I have mentioned in the past our enthusiasm for televised English murder mysteries (Foyle’s War, Inspector Morse, Vera, New Tricks.) Even the less distinguished entries, like Father Brown, we still tune in for the magnificent manor houses and manicured landscapes. There was actually one murder mystery, Rosemary and Thyme, featuring two female, crime-solving landscapers. Dead bodies and beds of radiant rhododendrons in the same episode – Oh, happy day!
The most recent arrival to the genre is Shetland, set in a group of islands located northeast of mainland Scotland. (Characters in Shetland fly off to Glasgow to break loose.) The dialects on Shetland are so difficult of us to decipher we use “Closed Captioning” for understandable English.
The unusual locale for this series got me considering the issues involved in getting the show on the air.
And here we go.
SHETLAND PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICE – RECENTLY
The Shetland Public Relations Director sits behind a desk, an English television producer, in a chair in front of it.
PUBLIC RELATIONS DIRECTOR: Welcome to Shetland.
ENGLISH TELEVISION PRODUCER: It’s a beautiful venue. At the risk of being overly inquisitive, is this your only job here?
I see. Because we’re so small.
I mean if it is, that’s… I’m sorry…
No, no, it’s a reasonable question. In truth, this is not my only job here. I sell assorted “wrigglies” to the fishermen.
You sell bait.
Live bait and Public Relations – my two official Shetland “hats.” And since we are not discussing appropriate worm selection by the dock you must be here for the Public Relations.
Indeed I am.
And how exactly may I be of service?
I think you are really going to like this.
It sounds intriguing. Unless you are “buttering me up.”
THEY SHARE A CHUCKLE.
I unquestionably am not. My production company is planning to make a national television series in your community. And I want to make sure you and your fellow Shetlanders are totally on board.
A television series, is it?
Shows have shot in other municipalities – Oxford, Hastings – triggering windfalls for local businesses. Lodging. Catering. Transportation. Plus a generous contribution to the local coffers, covering inconvenience and possible “wear and tear.” We may even employ local actors.
Oh, Tom and Jenny will enjoy that.
You have two local actors?
Just pulling your leg. “Small place. Two local actors.”
THEY SHARE A CHUCKLE.
We’re exploding with talent. We put on Oklahoma! last summer. (BURSTING INTO SONG) “We know we belong to the land… and the land we belong to is grand…”
“And when we say-ay-ay-ay….”
I’m sorry, but I don’t have much time. The seaplane leaves in a quarter of an hour.
You’ll forgive me. I get carried away sometimes. I understudied Ali Hakim.
Well, it is great to see you appreciate entertainment.
It rains two-hundred-and-fifty days a year here – we need a lot of cheering up. By the way, our funereal skies won’t be a detriment to your program, will they? Can’t be helped, I’m afraid. They’re the only skies we get.
We’re just fine with the skies.
I saw the sun once. I was eleven.
THEY SHARE A CHUCKLE.
So, what kind of a TV show is it, may I ask?
It’s a murder mystery.
A what then?
Every episode, the Shetland constabulary takes on a grisly homicide.
THE PUBLIC RELATIONS DIRECTOR LAUGHS UPROARIOUSLY.
Excuse me. Why are you laughing?
(TRYING TO CONTROL HIS HYSTERICS) A murder in Shetland! Every week!
Not every week. The shows are structured as “two-parters”.
Sometimes, one murder inevitably leads to another.
Multiple murders in Shetland! Every two weeks!
And you find that hilarious.
It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard! (FINALLY UNDER CONTROL) You know how many murders we’ve had in Shetland? In the past forty-three years – one. And there are suspicions that was an accident.
We are not doing a documentary. It’s fiction. The first story’s based on a book set in Shetland. Raven Black.
Raven Black’s shelved in the “Humor” department down at the bookstore. We all laugh ourselves silly. “Don’t to outside! You’ll get muhr-duhred!”
Be that as it may. We are planning to shoot here.
Not without my approval. And sorry to tell you, I say no.
Why would you do that?
Wrong kind of publicity. People are ignorant. You make us “The Murder Capital of Scotland” and they won’t come here for the fishing and the wee ponies. Tourists love the wee ponies. But they’re not worth dying to look at.
No one will die looking at ponies!
But they’ll think that they might. Look, we’re not New York City or Chicago, and we’ll have no one imagining we are. You like the environment? Try the Orkneys. Orkney Islanders don’t mind what people think about them. We do. (REACHING INTO HIS POCKET) Here. So your trip won’t be a complete bust.
HANDING SOMETHING TO THE PRODUCER, WHO EXAMINES IT CURIOUSLY.
It’s a “Wee Pony” key chain. Compliments of the good people of Shetland. Underscoring the word “Good.”
THE PRODUCER HEAVES A SURRENDERING SIGH AND GETS UP.
Well, that’s too bad. You’re missing a great opportunity here. No money for the community. No free travel destination attention for those who can distinguish between pure fiction and spectacular natural beauty. (HEADING FOR THE DOOR.) Plus no chance of personal participation. Word gets out and Orkney actors will be pestering their agents. But if you don’t want to do it…
Hold on a moment…
THE PRODUCER STOPS.
Are we talking leading roles here? Or just ‘bits and extras’?
THE PRODUCER HEADS BACK TO HIS SEAT.
And remember, I’m the one who decides.
AND AS THE CONVERSATION TAKES A DETERMINATIVE TURN, WE FADE OUT TO A RENDITION OF “THERE’S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS” PLAYED ENERGETICALLY ON THE BAGPIPE.