You know the premise: Two mismatched but insightful and intelligent people come together thanks to circumstances requiring their expertise. They become friends and join forces to fight crime.
There are a lot of buddy procedural shows, and you can now add to the list Fox’s upcoming Houdini & Doyle, which sees the most famous magician of all time teaming up with the creator of Sherlock Holmes. It’s set to premiere later this year, so it’s elementary that the official trailer was unveiled during the show’s TCA panel this afternoon. Watch it above.
The show sees Harry Houdini (Michael Weston) and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Stephen Mangan) teaming up in 1901 London at the behest of Constable Adelaide Stratton (Rebecca Liddiard), a somewhat fictionalized take on a little-known historical figure, to investigate crimes that might or might not have a supernatural component. Much like an Edwardian X-Files, the skeptical Houdini and superstitious intellectual Doyle bring different skills and perspectives to their cases.
As unlikely as it sounds, the show does have a small basis in fact. Houdini and Doyle were close friends for a time, and legend has it that both men did consult with police at least once. They also held deep differences of opinion on the supernatural. Houdini, of course, is remembered for his escape act, but he also made a career out of debunking mediums, psychics and other assorted spiritualist con artists. Using his training as a magician, Houdini exposed dozens of frauds and hugely influenced subsequent magicians.
Doyle, meanwhile, despite having created the most famous skeptic of all time, was an ardent spiritualist, so steadfast in his beliefs that he became convinced Houdini really did have magical powers despite the magician’s repeated attempts to explain how his tricks worked.
That tension is at the heart of the series, as discussed at length during today’s panel. Attended by the lead cast as well as executive producers David Hoselton, David Shore and David Titcher, much was made of the dynamic, recognizable from dozens of such procedurals. As Hoselton explained, the show will seek to balance their views. “Houdini needs Doyle,” Hoselton says. That’s because, as Shore added, Doyle’s views — as strange as they seem coming from the inventor of the skeptical Sherlock — represent “optimism” that may be lacking from the suspicious Houdini.
Certainly that dynamic will create chemistry and interesting dialogue between the two men, but here’s hoping the show doesn’t actually leave the question of the supernatural ambiguous. If only because Doyle was notorious in his later life for being an entirely credulous sucker in the face of obvious frauds like the Cottingley Fairies. Sadly, Houdini’s efforts to demonstrate how other frauds pulled off their tricks ended up destroying the two men’s friendship. A bitter public split ensued, with Doyle going so far as to denounce Houdini as a dangerous enemy. (He actually was convinced that Houdini was using magic to negate other magicians’ powers. Yes, that is crazy.)
That split isn’t covered by Houdini & Doyle, but, so Hoselton says, it is there in the background from the start. Should the show continue beyond the first season, their increasing tension will become an increasingly larger part of the story.