Sharp-Witted Shirley Passes Muster
'It doesn't put girls down,' say 13-year-old critics

Winnipeg Free Press



Teenage girls who love to shop and talk about boys are not clueless.

They hang in packs, speak their minds, and resent being used as token baubles, as they so often are in movies and television sitcoms.

But they definately don't tote finger-printing labs in their backpacks and peer into microscopes in their spare time.

That was the unanimous critique by four 13-year-old girls who sat down to size-up a preview of The Adventures of Shirley Holmes, the new Manitoba-made TV series premiering tonight on YTV at 8:30.

Shirley, the youthful sleuth who inherited her great-great-uncle Sherlock's zeal for the unsolvable, made an earlier debut one afternoon last week in River Heights School student Rachel Carr's rec room.

When all was said and done, Shirley passed muster.

Rachel and friends Lindsey Weller, Chelsea Ruppel and Yazmin Hartung saw little that relfected their lives in the modern-day Nancy Drew.

No one spends their free time peering at a piece of burnt flesh in a microscope and ducking under police crime-scene tape, the noted.

Come on, Shirl, get a social life. You know: parties, sleep-overs and giggle through the dreaded-secret game Truth or Dare.

"Girls our age, they'll go shopping," said Chelsea.

On the other hand, they described the new YTV series, produced by Winnipeg's Credo Entertainment Corp. as a welcome deliverance from the silly girl's roles on display in so many U.S. teen-orientated sitcoms.

Shirley, they say, is infinitely more admirable than Cher, the Valley-girl star of the hit Friday night series, Clueless.

Shirley, they say, stands on her own, a sharp-witted female mainstay defying the entertainment world's traditional girl part - background material amid boy's antics.

"Most of the shows, there's usually four boys and one girl," noted Lindsey.

"Even if there is a girl, they're portrayed as ditzy and stuff, like in Clueless," agreed Rachel.

"It (Shirley Holmes) doesn't put girls down," Yazmin said.

Shirley, however, is a little too much - too smart, too brave, too independent for her teenage critics.

They say her powers of deduction are sharp beyond belief (she finds a witness by looking for the shoeless among the homeless).

They add that the show's half-hour format makes the head-spinning pace of her work all the more fantastic.

And, what young teen would venture behind police lines to walk amid the burt-out ruins of an arsonist's last hit?

"I'd be too scared of getting caught," Yazmin said.

The series was filmed in the city, with large parts played at the former Manitoba School for the Deaf on Shaftsburry Boulevard. The star is Ottawa actress Meredith Henderson.

But the Winnipeg setting was all but unrecognizable to the girls. Their post-viewing guesses on location were Vancouver and Quebec.

On final tally, the girls said they'd probably watch Shirley Holmes (because it is not on the sacred social nights of Friday and Saturday) even though they felt it was too young for savvy 13-year-olds.

But, 11-year-olds will get a lot from it, they said.

They said it would be good to see something that departs from the regular sitcom fare for young people that not only focuses on boys, but frequently on a nuclear-family setting.

Shirley lives with her dad and granmother in a big stone house. She attends a private school and writes daily journal entries to her mother, dead for three years.

As well, portrayed as a smart girl with a quest in life, Shirley will act as a good role model for girls just on the cusp of growing up.

"Younger girls might idolize her like they idolized Nancy Drew," specualated Yazmin. "So instead of concentrating on their looks and looking for a boyfriend, they'd want to be something better. For their self-esteem."