I love New Zealand. I have loved the very idea of New Zealand for almost 40 years now. It started with a movie.
The movie was called Utu. It means “revenge” in Maori. I saw the movie in 1983. It was then I fell in love with New Zealand. I saw it with a friend, Sunu, who was from Samoa. After he saw how I absolutely loved the movie — and the wild, untamed land of lush vegetation, he said, “You are going to be so surprised when you get there, to see white people in New Zealand.” “What?” I replied. “There are white people in New Zealand?”
I was only joking, but when I did get to New Zealand (around Christmastime in 2017), it wasn’t the white people, or the Maori that surprised me — it was large cities. In Auckland, I found myself seeing pigeons’ droppings on the sidewalks as well as crowds of people walking about. When we left the city and went to a nearby grape-growing, wine-making island, I watched Auckland wreathed in pollution from away. It was like any other large city, with all that entails, with highways, construction, problems and also many good things (seriously, the best ice cream I’ve ever had).
While I am a self-professed city girl, it was the countryside of New Zealand that stole my heart. This beauty, this incredible, breathtaking beauty, can expand the soul, calm the mind, breath love into you.
So, naturally, when I come across a television show, especially a mystery, set in New Zealand, I jumped on it.
This is how I found The Brokenwood Mysteries. I watch this show for the setting, which is enough to keep me coming back. I watch this show for the Kiwi accent. But I gotta say, it’s not a great show. It’s an alright show. An OK show. But not a super good show. In part, it is the writing that is just adequate. The actors, while fine, have only the provided material to work with, and let’s say I don’t see them getting any major awards any time soon. In part, it’s also the irritating music. The main character, the head detective, loves country music. “Three chords and the truth,” is how he describes it. But the bottom line of that it is still country music, and not even well-known country music. Not my favorite genre of music, to be sure, but I am absolutely willing to put up with it — to see New Zealand, even indirectly. To, no matter how indirectly, live in that country for one and a half hours — worth it!
And then there is The Gulf. A much darker show, again set in New Zealand, and actually sharing an actor with The Brokenwood Mysteries, it is another police procedural, but with so much more angst and anger and (let’s face it) reality. I watched the first couple of episodes, and while I prefer my mysteries on the lighter side, I think I will keep watching this show for more than the scenery alone.
A previous show about New Zealand that I watched the entire 3 seasons of and loved, was 800 Words. It was a comedy/drama series, filmed in the same town that is now home to Brokenwood, with likable characters, interesting plots, and solid writing.
Ironically, I never felt this kind of strong pull towards Australia. Perhaps it is all the venomous and poisonous critters that live in that country/continent. I mean, while almost none of the critters in New Zealand can kill you — c’mon, flightless birds for instance, pretty much everything in Australia can.
However, talking about Australia, there is one other show that is not set in New Zealand, but rather Australia that is worth the trip across the Tasman Sea. However, it stars one of New Zealand’s big stars, Lucy Lawless, a.k.a. Xena, Warrior Princess, so it’s NZ adjacent. It’s a show called My Life is Murder, and it’s set in Melbourne. There are enough shots of the city for this show to be considered a travelogue — good enough for me. And the show itself is a pleasure, with good writing and good acting. Another plus to this show, as well as The Brokenwood Mysteries, is that there are more seasons to follow. At least four more for My Life, and Brokenwood ongoing, with several seasons under its belt. I am looking forward to being an armchair traveler.
God, but I miss actual traveling.