are rewritten for the show. They represent three sides to the discussion about the supernatural; one believes, one does not, and one is open to any ideas that point to the truth. There's a strong message about female empowerment in the character of Adelaide, who breaks down barriers in the workplace. Teamwork is a major theme. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Houdini and Doyle are fun characters to follow, and their approaches to cases illustrate the effectiveness of different work styles. Each is earnest and set in his ways and beliefs, which causes disagreements often. But the real standout in the story is Adelaide, who represents the modern woman of the times -- independent, motivated, and undeterred by what others think of her breaking down barriers in the fraternal police structure.

Violence

The characters investigate murders and other violent acts, so dead bodies and blood are par for the course. There's also a supernatural angle to every story, which adds to the tension in many scenes. The setting is dark and foreboding, and sinister characters lurk around, but humor usually lightens the mood.

Sex

Adults kiss and hint at sex. Bedroom scenes involve partial nudity (men without shirts, women in underclothes) and some physical contact but nothing graphic.

Language

"Damn," "dammit," and "ass."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some drinking and smoking from adults.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Houdini & Doyle is a drama series inspired by the real-life acquaintance between Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle. The show brings the two men's very different personalities head to head by tasking them with helping to solve mysteries with supernatural slants. With one a believer and the other not, their investigations are hardly seamless, but that's where the fun (and the humor) begins. Also central to the story is another historical figure, the first female constable of Scotland Yard, who injects the show with a hefty dose of girl power and often acts as the coolest head among the bunch. This series takes obvious liberties with the tales of each character and their relationships, but it may inspire viewers to learn more about the real-life people. Expect some sporadic language ("damn," "dammit," "ass") and implied sexual relationships but little that would keep teens away.

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What's the story?

At the turn of the 20th century in Edwardian London, a series of bizarre crimes has Scotland Yard stumped, so they call on magician Harry Houdini (Michael Weston) and celebrated author Arthur Conan Doyle (Stephen Mangan) to join in the investigation in HOUDINI & DOYLE. The two men, acquaintances with vastly different views on the plausibility of the supernatural, team up with the force's first female officer, Constable Adelaide Stratton (Rebecca Liddiard), who seizes the opportunity to prove her worth in her patriarchal workplace.

Is it any good?

Adventure and humor coexist brilliantly in this drama series inspired by the real-life relationship between Doyle and Houdini. Though much is fictionalized to set the scene for these frenemies' encounters, there's a foundation of truth in each one's ironic personality: Houdini, the master of illusion, must see something to believe in it; and Doyle, the creator of everyone's favorite rational thinker, Sherlock Holmes, is a firm believer in the supernatural. They form an unlikely team, made even more unusual by the presence of Adelaide, a lesser-known but nonetheless historical figure whose story is shaped to fit this reimagining.

Houdini & Doyle is sharply written and expertly presented by this talented cast, and the men's repartee is delightful to behold. As Doyle tries tirelessly to prove the existence of powers unseen, Houdini's skepticism -- and remarkable sleight of hand -- put his beliefs to the test time and again. Meanwhile, Adelaide finds herself somewhere in the middle, willing to entertain any possibility so long as it leads to the truth and the respect of her superiors. With minimal iffy content, this smart historical fiction series is an excellent choice for watching with your teens.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the characters. What do you know of their real-life counterparts? What liberties were taken with their stories for Houdini & Doyle? Are they compelling characters? Is this a genre of entertainment you generally like?

  • How does Adelaide represent a generation of women of her time? Which historical factors have contributed to women's liberation through the years? Have we achieved full equality in the workplace? Why, or why not?

  • Does either side make a strong case for or against the plausibility of the supernatural? Are you a believer? Have you ever heard a firsthand account of a brush with the unexplained?

  • How do the characters in Houdini & Doyle demonstrate teamwork? Why is this an important character strength?

TV details

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