Murder in Suburbia comes to us courtesy of our neighbors across the pond, via BBC America. Before we get into the details, let me just share my bias for all things British: my father is British, I had a strange fixation on Duran Duran as a child that has never quite disappeared (hence the "I Love Simon LeBon" t-shirt I wear with alarming regularity), and I grew up watching countless BBC shows as a child, including Upstairs, Downstairs and All Creatures Great and Small. Then there are the recent movies that have been oh-so-good: the touching, funny, girl-power driven Bend it Like Beckham, the absolutely wonderful ensemble dramedy Love Actually, and what quickly became one of my favorite movies of all time, About a Boy, which starred Hugh Grant as a self-absorbed bachelor who ended up being an unlikely big brother to a geeky pre-teen. So in other words, I love British entertainment (with the very obvious exception of the wacked-out Teletubbies and the equally freaky Boohbah).
Murder in Suburbia follows the adventures of an unlikely pair of female detectives, Ash and Scribbs, who solve homicides that occur in nice neighborhood of Middleford. The running theme appears to be that just because people have money, they are not immune to the darker motives of the human heart, including murder and deception. Think of Ash as Posh Spice; she is a well-dressed brunette with a formal education, in contrast to her Sexy Spice, blond partner, Scribbs, who is a funky dresser and speaks her mind with great regularity.
There are six episodes on two discs included in this collection:
Episode 1: In the pilot episode, Ash and Scribbs investigate the stabbing of a beautiful young woman in her home and discover a link between the murder and a singles club called Applejacks, where potential suspects, male and female, abound.
Episode 2: Ash and Scribbs are plunged into a mystery that surrounds a charity called Jungle Alert, a charity organization that purportedly benefits endangered African animals. The pair soon find out that behind all the charitable intentions was some wild sex among the members, including swinging.
Episode 3: Ash and Scribbs investigate a bachelor party gone wrong at a golf club. After a wild night of partying, a man is found dead, however the investigation is hampered by club members' unwillingness to cooperate.
Episode 4: The partners are drawn into the world of millionaires after the burned body of a man is found in a Mercedes. Infidelity and passion mark a baffling case.
Episode 5: This episode centers around a high-class school where the school secretary is run over by a car. As usual, Ash and Scribbes must sift through many suspects as they interview overzealous parents who will do anything to ensure their children gain entrance to the coveted academy.
Episode 6: A man who was none-too-liked by his neighbors due to his constant remodeling is bludgeoned, appropriately enough, with a hammer. Due to the fact that the man was so disliked, Ash and Scribbs have their hands full with potential suspects, including angry neighbors and the man's wife.
Murder in Suburbia is an absolutely brilliant show. Well-acted, especially by the two leads, funny (check out the pilot episode where the detectives tart themselves up to interview suspects at a cheesy singles' club), and with original plots, it is a major breath of fresh air for those of you tired of the Law & Order and CSI franchises and all the copycat series that have been developed as a result. Ash and Scribbs have terrific chemistry: at times they are exasperated by one another, but there is a deep respect for each other's differences, and it is each detective's original approaches that often lead to the successful resolution to the cases with which they are confronted.
There are only a few drawbacks to this collection, the first of which is the fact that it is billed as "the complete first series." I don't know about you, but I think about a season of a show as being somewhere around 20-25 episodes. The fact that there are only six episodes included might be a surprise to potential buyers of this DVD set. It is common in British television, however, to have much shorter seasons, so just keep in mind that vast difference between British and American television. I have also heard that at times people shy away from British products because they find the accents and unfamiliar slang too distracting. This is a ridiculous reason to miss out on such a great show. The dialogue is very clear, and there is very little slang used (unlike in About a Boy, which included a very charming slang translator as an extra feature). Don't let the accents get in the way of your enjoyment of this show. Plus, British accents are always so much fun, anyway! It all adds to the charm. (I hear they say the same about us!).
Murder in Suburbia is presented in a 16:9 widescreen, and it is a pleasantly surprising improvement over what one might expect when viewing it on television. I've watched this show on BBC America, so the DVD transfer is a remarkable improvement. The colors are bright, the lines are crisp, and the overall experience is a great one.
This season is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, which is adequate, but not remarkable in terms of quality. It was nice not to have to constantly adjust the volume during scenes where music was playing, as is the case with some discs.
Don't look for any extras here, except for boring "cast filmographies." It would have been nice to see a featurette with the creators of the show discussing its premise, locations, etc. Perhaps this would be a good addition for future seasons!
If you're new to the thrill of British television, Murder in Suburbia is a great introduction. For those of you who enjoy it already, this series is a must-own. The plots are absorbing, the acting is terrific, and overall, it is a sound addition to your TV-on-DVD collection.