Yannick Bisson talks filming during a pandemic and 14 seasons of Murdoch Mysteries

A Music Lover's Guide to Murdoch Mysteries -- Courtesy of Acorn TV
A Music Lover's Guide to Murdoch Mysteries -- Courtesy of Acorn TV /

Murdoch Mysteries is in the middle of Season 14 right now on CBC. Yannick Bisson spoke with Precinct TV about those 14 seasons, filming in a pandemic, and so much more.

It’s not often a TV show will reach 14 seasons. Now, it’s uncommon for a show to get past five seasons, especially if you look at shows on streaming services.

In fact, little do people remember, but Murdoch Mysteries was once on the verge of cancellation. Around Season 5, Peter Mitchell was brought onto the show to wrap things up, but CBC saved the series. He runs the show with the thought of never assuming there will be another season, so if there’s a good idea, that idea is going to be used and not saved.

Fortunately, the show was saved and celebrated 200 episodes during Season 13. When Precinct TV spoke to Bisson about the talks of cancellation in the past, Bisson shared that it was a business decision.

“There was no real justification ratings-wise to cancel [Murdoch Mysteries]. It was just a business decision. Luckily our public network decided to jump in…I think the show was even better after that.”

How does a show get to 14 seasons? Personally, I find the show always offers something new and exciting. It’s constantly changing and adapting. Yannick Bisson shared that part of it is the show not taking itself too seriously.

“We’ve been able to skew towards some comedic stuff on some episodes, some lighter things.”

But it’s not just the storytelling.

“We have a very capable cast that’s able to pivot and do some very, I don’t want to say deep, but more tough bites and things that are a little bit more of a serious tone…tackling issues that we deal with still today and paralleling them to the turn of the century.”

The comedy and inclusion of history is part of what makes this show so bingable. And there are so many other elements.

“Every single person that talks to me about and touches on what they value or what stood out for them says something different. ‘Oh, I love the inventions.’ ‘Oh, I love the historical characters.’ ‘Well, I love the fantastical aspects of the show.’ ‘I love William and Julia.’ I think just really, because it’s something different all the time, you’re able to travel with the show a little bit in tone and places and have fun. It’s not super predictable or repetitive.”

Filming Murdoch Mysteries during a pandemic

Back in March 2020, productions around the world shut down due to the pandemic. Canada was one of the first countries to find a way to get TV shows and movies back to filming, and Murdoch Mysteries was one of the first. For some, that would have been a huge pressure with the idea that all eyes were on the production to see if filming could be done safely. It’s not like Yannick Bisson’s show is a small one, either. Look at the number of extras in the episodes!

“I don’t know how much of an effect we would have had, but if we had all of a sudden become a hotspot? Yeah, I think they would have looked at our industry a little bit differently or more closely. So it was important to get it right. But I think also just in the individual objects of our show and me, I certainly felt that pressure.”

It didn’t help that Bisson was also directing the first two episodes. He’s no stranger to directing, but usually only one episode at a time. This time, Bisson was directing the first two episodes, which filmed together as a block as the show does all the time.

“That was three weeks’ worth of directing, roughly, plus all the prep. The entire political system was taking a chance on our industry being essential, so it was important to get it right and observe all the protocols that were put in place. I had a difficult time because I was wearing so many hats, literally and figuratively, and then trying to do a mask and a shield and all these different things, and trying to move at the pace that we were moving at, and trying to remember my lines. It was a bit of a challenge.”

While the masks and social distancing protocols will likely disappear when the pandemic is no longer an issue, there are some elements of pandemic filming that will possibly stick around. Like so many of us, Yannick Bisson shared that the team realized things could be streamlined thanks to technology. Meetings no longer have to happen face-to-face.

“When you’re doing it remotely, it just cuts down on a lot of certain individuals’ availability. You can drop what you’re doing, pull up your laptop or your phone wherever you are, and be part of the meeting.”

It turns out meetings also got shorter.

“I think people started becoming a little more aware of how long those meetings are. Get to the point, get out, and move on. I think that’s going to probably carry over because it’s a lot of meetings.”

Murdoch Mysteries
Murdoch Mysteries — Courtesy of Acorn TV /

Yannick Bisson is now a producer on Murdoch Mysteries

Like many actors, Yannick Bisson has now become a producer on Murdoch Mysteries. This is a common move professionally and financially. There are only so many wage rises a lead actor can ask for, so moving into producing offers a chance to do something more. He’s sort of “part-owner of the show,” as he explained the move.

But what has changed for him? What’s he learned from being a producer? Not much as he says he has always been focused on quality control from the beginning. That continues now in his extra role.

He does have to make some decisions “on the fly,” often when someone will ask his opinion because something will have a knock-on effect throughout the rest of the show.

It’s a role he’ll continue into Murdoch Mysteries Season 15 if it happens. Right now, that’s not confirmed yet.

“I think the bright spot is that everyone wants it to happen. There are challenges that we didn’t have before, mainly being now that insurance companies have dealt with COVID-19…and there have been adjustments so we’re no longer working within the same parameters as we were on the business side. We’re waiting to see if that all gets sorted out and then hopefully, we’ll be good to go.”

It’s always great to hear that everyone wants it to happen, especially the lead of the show.

Should Season 15 happen, I did want to know about any storylines that haven’t been covered yet that Yannick Bisson would like to see happen. Of course, there are things from the past (Murdoch Mysteries starts in the 1890s) that would have been great storylines, such as Canada’s involvement in the U.S. Civil War and the Underground Railroad.

The move recently has been into women’s suffrage and equal rights.

“We’ve tackled a lot of those subjects head-on, and these are universal things that we talk about and debate hotly in our living rooms today. So, that’s not going to change. I guess we’ll just have to turn the history page and see what comes next.”

Murdoch Mysteries — Courtesy of Acorn TV
Murdoch Mysteries — Courtesy of Acorn TV /

A Murdoch Mysteries podcast

For those who didn’t know, there is a podcast available to listen to. Yannick Bisson does the storytelling, taking fans behind the scenes to offer more backstory. It’s a chance for fans to find out what Murdoch thinks about certain situations or offer details about what happened to various characters.

“There’s plenty to talk about from Murdoch’s perspective,” Bisson shared.

Will there be more of the podcast? People are enjoying it and Bisson enjoys making it, so you can that’s a yes. One of the great things is that you don’t need to be a fan of the show, but it opens up this world to then get people to tune in and watch from the beginning.

This is certainly a series that people can watch together and bond over. And that’s something Bisson hears a lot.

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Murdoch Mysteries Season 14 is currently airing on Mondays on CBC in Canada. It will eventually come to Acorn TV, but no date is set yet. This is not a season you want to miss out on when it does arrive.