Magazine article Metro Magazine

Writing Wrongs: Mr & Mrs Murder and the Crime Genre

Magazine article Metro Magazine

Writing Wrongs: Mr & Mrs Murder and the Crime Genre

Article excerpt

Unlike true-crime shows, which give us grisly stories of real-life horror, murder-mystery series depict a world where criminals are punished and justice is duly served. Elizabeth Flux speaks to Mr & Mrs Murder's Timothy Hobart about the genre's recent resurgence on Australian screens.

Writing a series about cleaners who solve mysteries may sound like pushing the envelope of the crime genre purely for the sake of variety. However, Channel Ten's 2013 series Mr & Mrs Murder is part of a natural evolution that crime television has been undergoing over the past five years, and is indicative of what is to come.

Charlie and Nicola Buchanan (Shaun Micallef and Kat Stewart) are professional crime-scene cleaners and amateur sleuths. At the start of the series, they already have an established symbiotic relationship with detective Peter Vinetti (Jonny Pasvolsky). He sends work their way, and then climbs the promotion ladder through the crimes the Buchanans help him solve.

As the title implies, murders are what the Buchanans work with, and each episode centres on a different one. But despite such a dark core, the show is lighthearted without being callous. The murders are quirky and varied--a golf champion fatally attacked by a dog, a sailor shot with a flare gun. Unlike other recent series such as Hannibal, nothing is particularly gruesome or visually confronting. There is merely the occasional pool of blood or, as in one episode, the sound of dripping before the audience is shown a trail of liquefied fat leaking from a sun bed on which a bodybuilder has been baked to death.

Timothy Hobart, who worked as a writer, script editor and development producer on the series, describes it as 'murder with a smile'. It's a good characterisation of the show, which puts as much weight into developing the Buchanans' relationship and the banter between characters as it does to the establishment of a good storyline and the inevitable solving of each episode's crime. He reflects that, in comparison to other series in the same genre, Mr & Mrs Murder has 'a younger skew, and it does that by its cast and by some of the storytelling. It tries to appeal to a younger audience [...] through comedy' --a tool that is also used throughout the series to temper the otherwise-serious subject matter.

Mr & Mrs Murder is part of a wave of Melbourne-based murder-mystery series that have been appearing on television screens over the past two years, which also includes Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries and The Doctor Blake Mysteries. Traditionally, murder mysteries follow the classic Agatha Christie format: a body is found, red herrings and other hurdles are thrown around, but ultimately the detective sorts through the clues and the guilty party is caught. Despite thirty-seven years having passed since her final book was published, Christie's influence on the genre remains apparent. Phryne Fisher, originally a character from a series written by Kerry Greenwood, is essentially a younger, more gun-savvy Miss Marple. The complex Doctor Blake is comparable to Hercule Poirot, and Charlie and Nicola Buchanan are Australian television's version of Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, Christie's crime-solving couple.

It's no coincidence, then, that these three murder-mystery shows have been progressing chronologically towards the modern day. Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries and The Doctor Blake Mysteries combine murder-solving with nostalgia through being set in the 1920s and late 1950s, respectively. Not only are both shows excellent and unique, but they also act as a bridge between the proven Agatha Christie crime formula and series with the same format set in the modern day, such as Mr & Mrs Murder.

In addition to murder mysteries, today's crime series can also take two other forms--police procedurals and true crime--with the percentages of produced and/or aired content shifting as audience demands change. …

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