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It’s easy to see appeal of ‘Miss Scarlet & the Duke’

Kate Phillips and Stuart Martin star in "Miss Scarlet & the Duke."Bernard Walsh/Courtesy of MASTERPIECE

The setup of “Miss Scarlet & the Duke” is rooted in the overt sexism of the Victorian era. The new six-part “Masterpiece” series, which premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. on GBH 2, is about a woman, Kate Phillips’s Eliza Scarlet, who’s left penniless after her private-investigator father dies. Eliza’s options: Find a guy and get married, or follow in the professional footsteps of her father, with whom she often worked on solving crimes. She is what would have been condescendingly considered “headstrong,” and she decides to go to work, despite knowing that people will laugh at and disapprove of her.

Laugh and disapprove they do, but that doesn’t stop her from pressing forward. She has a gift figuring out whodunit, and the professional cops she encounters — notably Stuart Martin’s Detective Inspector Will Wellington, who is a duke — grudgingly accept her help because it is so useful. Indeed, the Duke reluctantly — and, afraid his colleagues will object, secretly — hires Eliza to help with a case. The titular two, who’ve known each other since childhood, do the we’re-not-flirting flirting thing, adding some possible romance into the mix. Will they? Won’t they? Meanwhile, she consults with the ghost of her father and he drinks and womanizes.


This is not one of those great bleak British crime shows that will give you the willies while entertaining you at the edge of your seat. It’s not very challenging. It’s got a blue-sky vibe, like those old USA crime shows, with small comic bits woven into the weekly procedural doings. The sleuthing isn’t hard to follow, the costumes are pretty enough, and issues of race and sexual orientation have been written into the familiar period setting. It’s easy to watch, if you’re looking for easy.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.