Television series features Montour Falls scene

MONTOUR FALLS--He's always liked the view down Main Street in Montour Falls toward Shequaga Falls. But when he saw it on the opening of a Hallmark mystery series on television, James Sgrecci said, "Nah, that can't be it." He saw it again, and thought the same thing. "By the time you think about it, it's already gone. It's only on for about eight seconds." The third time he saw it, he was sure. There was the village hall with its domed cupola, Quinlan's Pharmacy, the white pillared house in front of the falls.

And afterwards, in each episode, a petite librarian engagingly named Aurora Teagarden, who lives and works in the small town of Lawrenceton, Pennsylvania, happens to stumble across an extraordinary murder--many more of these than might seem likely for a tiny municipality --and solves it.

Teagarden is the fictional creation of best-selling mystery writer Charlaine Harris, whose prolific publishing career began in 1990 with the publication of "Real Murders," her first in a series featuring Teagarden. "Real Murders" was the first in a series of nine.

Harris is also the author of the Lily Bard "Shakespeare" series and the Sookie Stackhouse "Southern Vampire" series which sparked the television serial "True Blood" which ran for six years, as well as numerous other works. Sgrecci puts his finger on the common thread. "There's usually a police force that isn't as ept as it should be, so the women break all the cases."

How did Montour Falls come into the mix? The reason is sadly prosaic. "We were looking for an image that we thought was representative of our fictional town," explains executive producer Jim Head. "We wanted an image that matched the environment we shoot in. And we came upon a stock image online." He says regretfully that no one from the production crew has been to Montour Falls, "But we'd love to go, it looks beautiful," he adds.

The series, starring Candace Cameron Bure, is filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, where filmmakers are able to take advantage of a scenic location, mostly good weather, a favorable exchange rate and significant tax incentives, as well as experienced film crews and a large community of actors.

Though he wears a pile of hats as executive producer, from developing the idea to casting the actors and hiring the crew, to being with the series in every stage from writing to the final edit, Head sounds ebullient in his enjoyment of the process. "It's been extremely popular, Aurora Teagarden does very well on the ratings," he says. "Our lead actor has a huge following. I can say nothing but amazingly positive things about her." Harris, too, has become a huge fan of the series, he says, and has been very supportive.

The first in the series, "Real Murders," aired in 2015. So far, five movie adaptations have aired with a sixth one, "A Bundle of Trouble," due to air May 21 at 9 p.m., featuring an infant, a missing mother, an unexpected discovery of a large wad of cash and the incomparable sleuthing of Aurora Teagarden. A preview can be seen online on the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries website.

Perhaps inspired by the success of the series, Harris published "All the Little Liars," in 2016 and plans an additional Aurora Teagarden book for this fall. And because this is fiction, though Aurora Teagarden was 27 in 1990, she is magically only 37 now.

Head says he's hoping to turn those into movies in the series as well. He says, "We get lots of responses from viewers who comment on how beautiful the setting is, and asking where we shoot it so they can visit it." So it's possible some will follow through and come see Montour Falls when the weather is less snowy than depicted at the start of each program.

In the meantime, as Head points out, large numbers of viewers are finding the series an enjoyable way to spend a few hours. "It's fluff, something to do on Saturday night when you're home," Sgrecci says. "It's light entertainment, it's great."