by Kathleen Costa
I have monthly subscriptions to Caza Trail K-cups, Epicurean magazine, and even Philosophy bath products, but my Acorn TV streaming option has been the best. Foregoing one Grande Latte and berry scone a month, I can satiate my Anglophile appetite and enjoy hours of funny, poignant, informative, or just plain nail-biting entertainment. The quality of the video and audio is excellent on my iPad allowing me great flexibility as to where I can sit and enjoy. Using my home wi-fi from the front room to the bedroom, kitchen to the patio, or finding an Xfinity hot spot at Starbucks or in the dentist’s waiting room, I always have a bit of fun at my finger tips.
No Worries, Man!
Acorn TV is airing all sixteen 90-100 minute episodes of The Brokenwood Mysteries which first broadcast in 2014 and continued through 2017. It is a delightful police drama in the same vein as Midsomer Murders, set in a small fictional town with the lead detective relying on clues, deduction, instinct, and intuition. Brokenwood, the quintessential rural New Zealand town, is much like the English countryside of Midsomer County, and Detective Inspector Mike Shepherd, excellently cast with New Zealand actor Neill Rea, is very reminiscent of Neil Dudgeon’s portrayal of John Barnaby. Shepherd, like John Barnaby, is reserved and introspective, lacks inner demons or emotional challenges, and seems very well adjusted. However, Shepherd is single with a few matrimonial challenges, and Barnaby is happily married with a small child.
Both detectives are supported by a capable partner providing feedback and their own perspective. However, Shepherd’s partner is female D.C. Kristin Sims (Fern Sutherland) who questions some of Shepherd’s theories, takes exception to and is affecting his “lone wolf” manner, and just like Barnaby and his partners, she is building a “let’s have a pint” friendship. Both rely on forensic experts who reign supreme in their lab, but Shepherd’s expert is Russian offering an additional accent to navigate, quirky insights, and is she interested in a more personal relationship? The support and one-time characters are all rich, realistic, and are often representative of the culture from Midsomer’s gentry class to Brokenwood’s Maoris.
The murders make Brokenwood a seemingly dangerous town in which to reside, much like Midsomer County, with crimes that are realistic, seemingly off the front pages, but without the in-your-face gory dead body. Tim Balme, creator and lead writer, explained in an interview, also airing on Acorn-TV, “It’s not a heavy and dark procedural, tough drama…” It has “an element of humor.” People love murder mysteries, they “wanna see if they can solve it first…” It makes “you feel a little clever, certainly engaged and involved.” He says, “A good murder mystery…it’ll suck you in every time.”
Brokenwood Mysteries earns 5+/5 Bottles of a Nice New Zealand Merlot!
Enter Auckland Detective Inspector Mike Shepherd, who drives a classic Aussie car and loves country/western music. He has been sent, somewhat covertly, to Brokenwood to look into matters surrounding a local detective. His style is eyebrow raising since he talks to the corpses, goes off on his own, and has an uncanny ability to compile clues, see through witness “mis”statements, and uncover the truth. Despite having to take a demotion to Detective Senior Sergeant, Shepherd decides to stay and lead the local department, but learning to trust and cooperate with his team. In making Brokenwood home, he becomes an owner of a budding vineyard, enjoying his wine, but not really knowing the business. Through murder after murder, motive after motive, quiet to perilous apprehensions, the stories are engaging, Shepherd and his team are entertaining, and like Midsomer Murders, The Brokenwood Mysteries offers much for the police-drama/mystery fan.
I greatly enjoyed this “down-under and turn left” gem, and highly recommend fans of Midsomer Murders check it out. The murder mysteries are realistic, incorporating excellent police procedural, and more times than not, the solutions are unique ending with a “Wow, that was great!” feeling. Neill Rea is the perfect lead, and his passion for country/western music, yet awkwardness around horses, is very entertaining. I love the soundtrack. I didn’t recognize the songs which made it a fresh delight, and each song seemed to fit the occasion. So from engaging stories, realistic police work, an excellent cast, and an entertaining music soundtrack, The Brokenwood Mysteries has ‘broken” into my Top Ten all-time favorite UK detective dramas!
As Long as You’re in the Southern Hemisphere!
Courtesy of Acorn TV, there are two other shows worthy of your attention: The Heart Guy (New Zealand; aka Doctor, Doctor), and 800 Words (Australian). With light drama and more than a few enjoyable giggles, these two dramedies deal with small town life, making new friends or reconnecting with old ones, family antics (some dysfunction), ups and downs with adult children or raising teenagers, and even the entanglements of romance whether one-nighters or bound by marriage. Both near forty-five minutes each episode, and have new series in production…Highly recommended!
The Heart Guy earns 5/5 Heartbeats! This very entertaining Aussie favorite follows Dr. Hugh Knight (perfectly cast with Rodger Corser), a handsome, highly acclaimed heart surgeon, as he spends his year-long medical suspension back in his hometown of Whyhope, a rural community a few hours from Sydney. His arrogance and legal jeopardy resulted in a loss of surgery privileges and banishment, so he’ll need to brush up on, at least Google, the everyday care of the residents as a general practitioner. However, it’s the small town issues, a mayoral campaign, fear of flying, family dysfunction, paternity revelations, and lots of emergencies and medical ethics dilemmas that make these twenty episodes well worth watching.
800 Words earns 5/5 Typewriter Ribbons! A very engaging Kiwi delight follows the Turner family with thirty-two episodes. A short time after the death of his wife, George (perfectly cast with Erik Thomson) decides to uproot his two teenagers and move from Australia to Weld, a small New Zealand seaside town. The kids are unhappy starting a new school at the bottom of the social ladder, challenges abound living in a home far from the retreat he thought he was buying, and although surfing is his childhood dream, he doesn’t know how. As a popular columnist he turns his experiences navigating small town quirks, dealing with life as a widower, and raising two teens as a single father into a column of only 800 words. His essays act as the narration showing insights into feelings, challenges to overcome, and lessons learned.
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Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases using those links. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.