Of all the titles from Australia and New Zealand that were added to linear TV and streaming channels in 2019, five made it to my list of favorites.
The number of TV titles from Australia and New Zealand that were released for the first time in the US in 2019 — meaning shows and seasons that hadn’t ever been shown in the States before, even if if they launched Down Under a decade or more ago — was roughly 120, the same as in 2018, give or take a few.
By itself, this figure translates to ten shows per month, which would be doable if I didn’t also cover programs from the UK, Canada, and Ireland for The British TV Place, and original-language, English-subtitled titles for The Euro TV Place. So to make things more manageable, I only considered new-to-the-US shows for my list of favorites and didn’t include new seasons, no matter how much I adored them. (Here’s looking at you, Brokenwood Mysteries.)
Herewith, then, are my favorite Down Under TV premieres in the US in 2019.
The InBESTigators (Australia)
This terrific little gem of a series appealed to my inner mini-me sleuth, and it might yours, too, if you haven’t watched it yet. (If it had been on telly when I was growing up, I’m certain I would have watched it and wanted to be an Inbestigator myself.)
The series follows a quartet of grade-school students, including an aspiring private investigator and an aspiring entrepreneur, who form their own detective agency to investigate whodunits and other mysteries. Fellow students and folks in their neighborhood hire them to solve puzzlers like how several packages disappeared after they were delivered and who damaged a fellow student’s painting during an art show. And this being the 21st century, the Inbestigators vlog about their cases.
Each half-hour episode features two mystery stories — not complicated, but not insultingly easy either — that are filled with humor, drama and fun, making the series an enjoyable watch for viewers of all ages.
Where to watch: Netflix
Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries (Australia)
This spin-off from the international hit Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is quite fun. It stars Geraldine Hakewill (Wanted) as Peregrine Fisher, the niece of the missing-and-presumed-dead Phryne Fisher, who sets out to be an ace private detective like her aunt, and investigates murders alongside dapper Detective James Steed (Joel Jackson, Safe Harbour).
With her beauty, demeanor, fashion, and let’s-do-this spirit, Peregrine reminds me of Marlo Thomas’s aspiring actress character in That Girl. Like the sitcom, this light mystery series, with its cool vibe, groovy tunes, and mod sensibilities, is set during the Swinging Sixties, albeit in Melbourne. (For more info, read this article.)
My Life Is Murder (Austalia)
Another fun, Melbourne-set mystery series is this one starring Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess). She plays Alexa Crowe, a retired police detective who gets lured out of retirement by the intriguing murder and suspicious death cases dangled by her ex-boss (Bernard Curry, Wentworth).
The show is decidedly not dark in its plots or production, and the overall feel is light and breezy. And while it is a whodunit series, the focus of its stories, such as a locked room murder mystery, make it a howdunit or whydunit first. (For more info, read this article.)
The Pacific: In the Wake of Captain Cook with Sam Neill (aka Pacific with Same Neill) (Australia)
Primetime Emmy® and Golden Globes® nominee Sam Neill (Jurassic Park, Reilly: Ace of Spies, Merlin) presents this fabulous documentary, which is part travelogue, part history lesson, and part adventure drama. Over the course of six episodes, Neill follows in the 250-year-old wake of Captain James Cook by recreating the famed British explorer’s journeys to the Pacific, including to Tahiti, New Zealand, and Australia, as well as to the Antarctic, Alaska, Canada, and Hawaii.
Several things make this series compelling viewing, not the least of which are the rich, personal stories of the Polynesians and Pacific Islanders Neill meets, including descendants of those who encountered Cook; Neill’s interactions with them, including his participation in their ceremonies and events; his commentaries and reactions, which provide backstory and context as well as Neill’s feelings and sense of connection to the Pacific peoples; and the exquisite beauty of the places he visits, whether drenched in sunshine or covered in snow. It’s eye-opening, though-provoking, funny, sad, and well worth a watch. (For more info, read this article.)
This Is Not My Life (New Zealand)
I got hooked on this sci-fi thriller from the off. Certain aspects of it are reminiscent of the sci-fi-horror movie The Stepford Wives (the original) and the sci-fi-mystery series The Prisoner and Wayward Pines, and altogether it’s a binge-worthy watch.
It stars Charles Mesure (Once Upon a Time) as Alec Ross, an HR manager who has a bout of amnesia, only to regain his memory and subsequently discover that he isn’t Alex Ross — if he is to believe what he told himself in the near past. And he isn’t the only person in town to feel like the life they’re living isn’t their own, either. But finding the truth proves to be difficult, as does trying to leave this seemingly idyllic place. (For more info, read this article.)
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