THE TIME AND PLACE
Frankie Drake Mysteries: Wily bootleggers, secret speakeasies and lashings of illicit moonshine. Yes, Frankie Drake Mysteries throws us right into the sparkling, decadent world of the 1920s. Specifically, we're in Jazz Age Toronto, where flappers and mobsters conspire in gilded hideaways, and the jaunty soundtrack will have you itching to dance the Charleston. It's a time and place that would certainly raise the straight-laced William Murdoch's eyebrows, that's for sure.
Murdoch Mysteries: The world of Murdoch isn't far removed from the world of Drake - geographically speaking. This show is also set in Toronto, albeit a few decades earlier, whisking us across the divide between the 19th and 20th Centuries. New possibilities are everywhere, especially when it comes to science, and William Murdoch himself is one of the brightest sparks in these early days of the electrical age.
Frankie Drake Mysteries: Here's that rare thing: a TV series where all the leading characters are women. First up, Ms Drake herself. Toronto in the 20s may be a man's world, but try telling that to Frankie, who rode motorbikes as a messenger in World War One and now solves crimes with sass and style. Her right-hand woman is Trudy Clarke, daughter of Jamaican immigrants and as wily a sleuth as Frankie. They're helped by Mary Shaw, one of the few female members of the Toronto police, and Flo Chakowitz, morgue attendant and proto-CSI genius.
Murdoch Mysteries: Rather like Frankie Drake, William Murdoch is part of an ensemble array of crime-busters. Unlike the cocky and carefree Frankie, however, Murdoch is reserved and adorably awkward - at heart, he's more comfortable tinkering with new inventions in his office than schmoozing at shindigs. He's ably assisted by the intrepid copper George Crabtree, and routinely scoffed at by the burly bigwig Brackenreid. And, of course, there's Dr Julia Ogden, medical maestro and love of William's life.
Frankie Drake Mysteries: Who's that handsome young journalist at the Toronto Star hobnobbing with Frankie Drake? A certain Mr Ernest Hemingway, is who. The appearances of the legendary "Lost Generation" author in the show reflect the reality of Hemingway's life, because he did indeed hone his skills as a reporter in 1920s Toronto. He's not the only historical figure to look out for, either. There's a rather shadier figure in the shadows too in the shape of notorious gangster Al Capone and mystery maestro Agatha Christie pops up at one point as well.
But fans of Murdoch Mysteries may be most excited by the presence of a familiar face... George Crabtree! Now older and wiser, retired from the Constabulary and sporting a moustache, George has a cameo in the very first episode of Frankie Drake, which confirms the two shows are indeed set in the same universe.
Murdoch Mysteries: While a few historical folks turn up in Frankie Drake Mysteries, Murdoch's show has them in spades. A whole who's who of icons has crossed paths with the detectives over the years. There was Arthur Conan Doyle, who was inspired to write the Hound of the Baskervilles after being embroiled in one of Murdoch's cases. There was a young Winston Churchill, who woke up one day in Toronto with something rather worse than a hangover (think a corpse in his hotel room). And there have been figures both immense (President Theodore Roosevelt) and more mysterious (the innovative horror writer HP Lovecraft).
THE BIG THEMES
Frankie Drake Mysteries: It's not ALL fun and games in Frankie-land. Well, it mostly is, but - this being the tumultuous 20s - there are some pretty serious issues the gang grapple with as well. They include politics, with bosses worried about Communists in their midst, and the thorny issue of race - something Trudy knows a lot about. Perhaps the most important theme is gender equality. One of Frankie's team, Mary Shaw, even works as a Toronto "morality officer", tasked with patrolling the streets and assessing the "decency" of women's attire (by measuring their skirts). Incredibly, such officers really did once walk the best in Toronto.
Murdoch Mysteries: By contrast with the Frankie Drake Mysteries, the Murdoch Mysteries are more about the scientific and technological evolution of society. Many cases feature William Murdoch's own incredible gadgets, from an early GPS device to his "weaponized capacitor" (an awesome looking gun-type-thing). With appearances from the likes of Nikola Tesla and Mark Twain, the show is about a world of burgeoning creativity in all spheres, with thrilling expectation in the air. Just try telling that to grumpy, sceptical old Inspector Brackenreid though.