Harry Wild: Series 1 and 2
R0 - United Kingdom - Acorn Media
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (5th June 2024).
The Show

After years of trying to teach arrogant shits the whys of human existence through literature, college professor Harry Wild (Somewhere in Time's Jane Seymour) retires in hopes of writing a great novel; that is, after getting off her face and snogging the new archaeology professor. Faced with a blank page, she goes shopping and winds up on the wrong end of a mugging. An unwelcome guest in the household of her Dublin police detective son Charlie (Copper's Kevin Ryan), Harry comes across her son's case files for the brutal murder of a former child molester and recognizes the murder scene as being inspired by a scene from the obscure Elizabethan play "Calabras" in the series opener "When Harry Met Fergus" (49:23). When her son proves anything but receptive to her input, she takes it upon herself to do some investigating of her own with the reluctant help of her juvenile assailant Fergus (Whitstable Pearl's Rohan Nedd), finding further evidence of a killer using the play as twisted inspiration in the high-profile disappearance of a local aspiring actress; but she is soon in over her head as she discovers that deducing a crime and apprehending the killer are very different things.

Having determined to "make a man of" troubled student Fergus by inspiring him with the same literary works that put him to sleep at school, Harry finds herself running afoul of her son and his superiors when the notoriety brought by her first case attracts more inquiries about crimes that have been overlooked by the police. In "Samurai Plague Doctor Kills for Kicks" (47:18), a widow suspects that her husband's supposed suicide was a murder, and Fergus discovers a link between a series of unconnected "suicides" that puts Harry in the target of a live-streaming snuff ring. In "Mincemeat" (43:45), Harry tries to convince her son of a conspiracy surrounding the positive identification of the body of a man pulled from the river on the basis of a pair of cheap shoes. The action ratchets up in "An Unhappy Happy is a Dangerous Thing" (48:59) in which Fergus presses Harry to investigate the murder of a too-timid loan shark with the agreement that the dead man's boss Happy (The Commitments's Liam Carney) will wipe his father's debts and stop threatening to break his eight-year-old sister's arm if his dad does not pay up only to discover that the culprit is a serial killer (Wreck's Peter Claffey) obsessed with "Crime and Punishment" (Dostoevsky, that is) who thinks Harry is an ideal reluctant accomplice.

In "A Corpse in My Soup" (49:00), Harry becomes a suspect when she crashes a faculty dinner only to discover that the target of her barbs is floating in the water tank. A fun "bottle episode" is "Best Laid Schemes" (42:28) in which Harry, Fergus, Harry's granddaughter Lola (Rose O'Neill), and Glenn rescue a beaten man from the trunk of a car during a raging storm and suspect that one of the other customers trapped at June's pub is the kidnapper. Beginning darkly but finding lighter footing is "The Mystery of Granny Susan's Fun Time Wig" (48:32) in which the matriarch of a wealthy family is strangled during her birthday; but how can any of her family be suspects when they all witnessed the murder online from the far reaches of Edinburgh, London, and Paris? Finally, in "No One Here Gets Out Alive" (51:26), Harry discovers her burgeoning romance with Ray has more repercussions than annoyance about his mid-life crisis dreams of forming a rock band when her son is suspended and Ray's narrow-minded replacement Whitney (Being Erica's Adam Fergus) persecutes a former drug addict (Domina's Isabelle Connolly) who believes she is being gaslighted by an ex (who soon turns up dead).

