A new twist on crime shows from Down Under



Mr. and Mrs. Murder -- Despite its misleading title, the Australian mystery series "Mr. and Mrs. Murder" offers what I have long found lacking in most other mystery shows: originality! Series 1 has just been released by Acorn Media, and it is worth a viewing.

I have written so often that police plots have long since run out of original ideas and that it takes an attractive lead and/or some gimmick to make things work. "Pie in the Sky" used a restaurant owner, "New Tricks" used senior ex-officers, one or two others had ex-cops out on their own.

"Mr. and Mrs. Murder" has two things going for it. The leads are in business cleaning up after crimes, during which activities they also gather clues and (of course) find the murderer(s), all in 47 minutes. Husband Charlie Buchanan (Shaun Micallef) is a walking encyclopedia and the chemistry between him and petite wife Nicola (Kat Stewart) is lighthearted and works well within the plots.

Their niece Jess (Lucy Honigman) is somewhat reluctantly drawn into their business and the dangers that result. In the first episode, police detective Peter Venetti (Jonny Pasvolsky) tells them to keep out of his business; but by the second episode, he encourages their helping him get all the credit at the end. Even he has a little more dimension, given that his ex-wife looks very much like Nicola.

I don’t think I recall a mystery in which the care of wild animals comes into play, but the other plots do bear a similarity to so many that I have seen on other series. But again, the framing device and characterization make up a lot for it.

There are 13 episodes shown in 16:9 widescreen and thank Acorn again for the subtitling.

Note: I found out recently that a sister of an acquaintance is in the business of cleaning up after crimes. I say!

Bizet -- Having much enjoyed the Kultur DVDs "In the Footsteps of Offenbach" and "In the Footsteps of Puccini," I was not disappointed, except in one respect, by "In the Footsteps of Bizet." Here is the story of a composer born to write a single operatic masterpiece and dying at an early age (36) so that he was never able to polish the work.

Georges Bizet showed an early talent for composing. His student work, "Symphony in C," was composed when he was 17 and then consigned to a drawer before being discovered in 1933. It is one of the most delightful orchestral works in my opinion; while his incidental music to Daudet’s failed play "L’Arlesienne" is my most played recording.

Despite the silly plot, his "Pearl Fishers" has some ravishing music. But every piece he wrote was but a step on the way to one of the most popular works in opera, "Carmen."

I feel not enough attention is paid in the script to the many versions of "Carmen" there are, but one can Google that information easily enough. I prefer the Opera Comique version with spoken dialogue and not the grand opera version with sung recitatives, because much character and plot detail were dropped during the transformation by a student of Bizet’s.

My only objection to this disc is the sound problem. In the other discs in this series, the narrators and speakers’ voices were considerably dimmed so the overlapping English narration could be heard. For some reason, this Bizet disc has the foreign soundtrack far too loud, making the English words difficult to hear. I wonder why the engineers did not notice this before sending the disc to Kultur for distribution.

The running time is 52 minutes and the picture is in 16:9 widescreen ratio. How subtitles would have helped!

Mama’s Family 3 -- I have just enough room to report that Star Vista has released the complete third season of "Mama’s Family" in a four-DVD set. This is a "first time on DVD" release of the 25 episodes. Many of its fans will welcome this edition to their collection, especially for the guest appearance of Maggie Smith in the bonus features. Another high-class guest star is Dr. Joyce Brothers. I wonder how many viewers remember her.

This show is a classic example of a "spinoff," originating, of course, on the "Carol Burnett Show." Both are still popular as reruns.

Frank Behrens reports on classical and Broadway music as well as recordings of books and plays for the Arts & Entertainment section.


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