Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries is an Australian television drama series. It was first broadcast on ABC on 24 February 2012. The series is based on author Kerry Greenwood's novels and was created by Deb Cox and Fiona Eagger. Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries revolves around the personal and professional life of Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis), a glamorous private detective in 1920s Melbourne. The first thirteen-part series was filmed over a six-month period in and around Melbourne from July 2011 and each episode had a budget of A$1 million. The drama has been bought by broadcasters in 120 countries and territories worldwide. A second series was commissioned in August 2012 and filming began in February 2013. The series began airing from 6 September 2013 and concluded with a Christmas special on 22 December 2013. A third series was commissioned in June 2014 and began airing on 8 May 2015.
In late 2016, there were some plans for a movie trilogy featuring the character Phryne Fisher. However, the producers would need to wait until Essie Davis is available for filming. The actress now lives in England where she had a recurring role on Game of Thrones, and in June 2016 started filming The White Princess (8 episodes at minimum), playing Elizabeth Woodville. In May 2016, the actress said she would certainly consider appearing in a Miss Fisher film. "[We’re] just working out the ideas of how to make it bigger and better and more fabulous than the TV show."
Head writer and producer of the series, Deb Cox, has said that she and Fiona Eagger were looking to adapt a crime novel for television and believed the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) were looking for a prime-time crime series for their network. The producers were disappointed by what they initially found and Cox explained: "It takes so long to raise the finance and script and produce a television series, so you need to feel it's worthwhile—both financially and philosophically. It was hard to find a reason to bring stories about psychotic killers and serial murderers to the screen." Cox and Eagger then came across Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher murder mystery series and were drawn to them because of their diverse fan base.
Eagger said that they were curious to discover what made the series appeal to all generations. Eagger told a writer for If Magazine, "We were a bit curious to know what it was about it that could appeal to a 16-year-old and a 70-year-old. Phryne is one of the first feminists. She chooses to live alone, she chooses not to get married. She's got many lovers. She's a bit of a James Bond action hero—she's much better dressed than James Bond though." Cox and Eagger realised that the novels reflected their moral values and fitted in with their style of storytelling, so they began adapting them.
Cox and Eagger initially thought adapting novels would be easier than writing an original screenplay, but soon discovered that it was not. Speaking to Andrew Wrathall from Fancygoods.com.au, Cox stated,
"It takes a whole new set of skills to preserve what's most important in the stories, rationalise the impossible, gather what's left into a cohesive whole and still reflect the boundless worlds of imagination encouraged in the readers' minds by a few hundred words on paper—in a way that's achievable in production terms!"
She added that the restrictions tested their limits of creativity and inventiveness. Greenwood was invited to the first brainstorming session for the series and provided the producers with answers to their questions and helped with the historical background to the novels. The author would read the scripts and help make corrections. Cox praised Greenwood's ability to write for the screen and accept the changes they made to the novels.
In June 2011, it was announced that the ABC had commissioned a thirteen-part series to air on their ABC1 channel the following year. The drama was originally titled The Phryne Fisher Murder Mystery Series, but was changed on the advice of distributor All3Media, who wanted to avoid having to tell international broadcasters how to pronounce Phryne's name.
On 6 August 2012, Michael Idato from The Sydney Morning Herald said that the ABC had commissioned a second series of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. Idato reported the second series would go into production later in the year. ABC's Head of Fiction, Carole Sklan, stated
"ABC TV is delighted to be bringing a second series of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries to the screen. The first series proved an instant hit with viewers and Every Cloud Productions has again assembled a stellar cast and team for 13 more exciting, intriguing, and unpredictable mystery stories."
The second series is based on Greenwood's novels Dead Man's Chest, Unnatural Habits and various short stories. Cox commented that she and Eagger were "thrilled" that many of the cast and crew from the first series were returning. The second series premiered on 6 September 2013.
In February 2014, ABC TV channel controller Brendan Dahill told David Knox from TV Tonight that a third series of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries had yet to be commissioned. Dahill explained
The position we are in is an embarrassment of riches – tons of successful series and at some point Carole (Sklan, Head of Fiction) and I need to sit down and work out how many of the successful shows we can afford to return, without standing still, and still doing new stuff. Woven into that we obviously need to know how much money we think we're going to have.
Knox added that there were fears funds to the broadcaster could be cut. Colin Vickery, writing for news.com.au, reported that another reason Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries had not been green-lit for a third series was due to ABC wanting to attract a younger audience. Vickery also said that if the show was given a third series it would not air until 2015.
On 13 June 2014, it was confirmed that Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries had been commissioned for a third series. ABC renewed the series after a social media campaign run by fans of the show. Eagger told If Magazine's Emily Blatchford that all of the cast would be returning, and admitted that the writers wanted to add some magic to the series and include an episode set in the military. She also hinted that there might be a wedding. Eagger added "It's a tough time for the ABC so we are thrilled they are able to bring us back, and to have that support from Film Victoria as well." The third series began airing from 8 May 2015.
The first series was filmed over a six-month period in and around Melbourne from July 2011. Greenwood had researched the history of the city "meticulously" for the novels, so the producers were keen to do the same. While they used some real locations, others were recreated, including a Turkish bathhouse and the Eastern Market. The interior of Phryne's house was built on a sound stage at the ABC's studio in Elsternwick. The historic house Wardlow in Parkville, Victoria was used as the exterior to the house. A number of National Trust houses provide settings including Rippon Lea Estate at Elsternwick, Labassa at Caulfield North and Como House in South Yarra. Each episode had a budget of $1 million. Eagger said "I wanted every cent on screen. I wanted the steam train, I wanted the plane, I wanted the ocean liner and the Hispano-Suiza. It stretched everyone, it really made people bleed." ABC TV, Film Victoria, Screen Australia and distributor All3Media funded the series.
