Uplifting Crime Drama from Down Under

Fascinating detective stories, minus car chases and gore

The Brokenwood Mysteries, streaming on Acorn, Amazon Prime, Roku and other services, is the best quirky murder mystery police procedural you’ve never heard of. It’s filmed in a small town in the rainy, chilly, hilly, forested Auckland region of New Zealand, which makes it a natural binge for Oregonians.

A killing or mysterious death is at the heart of each episode, but Brokenwood is largely nonviolent with little or no gore, and with the death typically taking place mostly or entirely off screen. The series features engaging lead actors, a sprawling array of bizarre, humorous and idiosyncratic supporting actors, sharp dialogue, eye-catching settings, and the labyrinthine twists and turns the police team must take to unearth the truth.

The odd-ball supporting cast, the sweet yet snarky relationships among the police team, and the lack of violence make this a relaxing, enjoyable stream, especially for viewers turned off by the endless on-screen bloodlettings and shootings of many recent U.S. cop shows.

While the main brunt of the acting is borne by the three lead characters — Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd and his two assistants — the recurring supporting cast give the show much of its buoyancy. These include a love-sick Russian pathologist, a shrewish ex-con bar owner, a deer-in-the-headlights coffee cart operator, a gay church pastor and his psychiatrist partner, a gay pharmacist who is also the mayor, and a smarmy but likable defense lawyer.

The actors’ New Zealand accents are a surprise plus — both the English as spoken by the white actors and the somewhat different English accents of the Maori actors, who are indigenous to New Zealand.The series just celebrated its 10th season, with an 11th on the way. Each season features five to six episodes that run for about two hours apiece. It’s time well spent. — Jody Rolnick

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