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Archive for Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Vintage murder mysteries exhumed

October 26, 2011

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Fans of British police work should not miss “Whitechapel” (9 p.m., BBC America). It embraces two U.K. traditions with a certain gusto. In the first episode, it recalls the great Victorian mystery of Jack the Ripper. And its story is shot through with the class antagonisms of British society.

Detective Joseph Chandler (Rupert Penry-Jones) has his hands full. London is beset by a horrible serial killer, and the fussy, fastidious and relatively untested Chandler faces a squad of angry, resentful officers who seethe at his style and generally ignore his directives. Chief among his troubles is Detective Miles (Phil Davis), a tough cop who considers Chandler a naive, inexperienced paper-pusher whose only knowledge comes from books. Chandler, in turn, is shocked at his officers’ clock-watching and uncouth ways. In one instance, he suggests they start using deodorant.

Miles’ frustrations only grow after Chandler starts listening to a Jack the Ripper expert (Steve Pemberton) and discovering links between the Ripper’s legendary crime spree and his own unsolved murders. Miles dismisses “Ripperologists” with a disdain he holds for occultists and believers in UFOs.

But the link between the past and the present takes hold and becomes the narrative hook of the whole series. Over the six-part season, Chandler’s dysfunctional band will take on crimes that have echoes of other notorious murder stories, including the 1960s crime twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray. “Whitechapel” is made by the producers of “Downton Abbey.”

• Victorian murder tales have nothing on the “Iceman Murder Mystery” on “NOVA” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings). The mummified victim had been dead more than 5,000 years when he was discovered in 1991 in the Italian Alps and dubbed Otzi the Iceman. A new autopsy may serve up new clues about his violent end.

Scientists surmise that Otzi was either a warrior or a hunter. But just what he was doing so far up in the mountains is anybody’s guess. He did not starve to death, because there is still evidence of his last meal — a big one — in his stomach. The narrators dub this the ultimate “cold case,” and with good reason.

Tonight’s other highlights

• The World Series returns to St. Louis (7 p.m., Fox).

• The trial of the year kicks off on “Harry’s Law” (8 p.m., NBC).

• Claire takes Halloween too far on “Modern Family” (8 p.m., ABC).

• The final wishes of pop star Frankie Lymon (“Why Do Fools Fall in Love?”) spark a court battle on “The Will: Family Secrets Revealed” (8 p.m., ID).

• Out of the frying pan on “CSI” (9 p.m., CBS).

• A broker’s last deal on “Prime Suspect” (9 p.m., NBC).

• The Graysons grow to distrust their security detail on “Revenge” (9 p.m., ABC).

• Halloween takes on new meaning in a houseful of ghosts on “American Horror Story” (9 p.m., FX).

• On two episodes of “American Hoggers” (A&E): the old lady and the boar (9 p.m.) and pigs on the putting green (9:30 p.m.).

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