on July 5, 2014
All we see at first are her impossibly high heels and seamed black stockings. She's also wearing a mini-trench coat as she confidently sashays her way to room 2012 of the hotel. The door swings forward, and instead of her regular appointment, it's a room service attendant holding a bloody knife. The door swings forward more, and she can see a strange man in a hotel bathrobe, laying across the bed and covered in blood. This is not what "Frederika" expected.
After the police are done with the crime scene, the hotel calls in Toxi-Clean, crime scene cleaners extraordinaire, to make the room appear as if a murder had never occurred. Toxi-Clean has two employees, Nicola and Charlie Buchanon, married 10 years and still bonkers about each other. And constitutionally incapable of leaving the detecting to the police. This includes talking their niece, Jess, who should be studying for her MBA exams, into taking a job as a maid at the hotel in order to snoop.
And so begins the first episode of Series 1 (or Season 1, as we call it in the States) of this Australian comedy mystery series, based in Melbourne. The series has little schticks that reappear throughout and which I love. The affectionate banter between Nic and Charles is real, there is good chemistry between the actors. They take turns making deductions so sleuthing is a team effort. Nic has a habit of hugging someone and purring that either charms or annoys the huggie. Charlie is a man after my own heart, full of usually totally useless trivia. There is lots of humor, sometimes broad, sometimes tongue-in-cheek - such as their mind-melding.
The comic strip-style title sequence sets the tone. This is a well-written and occasionally over the top mystery series. A little unrealistic in the stuff Nic and Charles get away with; a little comic bookish in how the police often don't have a clue.
Series 1 premiered in Australia in February 2013. The DVD set has 4 discs, with 13 episodes totaling 599 minutes of comedy & mystery. It's presented in 16:9 aspect ratio. English subtitles are available.
The DVD set's Disc 4 has Special Features described below. They are fun, though not long:
...1. "The Idea" (7 minutes) Commentators include Shaun Micallef (co-creator, plays Charlie) and Jason Stephens (co-creator and producer). Micallef remembers that he always liked the TV show "Columbo", and loved the idea of a mystery series. Stephens says that Kat Stewart (who plays Nic) had worked with Micallef in a previous TV show, and he thought they'd be great together here.
...2. "Cast Interviews" (3 minutes) Commentators include Jonny Pasvolsky (plays Detective Peter), Shaun Micallef, Lucy Honigman (plays Jess) and Kat Stewart. Honigman explains perfectly why I like the show so much: "There's something about it. Especially about their pairing and how they work on camera that's quite like a 'Get Smart' fun. There's something throw-backy, while it's a completely new show, it's a lovely dynamic."
...3. "Meeting Shaun Micallef" (7 minutes) Commentators include Lucy Honigman, Kat Stewart, Shaun Micallef. Shaun is a well-known TV actor Down Under, including his own shows, such as "Shaun Micallef's Mad as Hell", a comedy news program that is in its third year.
...4. "Photo Gallery"
...1. "Early Checkout". The fastest way to meet Frederika, in order to ask her questions about the murder, is to make an appointment, which leads to some funny moments.
...2. "A Dog's Life". A group of dog-owners stage a protest at a golf course. The golf course closed off a previously used public pathway. The next day, the golf store owner is found in his house, mauled to death by a dog.
In this episode, we learn of Nicola's fear of dogs.
...3. "En Vogue". Backstage at the JE fashion show, the usual controlled chaos is made worse by a model's no-show for the grand finale. So Jonah (the J in JE) goes out early to take his bow, and is rammed in the head by a falling mirror. Could he have been targeted because he used fur in his clothing?
...4. "Atlas Drugged". It's the "Mr Phenomenal 2013" body building contest semi-finals. Twenty-four year old Anton Cheresniak is awarded a trophy in the "Muscularity" round, but he leaves the stage clutching his stomach before he can accept it. Later on, a security guard finds Anton baked to death in a closed tanning bed. What a way to go.
The gym owner hires Toxi-Clean and ushers Nic and Charlie downstairs for the clean-up. He warns them about the smell and Charlie rambles, "I had my wisdom teeth out a couple years ago. Did a lot of nerve damage. As a result I don't smell so good. The advantage is that burnt toast, for example smells like Turkish Delight."
Trivia: Charlie is in the hospital with a concussion, and Nic performs a test to insure that he's actually OK. She asks him the name of his favorite film. When Charlie responds with "Blade Runner", Nic knows he's OK. It's also the favorite film of Shaun Micallef, the actor who plays Charlie.
