Morning Show Mysteries: Countdown to Murder (2019)

Countdown to Murder is my favorite Morning Show Mystery thus far, and I like it best for reasons unrelated to the murder or mystery. In this fourth episode of the series, some of the minor regulars get a chance to shine, Billie’s romantic relationship finally picks up, and Ian proves to be the best boyfriend detective in the whole Hallmark lineup. That the mystery successfully keeps you guessing is a nice bonus.

The countdown refers to a children’s song, which seems to give clues both about the killer and who will be killed. Toy ducks are left at the scene of the crime or at the doorstep of those who might be targeted next. The first victim is Art, the owner of a local grocery chain. Once again, everywoman Billie (Holly Robinson Peete) has a connection to the deceased and gets drawn into the case.

She comforts Art’s children, Jay (Andrew Francis) and Tess (Tara Wilson), who point to the son of their father’s former partner as the possible suspect. Edmond (Vincent Gale) has a motive; he wanted to sell the stores but couldn’t after he lost a legal battle with Art. Furthermore, the company’s board wrested control from him. The reason seems legit, but it also seems like misdirection after Jay, Tess, and Edmond’s wife, Olivia, are less than forthcoming about their own relationships with and grudges against Edmond and even Art.

Naturally, Hawk (David Paetkau), the junior detective is a jerk about Billie’s hunches, which often prove to be right. I can’t wait until we get the subplot where he’s demoted to desk duty since he’s useless in the field and an arrogant SOB. Thank goodness everyone else around Billie contributes to solving the case and is a decent human, well, everyone except her co-anchor on their Seattle morning show. Lance (David Lewis) has been lurking around the last few episodes. He always manages a snarky line or two, but he really lets his inner diva out this time. I quite like prima donna Lance, and his antics not only serve the plot but also highlight ethical issues in news reporting.

Other colleagues also get their due. Similar to some of the cases in Hallmark’s new series, Chronicle Mysteries, this one utilizes a team of sleuths to track down the killer. Billie still leads the way, but the show’s production assistant (Brittney Wilson) and editor (Jesse Moss) have important parts as well as a burgeoning romance. For years, network police serials have depended on supporting characters to deepen the storytelling. No reason why Hallmark can’t adopt this formula and make better use their regular cast members.

And we kind of need stronger secondary plots to keep this thing going because Billie and her detective love interest, Ian (Rick Fox), are going nowhere fast. Well, they make some inroads here, and couples salsa class is a definite step forward. I love that the two are thoroughly decent. Ian is a boyfriend I can get behind. He is always impressed by Billie, which I find super sweet, and he makes an honest and pretty romantic admission about why he’s sometimes uptight around her. No condescension needed. (I’m looking at you, Detective Mike Kingston from Murder, She Baked.) Still, it wouldn’t hurt to make them, well, fun.

Highlight for spoilers: Edmond killed…himself…sort of. The greedy bastard murdered Art and then faked his own death because, as Jay predicted, he was bitter about the bad deal he was getting and the fact that everyone had turned against him. His plan was to send ducks to the other three owners to both intimidate them and make them seem suspect. Art’s two kids appeared guilty because they were hiding the fact that they did cut a deal with Edmond. They were hoping to use his cash payoff to make improvements on the stores since Art put most of the money into high wages and low prices but pulled out when they realized Edmond was scamming them. Meanwhile, Olivia, his wife, hoped to pin the blame on Uncle Don, the grocery guy, since she also didn’t know what was going on but thought she might be arrested anyway. In the end, Billie manages to lock Edmond in the freezer like a boss.

Released: 2019
Dir: Kevin Fair
Writer: Amber Benson
Cast: Holly Robinson Peete, Rick Fox, Karen Robinson, Jesse Moss, David Lewis, Kirsten Robek, Greg Rogers, Brittney Wilson, David Paetkau, Milah Thompson, Andrew Francis, Tara Wilson, Vincent Gale, Ona Grauer
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries
Reviewed: 2019