THE UNUSUAL SETTING
Crime shows tend to come from a few major locations. The good old United Kingdom, which - in TV drama terms - is made up of gritty inner city crime zones or serene villages with rising body counts. Then there's the United States, which is similar, just with more gloss and pizzazz. Or there are crime shows from continental Europe, with subtitles and existential angst.
But The Brokenwood Mysteries is a bit of an oddity. It hails from Down Under, and it's not even the Australian-type of Down Under. It actually whisks us to New Zealand, which is a completely novel setting for this sort of thing. It's also dead fascinating (pun very much intended), as the landscape is sort of British, but sort of not. Indeed, one critic's called it the Midsomer Murders of New Zealand, probably because of its idyllic, green, English countryside-like setting.
THE CRACKLING CHEMISTRY
And by chemistry we're not referring to any fancy forensics. Well, there is a BIT of that, but the real chemistry here is between our lead cops. Take a bow, Mike Shepherd and Kristin Sims. Who are they? Well, they're mismatched for starters. Mike is a big, bolshy bloke who swaggers around like he owns the place - even if he's literally never been to the place before. He also has an eccentric sense of humour precision-honed to either charm or annoy those around him.
Kristin, meanwhile, is the very picture of professionalism. The kind of woman who gets on with the people she works with, diligently follows protocol, and looks immaculately groomed at all times. She's also always on form, like the time she notices a stranger parked in a street in Brokenwood, has the gut feeling that something's up, and goes over to interrogate the stranger. Only to realise he's a cocky copper called Mike Shepherd. Yep, that's really how they first meet, and it sets the tone for all that follows.
THE GREAT TEAM
The Brokenwood Mysteries isn't just the Mike and Kristin Show, though. Far from it. What we also have here is an assembly of sleuths who work like a charm. Not just in terms of pure policework, but in terms of being deliciously entertaining to watch. There's Detective Constable Breen, for example. Every bit as smooth and straightlaced as Mike is crumpled and irreverent, Breen is a real teacher's pet of a detective, and it'll be good to see how Mike's influence rubs off on the poor lad.
Then there's Dr Kadinsky, the local pathologist. She's basically Brokenwood's one-woman answer to everyone you've ever seen in Silent Witness or CSI, except with added dollops of deadpan Russian cynicism. There's Jared, a young and handsome Maori chap who's a bit of a rogue but a very, very sweet one, who becomes something of an unlikely guide and helper to Mike. Oh, and let's not forget Wilmott, who works for the police, has a no-nonsense attitude, and also happens to be Mike's ex-wife. This won't be at all awkward, then.
THE COLOURFUL CASES
Brokenwood may be a quiet town where nothing much seems to happen, but don't be fooled by first appearances. All KINDS of things seem to happen here, mainly on the crime front. Mike moves here looking for peace and quiet, and ends up tackling cases such as the one involving a well-known wine critic and a vat of fermenting grape juice. To be clear, the critic is found inside the vat of fermenting grape juice, and it wasn't because he wanted a closer sniff of the complex bouquet.
There's also the shocking incident on the local golf course (when the owner staggers out covered in blisters and collapses for no good reason), and the rugby coach who's found very naked and very dead, and very tied to the goalposts. Like we say, things happen in Brokenwood. Good thing our gang of motley coppers are here to sort it all out...