The allure of whodunit TV shows, for me, lies in their ability to immerse viewers in a rich blend of mystery, intrigue, heartfelt emotion, and a generous dose of humor, all set in beautiful small towns.
While this description leans toward the cozy mystery subgenre, characterized by its light, comedic, and comforting tone, it's worth noting that over the years, these shows have evolved into a mix of crime subgenres.
These shows encompass the classic whodunit, where detectives piece together clues, elements of the noir-inspired gumshoe with street-smart characters navigating urban settings, and even police procedural dramas, featuring plots that combine cozy mystery with traditional private investigator elements.
The cozy mystery TV show sometimes gets a bad rap because of its perceived lack of realism when solving crimes. As a result, many of these shows have poor ratings, which often do not reflect the true quality of the performance or overall quality of the show.
Viewers looking for something in the hard-boiled mystery genre, like the HBO series True Detective or The Killing, with more realistic crime-solving procedures, may find the light-hearted nature of cozy mysteries less appealing, leading to unfavorable reviews.
While I do love hard-boiled crime dramas set in busy cities where detectives like Columbo and Kojak rely on their street smarts and gut feelings to catch criminals. The shows mentioned within this article tend to fall under small-town cozy mysteries where you might have gotten away with murder if it weren't for amateur sleuths like Jessica Fletcher and Miss Marple.
The Spencer Sisters
The CW's new PI series, The Spencer Sisters, follows Darby Spencer, a former police officer, who (reluctantly) joins forces with her mother, Victoria Spencer, a well-known mystery writer, to establish a private investigation agency. Together, they attempt to solve cases while navigating their mother-daughter dynamics and clashing personalities.
It's a light-hearted series starring an ensemble cast that includes Lea Thompson (Back To The Future), Stacey Farber (Superman & Lois), Thomas Olajide (Inhuman Condition), Edward Ruttle (Batwoman), Husein Madhavji (Mira, Royal Detective), Ayesha Mansur Gonsalves (Sort Of), Rodrigo Massa (Like, la Leyenda), Kaitlyn Leeb (Shadowhunters), and Adam Hurtig (Little Bird).
The first episode feels like a slow burn, but the pace picks up in the second episode. 'The Spencer Sisters' is your traditional cozy whodunit with a sprinkle of light family drama. You can watch this series for free on The CW.
So Help Me Todd
So Help Me Todd is a feel-good-whodunit, with some episodes crossing into sitcom territory. The series follows Attorney Margaret Wright, who hires her laid-back, former private detective son, Todd, as her law firm's in-house investigator. Despite their stark differences in approach, Todd's resourcefulness impresses Margaret when they collaborate on a case. Seeing Todd's potential, Margaret offers him an opportunity to work with her and aims to steer him towards a more financially stable and suitable path.
So Help Me Todd stars Academy Award winner Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River, The Mist) as razor-sharp, meticulous attorney Margaret Wright and Skylar Astin (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) as Todd, her talented but scruffy, aimless son. The series also stars Tristen J. Winger (Bigger), Madeline Wise (Star Trek: Picard), Inga Schlingmann (Life Coach), and Rosa Arredondo (Roswell, New Mexico). You can find season one on Paramount+.
Shakespeare & Hathaway
Next up is Shakespeare and Hathaway. Watch fun, unusual cases unfold in the historic town of Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England, the birthplace of the legendary playwright William Shakespeare. Follow Frank Hathaway and Lu Shakespeare, two gumshoes who go the extra mile to seek justice for the wrongly accused. Along with their disguise-wearing assistant, Sebastian, they unravel mysteries in the classic whodunit style.
Shakespeare and Hathaway is a fun show that does not take itself too seriously, offering great stories and lots of clues, with chances to solve the case before Frank and Lu present their findings. The series stars Mark Benton (Waterloo Road) as Frank Hathaway, Jo Joyner (Ackley Bridge), and Patrick Walshe McBride (Lake Of Death, Inspector Lewis) as Sebastian Brudenell, with plenty more talented guest stars.