While Acorn Media has a nice library of classic British detective TV mysteries, they have been rather erratic in attempting to replicate the "cozy" formula in their own originals and adaptations. Harry Wild, therefore, stands out as a refreshing take on a somewhat similar formula of an amateur detective surprisingly (improbably) finding a lot of cases suited to the specificity of their interests a la Acorn's The Madame Blanc Mysteries and ITV's Rosemary & Thyme. After years of being more memorable for skin care infomercials and a jewelry line than roles, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman's Seymour is less successful at looking haggard but far more entertainingly ballsy. The cases are generally diverting and the suspects less obvious for the most part, and Seymour's protagonist is placed in actual danger in most of the episodes and usually talks herself in deeper although Fergus and Charlie take the brunt of the physical abuse and in most cases manages to use her wits more often than brawn to get herself out of it. Other series regulars include Harry's resourceful electrician friend Glenn (Informer's Paul Tylak), Fergus' alcoholic, gambling father Malky (Michael Inside's Shane Lynch) and eight-year-old sister Liberty (Rosa Willow Lee), Charlie's wife Orla (The Stag's Amy Huberman), Charlie's chief Ray Tiernan (Hunger's Stuart Graham) and his wife and immediate superior Vivian (Fair City's Ciara O'Callaghan), and pub owner June (The Other Lamb's Esosa Ighodaro).
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Series two finds Harry professionally-partnered with Fergus and in the awkward position of having to defend her romantic rival (and Charlie's boss) Vivian (Fair City's Ciara O'Callaghan) when she becomes the prime suspect in the murder of her estranged husband, Charlie's mentor, and Harry's on-again/off-again lover Ray Tiernan (Hunger's Stuart Graham) in the series two opener "Silence Dogood Did Bad" (48:53). While Harry is keeping her feelings of loss to herself, Fergus is distracted by the sudden return of his mother Paula (singer Samantha Mumba) who he suspects has ulterior motives for trying to get back into his life. Like every other cozy mystery series, Harry Wild takes a stab at a whodunit using folk horror trappings in "The Village Has Eyes" (44:48) when a young novelist vanishes from the tiny village of Wicklow Way while working on a book about a local cult of devil worshipers, while in "A Botox a Day Keeps the Mortician in Pay" (42:31), a "bridezilla" hires Harry and Fergus to discover who murdered her much-disliked Maid of Honour with an overdose of botulism-laced Botox lest her death delay the wedding. In this case, Harry is less interested in the whodunit than the how since the entire hen party was captured on video with seemingly no opportunity for the killer to strike. Orla finds herself having to beg for Harry's help without Charlie's knowledge in "Orla Wild's Wicked Wicked Ways" (44:00) when her shady ex-boyfriend becomes the suspect in the death of his fencing partner and the police do not believe his claim that he is being hunted by crossbow-wielding assassin known as "El cazador" (the hunter), while like recent seasons of felklow Acorn cozys The Madame Blanc Mysteries and Midsomer Murders "Professor Wild in the Library with the Revolver" (43:05) has Harry and Fergus stranded with a "cast" of suspects at a murder mystery weekend with a real corpse (and more to come). In the season final, "He Could've Been a Contender Until They Chopped His Arms Off" (43:48), Fergus himself hires Harry to investigate the death of a community-minded boxing gym owner whose body was strewn in pieces along the Dublin coast.

One of the better Acorn attempts to replicate the "cozy" brand of genteel British murder mysteries, Harry Wild's second season features several familiar case scenarios which seem to be cycled through the various Acorn mysteries and detective series in general but the cases this time around are fairly diverting (apart from the opener in which the killer is as obvious upon introduction as the red herrings). After killing off a major character and "neutralizing" as Vivian concedes that she owes Harry a substantial favor the secondary detective characters are reduced to comic relief on the level of regulars shifty Glenn (Informer's Paul Tylak) who takes over the local pub when Harry's pub hangout and attempts to innovate it in incompetent ways and Harry's exposition-providing university colleague Graham (Morgan C. Jones). Rather than just being exasperated by his mother meddling in his cases, Charlie and his time no-nonsense Vicky (Vivarium's Danielle Ryan) and beans-spilling Jordan (Fair City's Anthony Delaney) racing to solve cases before Harry and Fergus whenever the pair are hired by potential suspects lest the reputation of the Garda suffer (which is just as well because the police procedural aspect is less interesting than Harry's and Fergus' investigation). While the first series felt self-contained even in its open ending as far as the main partnership, it appears as though series two is deliberately leaving things open for the third series in terms of Fergus' family subplot, "competition" between Harry and her son not to mention secrets in his own family and what need Harry may have to call in the favor owed by Vivian. All series two episodes preface the closing credits with an "in memoriam" for executive producer James Flynn (The Banshees of Inisherin) who passed away last year.
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Video

Shot in HD and framed at 2.00:1 - which really only seems to be well-utilized in Irish landscape shots - each series splits six episodes between two dual-layer discs, and the anamorphic PAL encodes get the job done with more breathing room than some earlier Acorn releases that tried to cram as much video onto the fewest discs. It is not a technically-demanding production but it probably would look more inviting on Blu-ray than on SD DVD or an HD stream.
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Audio

The sole audio option is a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track that gets the job done with a dialogue-heavy show in which directional effects are used sparingly and overall ambiance and music spread out well enough. Optional English HoH subtitles are included.
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Extras

Series one's special features, the overall behind the scenes EPK piece "Wild About Harry" (34:34), the character chemistry-oriented "Meet Harry and Fergus" (4:29), and a picture gallery (1:48). The former two also have English HoH subtitles enabled through the setup menu for the episodes.
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The sole extra for series two is a short behind the scenes (1:56) piece, also with optional English subtitles.

Overall

Amidst more hits than misses in replicating the British "cozy" mystery formula, Harry Wild stands out as entertaining and diverting with a nice turn from Jane Seymour.
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