If you had any doubts that the series could thrive after Candace Cameron Bure’s departure, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Something New allayed those fears.
De-aging the characters worked exceptionally well, and the most questionable choice — to retain Marilu Henner as Aurora’s mom, Aida — gave the series an unexpected tether to the earlier episodes.
There’s no doubt that this was a gamble that paid off handsomely for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.
Once upon a time, Bure was Hallmark royalty. There’s a reason that she starred in 29 movies between the two networks, a record that will soon see Lacey Chabert, with 27, catching up and bypassing her.
Choosing a replacement for the longest-running mystery franchise couldn’t have been easy with those big shoes to fill, but Skyler Samuels steps into the role perfectly.
To get a better feel for how well-suited Samuels is for the role, I watched the earlier Aurora Teagarden movies before watching “Something New.” It had been a while, and it was important to imagine Aurora before the franchise began.
“Something New” had to re-establish all of the characters we’ve known so well and their relationships for it to make sense. Although they have quite different styles of acting, it was very easy to believe that this Aurora was the Ro we’d come to know.
It didn’t require Samuels to copy Bure or to be anyone other than herself, which is a testament to the casting director. Their vision was further cemented by the rest of the cast.
Evan Roderick as Arthur and Kayla Heller as Sally not only had the same energy as their predecessors, but they worked well with Samuels and each other.
It felt like the clock had literally been dialed back. There wasn’t a hitch. Everyone is a little less jaded and fresher in life and experience.
And the unexpected coup de grace was keeping Henner in the role of Aida. Somehow, she really does look younger than she did when the franchise began, and her presence is the glue that ties the new actors to the old. It’s quite brilliant.
The hardest part of this new adventure is finding new stories that wouldn’t have impacted the characters enough to carry on to the lives we’ve already witnessed.
You’d think that Sally’s engagement ending when her fiance was carted away in handcuffs might have had that kind of effect, but the movie ended with a caveat: they were never to speak Matt’s name again.
Thank goodness for that!
It was another gamble, centering the first crime Ro and Arthur solved together with the new cast around one of their own. Short of examining all previous material for any mention of their youth, this was a good bet.
Ro is home from college to study for her master’s. She’s just getting reacquainted with Aida and living under her roof as a family again. The best way to introduce her budding investigation skills was by focusing on someone close to her.
Who better than her best friend?
Aurora’s concern about Sally getting married after knowing a man for a matter of months and standing by her no matter what showed how much she cares for her friend, easily establishing these to be the Ro and Sally we’ve come to know.
Arthur, as a new recruit to the police department, would be more willing to engage with Ro’s theories, too.
He’s thirsty for knowledge, eagerly reading Aurora’s true crime suggestions, and the two use what they’ve learned together to solve a crime directly affecting their friend.
Sally comes out looking the worst with the new case, but once she saw reason, she quickly pivoted and showed Matt the door — not that she had a choice, as he was being led away in handcuffs.
But all of the characters’ actions were on par with the people they’d become. They’re young and finding their way and have no idea how many cases lay ahead in their crime-solving future!
It’s also a challenge to write material that can tease romantic relationships when we know where the characters are heading.
Aurora has to date and get to know people. She did as much before she met and married Nick.
But finding a balance between people she can date and who the audience won’t get attached to is going to be a special dance the writers will deal with as the series continues.
Daniel, a budding chef that works with Aurora at the diner, has already taken a liking to her. They never made it on a date, but the option is hanging out there like ripe fruit.
He was even astute enough to question whether Arthur had feelings for Aurora, which offered the perfect opportunity to shut down any unrequited feelings between the old friends.
I’m glad they addressed that quickly because despite the friendship between Aurora and Arthur, Samuels and Rodering do look cute together, and their fresh take on established characters did beg the question if there was something more between them.
If that future wasn’t set in stone, it wouldn’t be hard to get on a RoArthur ‘ship. Alas, it is, and we can’t.
The case we need never speak of again worked wonders to create new and lasting bonds between Aurora, Sally, and Arthur, and the stage is set for many more mysteries to come.
Well before the movie launched, fans were ready to usher in the new generation with open arms. Now, we can happily report that “Something New” was a tremendous success.
Do you agree? Hit the comments below and share your thoughts. Are you ready for more?
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.