Unfortunately, the word is that this series has reached its conclusion after just four seasons. However, recently, it's become common to see great shows face unexpected cancellations. There are forty episodes to enjoy, and you won't end up with an unanswered cliffhanger at the end of the fourth season. All forty episodes are available on BritBox.
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Mcdonald and Dodds
McDonald & Dodds initially adopts a police procedural format, progressing to a character-driven cozy whodunit in later episodes. Cozy mysteries often focus on amateur detectives who encounter resistance from the local police force, but in this case, McDonald and Dodds are police detectives.
The series also embraces other cozy characteristics, offering a blend of light drama, subtle comedy, and a roster of fantastic guest stars. It all unfolds against the picturesque backdrop of Bath, a small, historic Roman-built city in Somerset, England. DCI McDonald embodies the assertive and ambitious type, while DS Dodds is book-smart and laid-back. There is an age gap between them, and each has distinct crime-solving methods. Together, they tackle perplexing murder cases under the watchful eye of a boss hoping for their failure.
Viewers are given subtle clues that will keep you guessing, and in some episodes, you may come across a clever twist meant to throw you off the scent. Season two particularly stood out for me with great mysteries, and it's exciting to know that filming for the fourth season is already underway.
McDonald & Dodds stars Tala Gouveia (Go Jetters) as DCI Lauren McDonald and Jason Watkins (The Crown) as DS Dodds. Cast members returning for the fourth season include Claire Skinner (Outnumbered) as Chief Superintendent Ormond, Charlie Chambers (EastEnders) as DC Goldie, and the addition of Bhavik C. Pankhania (World On Fire) to the lineup as DC Lee. You can follow this crime-fighting duo on BritBox.
Death In Paradise
A Detective Inspector is relocated from London to the Caribbean island of Saint Marie to take on the challenging task of investigating and solving intricate murder cases. As you watch, keep your eyes open and pay close attention because this show offers clues and twists that might have you hitting the rewind button so often that family members will unjustly take the remote away from you.
It has a good balance between drama and comedy, enhanced by the stunning island scenery. Over the years, the Saint Marie police force has witnessed a rotation of Detective Inspectors, beginning with Ben Miller (Professor T) as Richard Poole, followed by Kris Marshall (Beyond Paradise) as Humphrey Goodman, Ardal O'Hanlan (My Hero) as Jack Mooney, and currently, Ralf Little (Borderline) portrays the DI role as Neville Parker.
Death In Paradise cast also includes Elizabeth Bourgine (Written in Blood) as Catherine Bordey, Joséphine Jobert (Summer Crush) as DS Florence Cassell, Tahj Miles (Class Dismissed) as Officer Marlon Pryce, Shantol Jackson (Sprinter) as DS Naomi Thomas, and Don Warrington (The World According to Grandpa, New Street Law) as Commissioner Selwyn Patterson.
The show has been renewed for two additional seasons, and 'Death in Paradise' is now scheduled to run until at least 2025. Although set in the fictional Caribbean island of Saint Marie, the filming location is actually on the beautiful French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. You can catch all 12 seasons of 'Death In Paradise' on Britbox.
My Life Is Murder
This one consists of big-city murders but is the kind of light-hearted funny mystery you'd expect in a cozy. The atmosphere is bright, colorful, and a little adventurous. My Life is Murder follows Alexa Crowe, a former police officer whose former boss frequently requests her insight on cold cases. She is assisted by a young police data analyst named Madison, who seeks Alexa's mentorship, even if Alexa is not interested in being a teacher. Despite her retirement, Alexa's passion for solving crimes is still strong, and she finds it hard to resist the urge to crack cases.
This Australian and New Zealand crime comedy-drama stars Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess, Parks and Recreation) as Alexa Crowe, Ebony Vagulans (The Furies) as Madison Feliciano, Rawiri Jobe (Shortland Street) as Harry Henare, and Joseph Naufahu (Game of Thrones, Spartacus) as Reuben Wulf. There are three seasons on Acorn TV, with a fourth season reportedly in post-production.
