by Kathleen Costa
AcornTV is a harmless vice I plan never to drop. On the cusp of the baby boomer era, I grew up with television enjoying reruns from the “Golden Age of Television” to new shows that are now classics. I was introduced early to many British productions like The Avengers, but those Brit sitcoms and dramas were few and far between…until now! AcornTV’s membership (monthly $6.99; special annual $69.99) is less than the cost of a large flat white and blueberry scone, so I can easily justify the expense. I’ve seen shows I hadn’t seen in years, classics that never made it across the pond, and new shows just becoming popular. Is it just me? or is everything better with an accent? Like an Aussie “G’day” and a proper English “Hello,” the new Darby and Joan is a big favorite!
Darby and Joan (2022) pairs iconic Aussie Bryan Brown (The Thorn Birds, Cocktail) as Jack Darby, detective sergeant (retired), with Italian-Australian Greta Scacchi (Presumed Innocent, Emma) as Joan Kirkhope, clinical nurse manager (retired). Joan was under the impression her husband Ian (John Waters; All the Rivers Run) was in Spain enjoying tapas and sangria, but with only one thing left to do and then homeward bound, he has a heart attack, and she finds herself in Australia, not Spain, identifying his body. Six months later, and against her daughter’s advice, she decides to return to Australia to track down where he’d been, who he’d met, and why he was there.
Watch out! Heading out toward her first destination, Joan barely avoids an oncoming car. The car, however, flips upside down…Meet Jack. Suggesting he could hitch a ride from someone at her first stop, he grabs his fishing gear and his Australian Shepard Diesel and hops in her RV. Together the “platonic travel companions” follow clues in the items Ian had with him when he died: letters, a diary, and photos along with his cell phone and an unfamiliar key. Each step of the way they discover details about Ian’s past, well-hidden secrets, and a shocking unresolved issue with the police. But, they also learn about each other. Jack has 2-1/2 ex-wives, a detective inspector daughter, and a heart condition. Joan is a granny, “Jack [Joan]-of-all-trades,” and at ease asking questions. A perfect pair!
The journey takes the duo through a diverse Australian landscape highlighting all that Queensland has to offer: a hidden cove, banana field, a woodsy campground, the ocean above and below, small towns, and big cities. In each location, they find themselves entangled in a varied list of crimes from a murder to a missing cache of guns, from camper-jacking to a diving accident, from arson to a possible fake drug test, from kidnapping to a hit and run incident that might end it all. Jack’s background as a detective is extremely valuable, but not without its problems stemming from his by-the-book attitude. Joan is definitely a willing partner in their sleuthing finding herself well suited for asking questions, theorizing scenarios, and chasing a few suspects.
Earns 5+/5 Aussie Duos! This new series is clever, creative, and well-written with a surprisingly well-suited cast. Bryan Brown looks great at seventy-five in his well-worn cowboy hat and casual clothing, portraying a subdued and introspective manner of a detective, showing an honest relationship with his detective daughter, taking responsibility for his part in his “1/2” ex’s pain, and revealing slowly his feelings for Joan. Greta Scacchi is brilliant, and at sixty-two years old, she is now a plus-size woman. I commend the producers for not seeking out a thin or younger woman for the role, but more importantly, for Scacchi accepting the role. It is personally enjoyable to see a woman of her size with limited make up and less than a fashionable wardrobe cast in a strong, lead role. She’s real…and I love it! Ian’s mystery is resolved with a perfect result for heartwarming closure, yet not without a bit of gun play. It is suggested that Jack’s career ended, possibly with forced retirement, amid a scandal, one that in the final episode appears to be a frame job. The cliffhanger at the end for Jack, for Joan, for the two of them as more than friends begs for a second season.
ICYMI—The Sat Nav voice is Rachel Ward, who is an actress in her own right (The Thorn Birds, Against All Odds), and has been married to Bryan Brown since 1983. So, referring to the voice as “annoying” has a funny level.
Don’t Miss These Aussie Gems!
Along with Miss Fisher’s Murder Mystery series and the full-length movie Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears (Esse Davis), Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mystery (—), Janet King, Crownies, and A Place to Call Home (Marta Dusseldorp), Jack Irish (Guy Pearce), Heart Guy (Rodger Corser), Mr. and Mrs. Murder, and more, don’t miss out on these engaging programs.
The Straits (2012) Brian Cox (Succession) is Harry Montebello, the head of the family and its smuggling business situated along the Torres Strait Islands. But, a vicious power struggle commences when Harry begins looking at which family member will take over the empire. The premise of the show is basically similar to HBO’s Succession, but the Aussie/Brit cast, setting, and witty writing makes this well-worth watching. Earns 5/5 Family Trees.
Martin Clunes: Islands of Australia (2016) Martin Clunes (Doc Martin, Reggie Perrin) has taken again to the road exploring several island communities of Australia. The three 60-minute episodes highlight the diversity of such area like Torres Strait Islands in the east, Tiwi Islands in the north and Abrolhos Islands in the west, King Island in the south, and more. I had visited Australia in 1987, but didn’t make it to these islands. My bucket list has been updated. No passport, no Visa, no shot record required. Earns 5/5 Visa Stamps.
Mystery Road: Origin (2022) Mystery Road (2018; 2020) is a must see two season series following Detective Jay Swan (Aboriginal-Australian Aaron Pedersen) as he investigates a murder in the Outback with the local officer Emma James (Judy Davis), and then nearer the beach, another murder has him working with “local copper” Fran Davis (Jada Alberts). It is an extraordinary series and Aaron Pedersen is brilliant! Earns 5/5 —! Season three Origin, airing September 26, is a prequel set in 1999 and starring Mark Coles Smith as the young Jay Swan. Swan arrives in a dusty Outback town and finds himself involved in the investigations of several violent robberies. Young Jay “faces a tragic death, a burgeoning love, and the brutal reality of being a police officer straddling two worlds.” I was lucky to preview the new series, and with its well-cast ensemble, intense drama, and issues raised about native people, I make this one of my favorite! Earns 5/5 Time Machines.
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