Created by Claire Tonkin
New Zealand’s Lucy (Xena, Warrior Princess) Lawless returned to television as a ALEXA CROWE, a ‘fearless and unapologetic” (ie: cranky) private investigator in the 2019 Australian series My Life is Murder.
For those nostalgic for the Lucy of the cheesy sword-and-sorcery sagas featuring a lot of jumping around fighting monsters, you’ll probably be disappointed–this is a detective show, and it plays it pretty straight all down the line: no gloom drenched, neo-noir existentialist brooding, no slo-mo close-ups of body parts, no bang bang bang bang two-fisted action or rape-of-the-week shenanigans so prevalent in what currently passes for crime fare on TV. And the fur and leather bikinis have been replaced by a collection of age-appropriate coats.
What it is, mostly, is a lightweight, character-driven crime drama, closer to something like Simon and Simon or Murder She Wrote from the eighties, centering on an affably confident former Melbourne homicide dick who took early retirement after her husband died, and now spends her time baking bread, a passion that produces enough loaves to sell to a local cafe. She seems happy, especially when people leave her alone.
But her former pal on the police force, Detective Inspector Kieran Hussey, who considers her “one of the best investigators” he’s ever known, isn’t buying it. He’s constantly on her case, asking her to “consult” for the police on some particularly puzzling case or another, hoping he can lure her back onto the force if he tosses enough intriguing cases her way. He even offers her an expense account and an assistant of sorts, young Madison Feliciano, an outgoing and excitable data analyst and computer whiz; a millennial who proves to be alternately useful and annoying to Alexa.
From what I’ve seen, Alexa’s not necessarily keen on returning to the job, although she does seem to be rather easily drawn into investigating each episode’s case, offered by Kieran under the guise of “meeting for coffee.” Mind you, so far we’re not exactly talking anything particularly weird or particularly engaging. Most of the murder cases seem pretty standard, even generic, TV fare, easily solved within an hour (minus commercials), through connect-the-dots detective work, and a combination of luck and pluck, and Alexa’s biggest personal drama seems to be getting her industrial grade mixer from Germany to work.
I could do without the obligatory minor snafu that always throws Alexa into potentially fatal peril and therefore in need of rescue in each episode, but that’s par for the course. And I assume we’ll be eventually filled in on Alexa’s backstory, but I can wait — it’s not that kind of show.
As played by Lawless, Alexa has a nice, easy-going persona here – – she knows she’s good at her job, whether it’s baking bread or busting bad guys, and doesn’t mind pointing it out. She can be blunt, and at times curt with people who irritate her, but overall, she’s a nice combo of pragmatism, empathy and wry humour. She dresses well and appropriately for her age, but isn’t afraid of getting messy (her kitchen is a disaster, generally, and at home she’s often dusted with flour). Best of all, and perhaps most refreshing of all, is that she seems to genuinely enjoy her life — she’s even a bit saucy, and not above a little wink-wink flirting now and then.
Hell, I find her slightly lived-in, middle-aged persona far more attractive now than I never did when she was in her big-sword-and-bikini heyday.
In fact, Lawless admits she was aiming for something a little more subdued. In a 2019 LA Times interview, she said:
“I actually pitched to somebody at CBS,and said ‘Let’s do the new Murder, She Wrote,’ and they were like ‘No, no.’ And I thought, well … I’m a little redhead and I’ll figure out a way to do it. [In a determined voice:] ‘I’ll do it myself’….
(But) it’s not Murder, She Wrote — I don’t mean to ride the coattails of that. But I was attracted to something a little more … friendly? Friendly and satisfying. Where the characters are not hiding some hideous secret. They’re flawed, because we all are. But I want to be part of something good, and something kind. And I’m very attracted to the idea of justice at the moment, because the world seems pretty — there’s a lot of injustice. You don’t have to look far.”
And she’s more or less succeeded. While I wouldn’t call this must-see-TV, it’s more than passable; private eye comfort food, if you will.
The show aired, starting in July 2019, on Acorn in the United States and in its native Australia. It proved popular enough that a second series was released in 2021, although many fans were a little surprised to discover Alexa had relocated to New Zealand, although not much seems to have changed. She soon finds a local police detective who occasionally enlists her aid, and a local cafe where she call pedal her bread. Even Madison has tagged along, despite Alexa’s best efforts to discourage her.
My guess? The relocation was a pandemin-era production decision, but it doesn’t really matter—if you liked series one, you’ll like series two. And a third season has already been announce.
- “Xena star Lucy Lawless is more Angela Lansbury than ‘warrior princess’ in My Life Is Murder”
— Robert Lloyd, LA Times (August 2019)
- One of the things I enjoy is the playful, almost Will Eisner-like approach to the opening credits. The show’s title, My Life is Murder, is always featured as part of the Melbourne landscape — on a bus, the side of a building, a billboard, etc. Has someone Down Under been reading old issues of The Spirit?
- MY LIFE IS MURDER
Created by Claire Tonkin
Writers: Claire Tonkin, Matt Ford, Peter Gawler, Tim Pye, Ainslie Clouston, Chris Hawkshaw, Paul Bennett, Chris Corbett, Monica Zanetti
Directors: Leah Purcell, Mat King, Jo O’Shaughnessy, Ben C. Lucas
Executive producer: Lucy Lawless
Starring Lucy Lawless as ALEXA CROWE
With Bernard Curry as Detective Inspector Kieran Hussey
and Ebony Vagulans as Madison Feliciano
Guest stars: Danielle Cormack, William Shatner, Don Hany, Lisa Hensley, Magda Szubanski, Nadine Garner, Lindsay Farris Dilruk Jayasinha, Anna Hutchison, Graham Vincent, Jay Ryan, Bruce Hopkins, William Shatner, Martin Henderson, Michelle Ang, Sara Wiseman, Bill Bailey, Matt Whelan, Kita Mean, Amanduh La Hor
- SEASON ONE | Buy the DVD | Buy the Blu-Ray | Watch it now!
- “The Boyfriend Experience” (July 17, 2019)
- “The Locked Room” (July 24, 2019)
- “Lividity in Lycra” (July 31, 2019)
- “Can’t Stand the Heat” (August 7, 2019)
- “Feet of Clay” (August 14, 2019)
- “Another Bloody Podcast” (August 21, 2019)
- “Old School” (August 28, 2019)
- “Remains to Be Seen” (September 4, 2018)
- “Fake Empire” (September 11, 2018)
- “Mirror Mirror” (September 18, 2018)
- SEASON TWO | Buy the DVD | Buy the Blu-Ray | Watch it now!
- “Call of the Wild” (August 9, 2021)
- “Oceans Apart” (August 16, 2021)
- “All That Glitters” (August 23, 2021)
- “Look Don’t Touch” (August 30, 2021)
- “Crushed Dreams” (September 6, 2021)
- “Sleep No More” (September 20, 2021)
- “All the Better to See You” (September 27, 2021)
- “Hidden Gems” (October 4, 2021)
- “Wild Life” (October 11, 2021)
- “Pleasure and Pain” (October 18, 2021)
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.