Senior Sergeant Collins and Detective Redcliff are complete opposites, but they somehow find a way to balance each other, just like The Odd Couple's Felix and Oscar.
The Tasmanian town of Deadloch, a once sleepy seaside hamlet, is left reeling when a local man is found dead on the beach. Two female detectives are thrown together to solve the case: A fastidious local senior sergeant, Dulcie Collins, and a rough-as-guts blow-in from Darwin, senior investigator Eddie Redcliff, along with their overeager junior constable Abby.
As the town prepares to launch the annual arts, food, and culture event known as the Winter Feastival, the trio, while working in a sexist environment, must put their differences aside to find a killer.
Deadloch features a large cast led by Kate Box (Fires, Wentworth), Madeleine Sami (The Breaker Uppers), and Nina Oyama (Utopia). Deadloch will keep you guessing to the very end. The eight-part series was filmed in Hobart, Tasmania, and is available on Prime Video.
Based on the books by M.C. Beaton, 'Agatha Raisin' follows the journey of a PR guru turned amateur sleuth, who leaves her life in London in pursuit of a fresh start in the seemingly quiet village of Carsley.
However, her plans take an unexpected turn when she becomes the prime suspect in a murder case, all because she participated in the village's annual quiche-making competition, hoping to fit in. Determined to clear her name, Agatha embarks on a mission to solve the mystery of the infamous 'quiche of death.' Her first foray into solving crime leads her to help her neighbors with cases that leave the local police force stumped.
This series epitomizes the cozy mystery genre, complete with a charming cast of characters and captivating guest stars. It's the quintessential whodunit starring Ashley Jensen (Ugly Betty) as Agatha Raisin, Matt McCooey (Midsomer Murders) as DC Bill Wong, Jason Barnett (Bridgerton) as DCI Denzel Wilkes, Lucy Katherine (The Bourne Ultimatum) as Sarah Bloxby, Mathew Horne (Bad Education) as Roy Silver, Jamie Glover (The Crown) as James Lacey, Jodie Tyack (The Window) as Toni Gilmour, and Jason Merrells (Emmerdale Farm) as Sir Charles Fraith. You can watch Agatha and her lovable friends risk their lives to catch murderers on Acorn TV.
You may want a glass of wine to accompany this cozy series. Harriet 'Harry' Wild, a former literature professor, grapples with adapting to retired life. After falling victim to a mugging, Harry seeks refuge with her son Charlie, a police detective, to recuperate. While observing Charlie work on a murder case, Harry stumbles upon a crucial piece of evidence. Despite Charlie's initial dismissal of her input, Harry decides to take matters into her own hands.
With the assistance of Fergus, the teenager who mugged her, Harry embarks on a journey to solve the crime, forming an unlikely detective duo that doesn't sit well with Charlie. The first few episodes serve as character introductions as they solve crimes, with later episodes adopting a whodunit style.
I think book lovers will enjoy watching Harry use her literary skills to outsmart criminals and solve cases that baffle her son and the rest of the police force. While the show maintains a light-hearted tone, it also offers relationship and family drama that adds another layer of interest to the series.
Harry Wild stars Jane Seymour (Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman) as Harry, Rohan Nedd (Whitstable Pearl) as Fergus Reid, Rose O'Neill (Harry Wild) as Lola Wild, Amy Huberman (Flora and Son) as Orla Wild, and Kevin Ryan (The South Westerlies) as Charlie Wild. Harry Wild is currently airing its second season on Acorn TV, and you can catch up on season one for free on Prime Video.
The Madame Blanc Mysteries
The pace and music of this mystery series offer a relaxing viewing experience set in the backdrop of a beautiful French town. It's a blend of love story, comedy, and mystery drama, led by a talented cast.
After her husband's mysterious passing, antiques dealer Jean White faces unexpected financial hardship. To tackle her newfound troubles, she embarks on a journey to their final remaining asset: a cottage nestled in the heart of the antique capital of the world, Sainte Victoire, France.
