“Mystery 101” was one of the successful movie franchise series made for television and produced by the cable TV Hallmark Channel. Seven movies have been created since 2019, and aired through its sister channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Fans of the movie series were worried as they hadn’t heard of any update about an eighth movie, especially since the seventh ended with a major cliffhanger. Rumors of cancelation spread online this 2022, as there were no official announcements of renewal from the network or even whispers of any filming schedule.

What was “Mystery 101” all about?

Hallmark Channel along with its sister channels was largely known as a TV network that offered plenty of original and syndicated TV shows. The cable network was a consistent provider of family-oriented content, promoting traditional family values. Most of their filming was done in Canada.

A background on how it was conceptualized

Mystery 101” was created by veteran TV drama series writers Robin Bernheim and Lee Goldberg. Hallmark network executives approached Robin, who was at that time engaged with the showrunner of another Hallmark successful drama series, “When Calls the Heart.” They wanted a new mystery series produced in a movie format, but intended for TV distribution rather than theatrical release, generally referred to specifically as made-for-TV movie series or TV movies. Robin reached out to Lee, who was best known for his work on the mystery drama series’ “Diagnosis: Murder” and “Monk.”  Most of these Hallmark Mysteries already perfected a formula that made them appealing to their viewers, with Lee saying ‘They all feature a female lead, often an amateur detective, who is teamed up in a light romance with a male, law enforcement professional.’ Robin had worked on the 1980s hit series “Remington Steele”, and knew how to make this amateur-professional duo dynamic work.

Since both were into mysteries growing up, and later became professional mystery writers, Lee and Robin fashioned the heroine’s character from them, but with a twist – they made her an enthusiastic mystery fan, who taught English at a small university. Her investigative skills were acquired from reading crime novels, while her reluctant partner was the newly transferred and consummate professional police detective from a big city; sparks flew as the two main characters solved crimes in a small town. Both creators said that it took them a couple of weeks to come up with the first draft, but it went through several revisions as they needed to adhere to the requirements of the network. They said that one of the most difficult parts in creating the storyline for “Mystery 101” was to ensure that the narrative would be ‘softer’ than their previous works, which meant that they didn’t show actual violence, but just hints of it and no inclusion of vices such as alcohol, smoking, or sex scenes in the conflicts.

The premise of the movie series

The sleuthing expertise of an English college professor named Amy Winslow whose father was the best-selling crime novel author, Graham Winslow, was put into use when a college student was found dead in their university. Several years of teaching crime fiction along with her intensity and passion to solve the mystery interfered with the police investigation. The newly transferred police detective, Travis Burke, wasn’t that enthusiastic about her meddling, but was reluctantly impressed with her Sherlock Holmes deduction skills. Their path crossed often, and something clicked between the two as they forged a friendship by solving crimes together.

The main cast of characters

The English professor, Amy Winslow was portrayed by Jill Wagner, whose amiable wit and sensible personality made her an easy choice for the character. The audience not only fell in love with her acting chops, but also with her hosting skills. Industry insiders said that it was rare for a talent to have an easy and successful transition from being a host of INSP TV series “Handcrafted America” and reality-TV series “Wipeout”, to being a serious actor. Before she was seen in Hallmark movies, she was part of TV shows such as “Blade: The Series,” “Teen Wolf,” and “Stargate Atlantis.”

Police Detective Travis Burke was played by Kristoffer Polaha, who was best known for his work on various drama series including “Life Expected” (2010), “Ringer” (2011), “Made in Jersey” (2012), and “Backstrom” (2015). When Hallmark hired him in 2016 for a TV movie called “Hearts of Christmas,” they were impressed with him, and after that, he’d been part of many of their TV movies.

Sneek peak! Premiers tonight Sunday 9/8c #mystery101 #sluethers @hallmarkmovie @jillwagner @polahaha @stacey.harding @johnchristianplummer

Posted by Robin Thomas on Sunday, August 1, 2021

The role of best-selling crime novelist Graham Winslow, was given to Robin Thomas, who’d appeared in many TV and movie projects since his debut in 1982, with the daytime drama series “As The World Turns.” Preston Vanderslice played the role of Bud, who was Amy’s trusted assistant. Other cast members included Derek Green as Travis’ boss, the police chief, and Sarah Dugdale as Claire Tate, the police chief’s daughter. However, during the last two movies, the Tates didn’t make an appearance as they weren’t included in the storylines.

