Just a couple of gray nomads on the go, solving mysteries…. he meets Darby, a retired police detective played by Bryan Brown and Joan, a British nurse played by Greta Scacchi.
Together they are Darby and Joan in Acorn TV’s lilting new drama series magnetically filmed along the Queensland coast. Two good actors in a seductive setting: what more could you want?
It’s a car crash on an isolated road that brings two opposites together. Joan is driving a campervan through Queensland when a reckless jeep driven by Darby (accompanied by trusty dog Diesel) swerves and overturns, forcing her to haul him to a nearby rescue centre.
Joan is already on her mission, to find out what happened to her late husband Ian (John Waters), whose last days are a bit of a mystery.
When the couple stumble upon an old hippy outpost populated by better actors Kerry Armstrong, Peter O’Brien, Robert Coleby, Kaarin Fairfax, Joan searches for answers, some noise and a mouthful of the good stuff. Darby, being more conservative, is less enthusiastic but forced to entertain his new friend’s ideas.
But pleasantries turn to suspicion when one of the crew members is found dead on the beach – suddenly the series shifts to Agatha Christie turf (it’s Acorn TV, after all). Perhaps a better parallel is Death in Heavenafter all the rolling waves and lush waterfalls are captivating, especially in the rich colors captured by cinematographer John Stokes.
Without giving too much away, the crime from episode one will be succinctly solved at the end of the episode, leaving episode two to introduce more guests and a new encounter.
Guest stars featured in the series include Steve Bisley, Caroline Gillmer, Anna McGahan, Sophie Cox, Rarriwuy Hick, Caroline O’Connor and Charlie Clausen. Special mention to the voices of “Sat Nav” Casey Donovan and Rachel Ward.
But it’s really our two veteran leads we’re here to see, both of whom appeared not too long ago Palm Beach. The chemistry is evident from their first car crash and shines throughout. Brown’s trademark skill is welcome here, while Chess just doesn’t cut the character out of him.
Screenwriters Phillip Gwynne and Glenys Rowe know their audience well: those looking for a drama that is light-hearted, intelligent, escapist and embraces all its wrinkles. Ian’s latter-day mystery serves as a story arc amid the foreground action, but I suspect our heroes may find each other before the answers they seek.
Director David Caesar puts the viewer in the background in this whimsical road trip, which sings thanks to the talents of Brown & Scacchi.
Darby & Joan double Mondays on Acorn TV from 8 August.