When she arrives, Jean takes it upon herself to investigate the circumstances surrounding her husband's death with the assistance of a supportive police chief and the kindest taxi driver in history. As she begins to unravel the mystery surrounding the accident that killed her husband, Jean finds herself drawn to mysterious incidents involving the townspeople. The Madame Blanc Mysteries is a soothing escape, making it an ideal choice for individuals (like me) dealing with stress and anxiety.
Filled with interesting characters, The Madame Blanc Mysteries stars Sally Lindsay (Mount Pleasant) as amateur sleuth Jean White, Steve Edge (Cruella, The Reluctant Landlord) as Dom Hayes, Alex Gaumond (Derry Girls, The Hustle) as Police Chief Caron, Robin Askwith (Bless This House, U-571) as Jeremy Lloyd James, Sue Holderness (The Green Green Grass, Only Fools and Horses) as Judith Lloyd James, and Sue Vincent (Blind Spot) as Gloria.
There are plenty of other regular cast members and a lot of entertaining notable guest appearances. The Madame Blanc Mysteries has two seasons on Acorn TV, with a third season coming soon.
Queens of Mystery
Narrator Juliet Stevenson (Truly Madly Deeply, Bend It Like Beckham) adds a witty and engaging tone describing the eccentric characters and events in this quirky small-town mystery.
Queens of Mystery follows newly appointed detective Matilda Stone and her three mystery-writing aunts, who believe their knowledge of crime fiction makes them perfectly qualified to help her solve whodunit-style murders in their home of Wildemarsh. While solving murders, Matilda begins to uncover secrets that could explain what happened to her mother.
The characters in this visually stunning six-episode series feel like they belong in a Wes Anderson film. (Meaning great quality: I say it as a compliment to the showrunner, writers, and of course the actors) They are eccentric and offbeat, each with a unique trait that adds a bit of fun at the most random moments.
Queens of Mystery combines all the elements of a cozy mystery, offering dark humor, drama, and adventure. Olivia Vinall (The Woman in White) played detective Matilda Stone in the first season, but because of scheduling conflict, was replaced by Florence Hall (The Princess Switch franchise) in the second.
Starring alongside Hall is Siobhan Redmond (Unforgotten) as Jane Stone, Sarah Woodward (Agatha Christie's The Pale Horse) as Beth Stone, and Julie Graham (Shetland) as Cat Stone. If you would like to see this family of crime solvers at work, you will find The Queens Of Mystery on Acorn TV.
There's this thing that Holmes once said to Watson...
“Do you know, Watson, that it is one of the curses of a mind with a turn like mine that I must look at everything with reference to my own special subject. You look at these scattered houses, and you are impressed by their beauty. I look at them, and the only thought which comes to me is a feeling of their isolation and of the impunity with which crime may be committed there.”
“Good heavens! Who would associate crime with these dear old homesteads?”
“They always fill me with a certain horror. It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.” - (The Adventure of the Copper Beeches)
As a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's character Sherlock Holmes, I have always found myself drawn to the excitement of a good mystery. It's interesting to note that Doyle himself was influenced by Edgar Allan Poe's writings and Poe's fictional detective C. Auguste Dupin, and I can definitely see the impact that Holmes has had on my own reasoning skills.
I often wonder if Holmes' observations about rural areas can be applied to small-town communities that are not so isolated. In my opinion, towns and villages can certainly be viewed in the same way as the countryside. After all, Holmes believed that crime could occur anywhere, regardless of location. But would he look at small towns that tend to be close-knit with less fear? Even though towns and villages may seem innocent and peaceful, Holmes warns that looks can be deceiving. For me, this has always added to the fun and excitement of watching a mystery.
As always, thanks for reading, and if you've watched any of these shows, comment below and let me know your thoughts.
Keep It Interesting, Stay Channel Surfing
Note: I will periodically update this article with new and classic cozy mystery show recommendations as I come across them, so stay tuned!
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