If I’ve learned anything from The Great British Baking Show, it’s that you should always acknowledge the bravery and hard work behind any given bake—even when someone forgot to preheat the oven.
The Secret of the Biological Clock is one such underbaked confection, though it is clearly a labor of love: playwright Andie Arthur blends junior detective heroes like Nancy Drew with crises of adulting. The scrappy cast give it their best. Eleanor Dawson (Kelly Levander) is a teenage sleuth turned 30-something journalist who moves into her childhood home with her husband, mystery author Peter Wilder (Mark Tacderas). Peter is the brother of Eleanor’s late crime-fighting comrade, Robert (Lance Spencer), whose disappearance still haunts the couple. Meanwhile, a local Eleanor-fangrrrl named Jasmine (Aziza Macklin) is convinced that Robert is her father and wriggles into the lives of Eleanor and Peter.
While there is ample ground for intrigue, the show suffers from too many enticing hooks and zero commitment to any of them. In a few scenes, it aims for film noir pastiche; then there are moments of Degrassi; next, a racially problematic spin on Andy Griffith and Mayberry. Because they serve too many genres at the same time, the characters depend on cliché. Somewhere in the story, there is a compelling thread about a woman reclaiming the mysteries of her childhood—but that requires less plot and slower character development.
The show’s real mystery was in its set design. My partner, a professional theater carpenter, squirmed throughout as structures rattled and put the actors at undue risk. Would Peter make it across the platform? Would the handrail stay in place? What kind of liability insurance does this company have? In that respect, I was on the edge of my seat. v