Reviewed by MIKE TOONEY:


MR. & MRS. MURDER. FremantleMedia Australia/Bravado Productions; Network Ten, Australia. 13 episodes (20 February to 15 May 2013). Shaun Micallef (Charlie Buchanan), Kat Stewart (Nicola Buchanan), Jonny Pasvolsky (Peter Vinetti), Lucy Honigman (Jess Chalmers), Ben Geurens (Alan), Georgina Naidu (Janine). Creators: Shaun Micallef, Tim Pye, Jason Stephens. Available on Acorn TV via Roku.

            “We’re the cleaners.”

   Like the Nick and Nora Charles films of the ’30s and ’40s and the Mr. & Mrs. North TV series of the ’50s, Mr. & Mrs. Murder is a comedy series with occasional detectival interruptions, falling into the lightweight —you could say featherweight — category. Very cozy, this one, with virtually no on-screen violence.

   Series creator and star Shaun Micallef seems to be Australia’s answer to Stephen Fry as he alternately dazzles and annoys everyone with his wit and breadth of knowledge. He plays Charlie, who runs an industrial cleaning service with his more down-to-earth wife Nicola. They seem to have an exclusive contract with the Melbourne police to clean up messy crime scenes, but they simply can’t suppress their natural inclinations to investigate unsolved murders.

   The police are embodied in the person of Detective Vinetti, who (as befits plot requirements) tolerates the Buchanans’ meddling in the investigations principally because they get quick results. (Of course, it’s just barely possible that Nicola’s strong resemblance to Vinetti’s ex-wife might have something to do with it.)

   Nicola’s long-suffering live-in niece Jess is often unwillingly shanghaied into helping Charlie and Nicola with their “investigations,” and when they’re stuck for technical help they go to Alan, a wheelchair-bound boffin.

   When we say “featherweight,” we’re not kidding. Most of the mystery plots in this series are paper thin and not really all that interesting. The only episode that comes close to being first-rate is the next-to-last one, “Zootopia,” which the IMDb describes this way: “The zoo’s big-cat keeper dies by human hand, and the hippo keeper has gone missing. From clues and conversations, coworkers emerge as suspects. The break comes when Charlie gets a chance for some inside investigation during a sleepover safari.”

   While there are several scenes in this short-lived series that are truly hilarious, if you’re looking for another Nick and Nora you might be disappointed; we feel, however, that it’s just enough fun to make it worthwhile.