My Life is Murder

Lucy Lawless plays a Melbourne private investigator in the AcornTV series "My Life is Murder."

It happens almost every night at my house, a strange sound coming from our bedroom or the living room. It’s the sound of people muttering in Norwegian.

When my wife wants to unwind after a long day, she pulls out her iPad and streams a dark, mystery series, usually from some Scandinavian country. They often take place at night, in the middle of winter, and often involve humorless, troubled detectives delving into a town’s shameful secrets to find a brutal killer.

The ideal image for these series is of a dead body frozen in ice. This is my wife’s idea of comfort food.

A lot of these shows are terrific, but what if you want a mystery show that’s a little lighter, a little sunnier? Prescribe yourself a weekly dose of “My Life is Murder,” the new Australian series that premieres new episodes each Monday on Acorn TV.

The big draw of “Murder” is that it stars Lucy Lawless, famous worldwide for playing “Xena: Warrior Princess” in the ‘90s and other larger-than-life roles on “Ash Vs. Evil Dead” and “Spartacus: Blood and Sand.” The second biggest draw of the series is that Lawless finally gets to play a normal person (something she already proved she could do on her guest run on “Parks & Recreation).

Lawless plays Alexa Crowe, a widowed former Melbourne police detective who now works as a private investigator, solving cases sent her way on the sly by a former colleague (Bernard Curry). In the era of “Broadchurch” and “The Killing,” “My Life is Murder” is a throwback to old TV detective shows like “Murder, She Wrote,” where Crowe always cracks this episode’s case before the closing credits roll.

But the old detective show that it most resembles is “Columbo,” in that from the start of each episode, we’re pretty sure we know who the killer is. Crowe does too, she just has to prove it. In the premiere, for example, a wealthy woman falls from her death from an escort’s high-rise apartment? Did the escort do it? I mean, probably, but the fun comes in watching as Crowe pretends to be another paying customer as she tries to figure out how and why.

The show takes place under the sunny skies of Melbourne, and that breeziness seeps into almost every aspect of the show. It’s light on violence (we don’t even see that wealthy woman’s dead body!) and there’s plenty of witty dialogue, especially between Crowe and her assistant Madison (Ebony Vagulans).

Lawless seems to be having a ball playing Crowe, a sharp, cheerful but complicated protagonist, getting the chance to show off her comedic as well as dramatic chops. A running joke in the series is that, while Crowe can crack the most complicated cases, she has trouble setting up and using her household appliances.

Speaking of household appliances, the only drawback to watching show about a detective named Alexa Crowe is that it drives a certain voice-activated device in your house crazy if it overhears the dialogue. Enjoy the show, but be careful – you wouldn’t want to accidentally try to order a murder weapon from Amazon.

Also on streaming: If you just need your detective shows to be grim and unrelenting, rest assured that the second season of David Fincher’s “Mindhunter” drops this Friday, Aug. 16. The show follows two FBI agents taking a new approach to profiling and catching serial killers in the 1970s and 1980s, and this season features appearances by Son of Sam and Charles Manson.

On a lighter note, the third season of my current favorite Netflix series, “GLOW,” premiered last Friday. The show, about a group of ‘80s female wrestlers, has a heart as big as the teased hair of its heroines, and the third season takes them to Las Vegas as they grapple with finally getting some fame in and out of the ring.

Street Scene” may not be the musical most familiar to fans of the genre, but the groundbreaking 1933 play, really as much of an American opera as a musical, has an impressive pedigree. Created by author Langston Hughes and composer Kurt Weill, the tragic tale of life in a New York tenement building won the first-ever Tony Award for Best Original Score. Most audiences haven’t seen a live production of “Street Scene,” but a 2018 European production is now streaming at BroadwayHD.

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Rob Thomas is the features editor and social media editor for the Capital Times, as well as its film critic. He joined the Cap Times in 1999 and has written about movies, music, food and books.