TV debut

On 27 January 2019, the newest Hallmark offering made its TV debut, much to the delight of viewers who fell in love with Jill and Kristoffer’s pairing, as they were previously seen together in another Hallmark TV movie called “Pearl in Paradise,” which aired in 2018. The TV movie generally had great feedback, not only from critics but from the audience as well. Most of them commented that the two main leads had great chemistry, and they had a fun time making their own deductions without being distracted by too much sex, vice and violence.

The seven “Mystery 101” TV movies

Hallmark Movies & Mysteries released seven TV movies in total, and each of them was well-appreciated by its loyal viewers. The detective and the professor duo never failed to fascinate the audience, as they solved crimes in their small town. Out of the seven movies, four were aired in 2019, then due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, Hallmark stopped most of its film production, and had only one movie aired in 2020. They resumed filming after travel regulations were eased, and in 2021, two more movies were released.

“Mystery 101” – The Pilot aired in January 2019

Amy Winslow was introduced as someone who was an expert in deciphering ‘whodunnit’ cases. From the moment she met Travis Cole in a café, she easily sized him up as someone who’d just moved to the city, where he was staying at that time, and his relationship status, just by looking at him. From the get-go, viewers knew that the two would end up romantically involved sometime in the future. Their first case together happened when one of Amy’s students named Lacey went missing, and became complicated when the body of Lacey’s boyfriend was discovered at the base of a mountain lookout. The danger doubled when one of her colleagues in the faculty committed highly questionable suicide. Due to this situation, Travis reluctantly collaborated with her in finding clues to Lacey’s disappearance, and its relationship to other recent deaths in their community.

“Mystery 101: Playing Dead” aired in June 2019

The second installment of the movie series was entitled “Mystery 101: Playing Dead.” This time, the creators Robin and Lee, didn’t participate in the writing of the story – it was John Christian Plummer who was solely credited for it. The story wasn’t about any murders inside the campus, but the crime investigation duo focused their energies on a murder mystery involving the local Garrison Community Theater; on opening night, someone attempted to kill the female lead. Police detective Travis temporarily stopped the production, as the stage and the show became part of the crime scene, with everyone included in the cast and crew automatically becoming suspects. The danger level increased when someone was eventually killed, and Travis and Amy put their heads together to find the murderer quickly, before the culprit struck again.

“Mystery 101: Words Can Kill” aired in September 2019

The plot of the third movie in Hallmark’s “Mystery 101” series was personal to Amy, because the case she and Travis investigated involved her father, Graham Winslow – the popular crime-mystery writer was charged with killing his editor, Betsy Crane. It all started when Amy found an intruder in her office at the university when she dropped by on a weekend night, but the surprised intruder got away. She alerted Travis to it, and when they looked for clues, they were confused when they found that nothing was stolen from the office. More strange things happened after the incident, and the result of the investigation led to the arrest of Amy’s father. Every single piece of evidence pointed to Graham as the culprit, so Amy and Travis along with their friends joined forces once again to look for the real killer. They had several suspects including a police detective, an author who plagiarized Graham’s book, and an obsessed fan. Bodies kept piling up, and with a killer on the loose, they raced against time to exonerate Graham. The movie was aptly titled “Mystery 101: Words Can Kill,” as the story delved into the world of crime-mystery novels.

“Mystery 101: Dead Talk” aired on September 2019

The fans of the show were excited that Hallmark released its fourth installment, “Mystery 101: Dead Talk,” just a week after the third TV movie was aired. The TV ratings for the movie series continued rising, and the cable network took advantage of this huge interest by the viewers. Amy was involved again in the investigation of a murder, when one of her co-speakers in a TED-formatted lecture was killed in an accident. She immediately suspected foul play, but when she tried to worm her way into the investigation, she was completely stonewalled by the police officers. Travis came to the rescue, and they found out that the speaker who was killed was an informant in an ongoing corporate espionage investigation. The two went through their suspect list, which included the dead man’s wife and kid along with a CEO. The movie became a lot more interesting as it featured Amy’s ex-boyfriend, Tim Bishop, who was the one who organized the lecture. Most of the fans commented that a jealous Travis was a great thing to watch.

