Inspired by the early days of NBC rotating mystery movies as a means of creating a weekly series, "Mystery Woman" was one of three vehicles used by the Hallmark Channel to create their own "Mystery Movie" franchise, using star Kellie Martin in order to draw in a young audience while keeping a degree of "Murder She Wrote" flavor. Other cast members are Nina Siemaszko ("The West Wing") who plays Samantha's assistant district attorney pal, and Clarence Williams III ("The Mod Squad") is the bookstore's manager, who still has many tricks up his sleeve from his days as a CIA agent, something he is secretive about divulging to Sam (think Shepherd Book in Firefly/Serenity here).
There are some good things to be found in this series; casting Williams in a main supporting role is inspired, as his acting abilities are as fine as ever; he brings a degree of maturity to the vehicle it simply wouln't have without him. The sets of the series, chiefly the bookstore itself, are breathtaking; the shop which the show uses as its home base is immense, both eloquent and eerie in style. The Samantha Kinsey character comes across as a slightly older Nancy Drew, and Martin plays it with lots of energy and a passion for both her tasks of keeping the store afloat and looking past the surface when it comes to solving a mystery.
Having said that, this isn't a series I could see myself going out of my way to become anything more than a casual viewer of. The producers seem intent on meshing young and old in order to draw in the widest range of viewers it could, and it just doesn't work very well. Kinsey seems out of place in the role of bookstore owner; while the character is certainly intelligent enough, the Archaic Victorian bookstore seems far too sedate for a proprietor with the restless exuberence that goes with her age. While I understand that Hallmark wanted to bring in the young viewing audience with such a character, the Samantha role seems to go a bit overboard, perilously closer to something one would find as a Disney Channel concept.
Perhaps this show would have held more appeal and found a wider following had it been around long enough to fine tune its direction and give the viewer more of an idea on how approach it. Kellie Martin comes across as an attractive, intelligent and poised Samantha. She's young, inquisitive and spirited in her efforts to solve the mystery. and as I mentioned Williams is a coup for the show as a cast member; past that, however, the characters seem bland and generic.
Aspect ratio appears to be widescreen 1.78:1 and according to the box has been digitally remastered. The picture here is pleasant enough, but a bit soft and I did notice occasional shimmering.
While the box gives no clear indication this seems to be Dolby Digital stereo 2.0. Sound is fine, if unexciting.
To be fair, Hallmark is asking alot out of this series; it wants to cater to the older audience that longs for the "Mystery She Wrote" type of storyline, while plugging in an only slightly older Nancy Drew type character as its main focus. The show can't pull it off. It isn't that the story is bad, it is simply that the series comes across as too generic in nature for me. Rent it.