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Mystery!

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Mystery!
EarlyMysteryIntro

The older version of the Mystery! title card

Mystery! is a PBS anthology series, which debuted in 1980. In some respects a spin-off of Masterpiece Theater, the concept was suggested to PBS affilliate WGBH Boston in 1979 by an exective for Mobil Oil, the longtime Masterpiece sponsor. Following the success of a series adapting Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey on Masterpiece Theater, Mystery! was devised as a showcase for various British detective series and occasional one-shot stories or serials, importing pre-existing product from the BBC, ITV, and others, but with WGBH as a direct investor in producing new series as well, which would be shared. Such diverse characters as Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Inspector Morse, and Dr. Jekyll were featured over the years. The series opening featured distinctive animation, designed by Edward Gorey and animated by Derek Lamb, depicting stock Victorian detective story figures.

Like Masterpiece Theater, the series had a host, to introduce the segments andprovide historical background and context on authors and characters. Initially, Gene Shalit filled the slot, but by 1981, he was replaced by Vincent Price. Price's long association with mystery and horror allowed for atmospheric tongue-in-cheek intros; he stepped down for health reasons in 1989, and was replaced by Diana Rigg (whose own association with the genre was highlighted by The Avengers). In more recent years, the series has undergone a variety of format changes.

References

On Sesame Street, the series was spoofed with the recurring "Mysterious Theater" segments, hosted by Vincent Twice, and spotlighting the adventures of Sherlock Hemlock and Watson.

Connections

In addition to the three hosts, many cast members of the various series/mini-series showcased on Mystery! have also performed in Creature Shop productions. The dates reflect their tenure on the Mystery! series, and not necessarily the original production.

  • Geraldine Chaplin played Rachel Sangalletti in My Cousin Rachel (1985)
  • Reece Dinsdale played Albert in The Secret Adversary and its spin-off, Partners in Crime (1984-1987)
  • Michael Gambon played Inspector Jules Maigret in Maigret (1992-1994)
  • Ian Holm played Paul Presset in We, The Accused (1983) and Bernard Samson in Game, Set and Match (1989)
  • Derek Jacobi played Brother Cadfael in Cadfael (1995-1997)
  • Helen Mirren played DCI Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect (1992-1994; subsequently moved to Masterpiece Theater)
  • Sam Neill played Sidney Reilly in Reilly, Ace of Spies (1984)
  • Peter O'Toole played Uncle Silas in The Dark Angel (1991)
  • Edward Petherbridge played Lord Peter Wimsey in Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey (1987)
  • Jonathan Pryce played William Wallace in The Man from Pru (1991)
  • Cyril Shaps played Mountjoy in Dying Day (1982)
  • Elizabeth Spriggs played Elinor Presset in We, The Accused (1993)
  • James Wilby played Kit Vesey in Mother love (1990)
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