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“Mystery 101: An Education in Murder” aired in March 2020

The fifth TV movie from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries cable channel was about a murder case involving one of Amy’s colleagues. She wanted to remove another professor from the suspect list, because she firmly believed that he was innocent. The conflict that Amy and Travis had to deal with was that the police officer who convicted her colleague was Travis’ predecessor, who was enjoying his retirement from the police force, who had gone to great lengths to ensure that what he did in the past was right and just. During the investigation, there was a novelist who also believed that there was another killer on the loose, and wanted the judge’s decision to be overturned. Apparently, there was a past case in which a professor was poisoned after he accused a student of plagiarism. “Mystery 101: An Education in Murder” was humorous and more light-hearted than the previous ones, even though the movie tackled murder and death. For instance, the professor and the detective supposedly went out for a romantic date, but Amy’s father showed up and it suddenly became an hilarious group date. Another aspect was that the writers were quite clever in using language as a tool in giving clues, because the hints could be found in the dialogues uttered by the suspects. The producers were able to pull it off not only because the main leads’ chemistry was off the charts, but also because of the well-written screenplay.

“Mystery 101: Killer Timing” aired in March 2021

Loyal fans of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries were pleased that the cable channel finally aired its sixth TV movie, “Mystery 101: Killer Timing,” after a long hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The viewers were especially thrilled about this installment, since their favorite crime investigation couple had shared a kiss at the end of the previous movie. While the romance between Amy and Travis was progressing nicely, the cases that they needed to solve kept piling up too. There were four mysteries that they encountered when they delved into the investigation of an escaped serial killer. The danger intensified as Travis suffered a concussion in this movie. Viewers thought that there would be a major conflict in the romance department as Travis asked for help from his ex-wife, Kate, who was an FBI agent. However, it wouldn’t be a patented Hallmark movie if any awkwardness wasn’t resolved early on in the story. The three got along pretty well, and the women even had a great time bonding over crime fiction novels.

“Mystery 101: Deadly History” aired in September 2021

This Hallmark mystery franchise maintained its strength of great storytelling, as the seventh TV movie continued where “Mystery 101: Killer Timing” left off. Days after Travis and Amy finished solving the serial killer case, they received news that Amy’s Uncle Alastair, played by Peter Benson, was reportedly missing; he was a university History professor who lived in Ithaca, New York. Travis tagged along with the Winslows, who all immediately flew to the Big Apple. They found out that her uncle’s years of research on the case of the accidental death of an heir from a prominent family was missing as well – apparently, Uncle Alastair had doubts that what happened 50 years ago was anything but accidental. The two went through their list of suspects, which included the weird family patriarch, Alastair’s estranged wife, and a bitter corporate CEO. The movie also featured Travis’s backstory, as he revealed the details of what had happened with his previous marriage. Longtime fans were treated to a long-awaited love confession between the main leads. However, there was a time jump of 11 months before the movie ended, and most of the viewers were shocked to see that their favorite couple broke up and Amy was engaged to another man.

“Mystery 101” canceled or renewed

Hallmark network executives didn’t release any official announcement about renewing or canceling the “Mystery 101” movie franchise series. With the time jump kind of cliffhanger that the seventh movie showed, the majority of fans were upset about the scenario that Travis and Amy were no longer together. After the slow romantic build-up that the writers did for the couple, it was disheartening for the viewers to see that it was all for nothing. Most fans thought that the eighth installment would be out by September 2022, but nothing happened, and Hallmark was weirdly quiet about it.

Both actors who played the main leads were also confused about the future of the series. By the end of 2021, the fans were excited due to Kristoffer’s Instagram post which indicated that filming would commence in 2022, but the post was soon deleted. In June 2022, Jill thought it was best to address the rumors that she didn’t want to play Amy anymore, saying in a video posted on Instagram, ‘I love the people that I worked for and with. I think it has nothing to do with my desire to do another one.’ She insinuated that Hallmark probably wanted to go in another direction, but she wasn’t privy to any details. The actress also said that anytime she would be called in to film a new movie, she’s willing and available.

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