...5. "Lost Soul". Rehearsals are underway at the Premiere Theatre for a new production of "Lost Soul", a musical about Amy Winehouse. Unfortunately, Linda di Biasi, the female lead, hasn't shown up. The understudy gets her chance to show off, but gets more than she bargained for when the missing di Biasi's body turns up mangled in a stage prop. Is the show really cursed?
...6. "The Next Best Man". It's the day before a wine-country wedding. Best man-to-be Adam McKuen hasn't shown up for lunch. We see why - when he runs from the house with blood coming out his mouth and down his shirt, eventually collapsing under an arbor. Detective Peter Vinetti is out of his jurisdiction, but was there as a family friend. It's his ex-wife's family and he's still close to them. He works with Nic and Charlie behind the scenes to solve the murder.
In a ploy to stay at the winery after the cleaning is done, Charlie disables their van. The winery mechanic offers to help and Charlie tries to hold him off with gibberish: "I should warn you, though, its a very complicated engine. It's half Wankel Rotary."
...7. "Thoroughly Dead Thoroughbred". Evelyn, the vet at Cardwell Stables, is found dead in a horsestall. She's been given a massive dose of ketamine, a horse anesthetic. A little digging turns up more than one reason for people to have it in for her. But Nic, Charlie and Peter solve the case and Peter muses, "As Shakespeare said, 'revenge is a dish best served cold'."
Charlie corrects, "Actually, Peter, it's from 'The Godfather'."
A funny re-occurring touch is when Nic and Charles decide through Rock/Paper/Scissors. Somehow, Nic always wins. Magic rock, indeed.
...8. "A Flare For Murder". Jennifer Travers stars in a Welcome Home party at the marina. She took her sailboat, "The Beagle" on the same journey the original Beagle took on Darwin's famous voyage. Jennifer is semi-famous for the video blog she posted during her trip. Someone, however, is not impressed, and kills her as she lies in her bunk - with a flare gun.
...9. "The Art of Murder". The Olivia Patterson Gallery is holding a reception for the three finalists for the Audacity of Art Award. Each of the finalists gets an installation at the gallery with an awards dinner to follow and big cash prize for the ultimate winner. A homeless man manages to crash the reception, helping himself to food, applauding the finalists. Later he's found dead. Surely he wasn't killed for stealing a few canapés.
..10. "Little Boxes". Nic and Charlie get to travel to the seaside to clean the murder site at a beach box. What a lovely concept. A row of one-room boat sheds right on the beautiful beach. As vacation homes got more expensive, the boat houses morphed into mini-cabins and now are electrified and decorated like any studio apartment.
Ben and Sarah were given a box as an engagement present. Unfortunately, when they went to open it, they found James Langlan standing against the wall, skewered by the spear from a spear gun. Must have been kids disturbed in a robbery, right? Right?
..11. "Keeping Up Appearances". The Larvanya Center is located in a beautiful Victorian. Larvanya is Sanskrit for "beautiful woman", appropriate given that the center specializes in cosmetic procedures and surgeries. Unfortunately for the peace at Larvanya, a former patient, Ivy Dawkins, has flung herself out an upper story window to her death. Only two stories below. Through tree branches that should have hindered her fall. Onto the softer lawn. With no fingerprints on the sides of the window where she would have had to haul herself up to jump out.
Triva: The body dysmorphia described in this episode is a real and tragic chronic mental illness.
..12. "Zootopia". Two zookeepers open the access corridor to the big cats' enclosures and find a dead colleague, his head bashed in with a shovel. How many kinds of jealousy were involved?
While working on the crime solving, Charlie philosophizes with Nic: "There's no such thing as 'normal'. 'Normal' is the average between all the weird people in the world and all the boring people in the world. 'Normal' people don't actually exist."
..13. "The Course Whisperer". It's after hours at the chi-chi celebrity restaurant RZ37. A chef is in the kitchen experimenting, taking notes in his journal as he tries this and that. He's concentrating so hard he doesn't hear when someone sneaks behind him and stabs him in the back. Literally.
Charlie and Nic toss ideas to each other. What if the chef was too passionate. Not Rudolph Valentino passionate, but Idi Amin passionate.
A recommended comedic mystery series. I hope we see more of Nic and Charlie!