The second series was approved for Screen Australia funding in July 2012. Filming began on 18 February 2013 in Melbourne. The shoot wrapped on 9 August. The third series began shooting in mid-October 2014 in Melbourne and wrapped on 23 January 2015.
No official announcement has been made about a fourth season and it has been over a year since any new episodes were produced. Discussions were reported about a possible Miss Fisher movie and perhaps a series four set in the United Kingdom, where Essie Davis was based for film work.
The costume designer for the series was Marion Boyce. She told ABC's Darren Smith that she loves the 20s and 30s and thought the opportunity to work on a show in her hometown (Melbourne) was "fantastic." Boyce had eight weeks pre-production, but she said that she began putting stuff together early on. She stated "After those eight weeks, we had 16 days to complete the next two episodes. It was a fast and furious process, and the series included circuses, bohemian nightclubs and the docks. Each episode is quite different from the rest." The costume department included one cutter, one sewer, a costume coordinator and a buyer who was also an art finisher. Boyce called the team "incredibly talented", as they had to do a lot of different jobs. The team, Mandy Murphy and Gareth Blaha, the head of the ABC's Costume Department, along with two milliners, made some of the hats. Boyce and her team created around 120 costumes for the series, including sleepwear, daywear, nightwear and special occasion outfits.
Boyce explained that while vintage pieces were incorporated into the series, the department designed the majority of costumes. Cox told Alexandra Spring from Vogue Australia that some of the costumes were sourced from eBay and vintage shops. Cox said "Once you go back to the 1920s, things have either deteriorated or they are too small because the women were smaller, so it means a lot of it has to be made from scratch." The fabrics were taken from Boyce's own collection and fabric stores in Melbourne and Sydney. The designer admitted that parting with some of the fabric was difficult, as she had had some of them for around 25 years. Boyce told Smith that at the end of filming, the costumes that were hired were sent back to where they came from. The ones made from fabric bought by the ABC, went back to them and Boyce took the ones that were made from fabrics out of her own collection.
Boyce explained that Phryne is "completely fluid" and has "an extraordinary amount of energy", so she wanted her outfits to move with her when she went from room to room. When it came to Dot, Boyce designed her wardrobe with her religion and position in society in mind. Dot's clothes are more buttoned up, so she does not show off her body parts. Boyce commented "She was a really nice contrast to Phryne and a lot more conservative. Dot has nice tweeds and cardigans."Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis), an independent, glamorous private detective, who is determined to solve any crime.
Detective Inspector John "Jack" Robinson (Nathan Page), a police detective who works reluctantly with Miss Fisher.
Dorothy "Dot" Williams (Ashleigh Cummings), is Miss Fisher's paid companion. Dot is a devout Catholic. She has an ongoing relationship with Hugh Collins, and in late series 3, she marries him.
Constable Hugh Collins (Hugo Johnstone-Burt), is Inspector Robinson's right-hand-man, and Dot's boyfriend and later husband.
Mr Butler (Richard Bligh), is Miss Fisher's loyal butler, an excellent household manager who provides good advice when needed. Also a veteran from the Australian Imperial Force who can put up a fight if required to.
Bert Johnson and Cec Yates (Travis McMahon and Anthony Sharpe) - Two working-class friends and devout communists, who often assist Miss Fisher's investigations.
Dr Elizabeth "Mac" Macmillan (Tammy MacIntosh), is Miss Fisher's close friend and doctor at a women's hospital in Melbourne.
Jane Ross (Ruby Rees-Wemyss), is Miss Fisher's ward, who shares the same name with Phryne's deceased sister.
Prudence Elizabeth Stanley (Miriam Margolyes) - Miss Fisher's aunt and a reputation-conscious society matron.
Murdoch Foyle (Nicholas Bell) - A former university lecturer imprisoned after the disappearance of Miss Fisher's sister Jane.
While reviewing the first episode, David Brown from the Radio Times commented "Just when you thought that all variations of the amateur-detective genre had been explored, along comes Miss Phryne Fisher, who sashays through the jazz clubs of late 1920s Ballarat, tackling villains with her pearl-handled pistol. The plot's hardly revolutionary, but it is worth watching for lead actress Essie Davis, with her sleek bob and killer cheekbones, who runs bad guys to ground with both wit and raunch."
On 27 April 2012, the official soundtrack to the series was released. The soundtrack features music heard in the show, including the theme composed by Greg J Walker. Episodes 1–7 were released on Region 4 DVD on 3 May 2012, while episodes 8–13 were released on 7 June 2012. The series was also released on Blu-ray. Series 1 was released on DVD as a box-set by Acorn Media in November 2012. Series 2 was released on DVD as a box-set by Acorn Media on 27 May 2014.
The series has been bought by 120 territories worldwide. The Canadian broadcaster Knowledge Network began showing Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries at 8:30 pm from 5 October 2012. The UKTV network acquired the UK broadcasting rights to Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries in September 2012. The first series started on the network's Alibi channel on 11 February 2013. French broadcaster France 3 acquired the series in January 2013, while Alibi and the Knowledge Network renewed their deals to air the second season. Alex Farber of Broadcast reported that Norway's TVNorge, Poland's Canal+ and Eastern Europe's Viasat networks had also picked up the show. Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries began airing on Italy's Rai 1 channel from 31 July 2013. Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries is available in the United States through Acorn Online, Netflix and some PBS stations (including WLIW channel 21.1 in the NYC area).
Netflix holds broadcasting rights for all three series in several countries, including the United States, Denmark, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Japan and Canada. They also currently hold rights for the first two series in the Australian market in association with ABC TV and ABC Commercial.