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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Mrs. Sidhu Investigates’ On Acorn TV, About A Caterer With A Knack For Solving Murders

You may think the mystery trope of the civilian — often a woman “of a certain age” — inserting themselves into a murder investigation, annoying the police and the people s/he talks to , but eventually solving the whole thing started with Murder, She Wrote. But it goes back to at least the days of Agatha Christie’s character Miss Marple. And it’s always an enjoyable trope simply because of the fact that the civilian has to work to impress the people annoyed with him/her that they know what their doing. A new series on Acorn TV takes this formula and gives it a bit of a South Asian twist.

Opening Shot: A shot of the city of Slough. “Slough. Royal County Of Berkshire. England.”

The Gist: In an estate in the countryside on the outskirts of the city, a high-end gym and spa is doing a livestream of a workout session, with lights and thumping music. Dan King (Mark Ebulué), one of the instructors, walks out during the livestream and sneaks into a massage room. That’s where he’s stabbed in the chest with a very sharp pair of scissors. The night custodian, Oscar Hernandez (Coco Prada), stumbles upon the attack and is also killed.

One of the people watching the livestream is Mrs. Sidhu (Meera Syal), who started Mrs. Sidu’s High Class Catering shortly after the death of her husband. She’s preparing samples to bring to the gym the next day to kick off a catering contract with them. Also hanging around is her adult son Tez (Gurjeet Singh), who recently lost his job and has been struggling to find work or any kind of direction in life.

When Mrs. Sidhu arrives at the gym, she sees Rani Toor (Varada Sethu); she’s Rani’s “auntie” not just because she’s older than Rani, but she was also best friends with Rani’s mother. She’s a massage therapist there, and as she’s trying to find her key card, Mrs. Sidhu notices some things awry around the janitor’s closet. Rani and one of the top instructors enter the massage room to see the bodies of Dan and Oscar.

DCI Burton (Craig Parkinson), fresh off a divorce and a reinstatement after bungling a high-profile case, arrives on the scene with his partner, DS Mint (Naana Agyei Ampadu). The first blushes of evidence all point to Rani. Mrs. Sidhu knows that Rani didn’t do it, so she takes her observations directly to Burton, who of course just wants her to butt out. But as the case goes on, and Mrs. Sidhu continues to insert herself into conversations and places where Burton and possible suspects are working, the information he gives her turns out to be helpful.

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Mrs. Sidhu Investigates gave off such full-on Murder, She Wrote vibes that we actually got nostalgic for the Sunday nights we spent watching Angela Lansbury solve crimes.

Our Take: Created by Suk Pannu and based on a BBC Radio series that also starred Syal, Mrs. Sidhu Investigates doesn’t apologize for how much it harks back to a bygone era of TV mysteries. There’s the usual trope of the various people involved in the case looking at Mrs. Sidhu quizzically and asking her why she’s even there. But Burton uttered a line that made us laugh out loud: “Mint, you ever see any TV shows made in the ’70s?,” he says to his partner. “Apparently, it was the golden age of the quirky cop. They had the cowboy detective, the fat detective… Now meet lady caterer detective.”

The show doesn’t take itself at all seriously, and that’s a great thing. Syal is fantastic as Sidhu, and her chemistry with Parkinson as the continuously exasperated Burton is going to make for a good team as the first seasons four 90-minute episodes play out. What’s layered into the whole Miss Marple/Jessica Fletcher vibe, though, is the idea that Mrs. Sidhu wasn’t going to just go into seclusion and mourn her husband, and that she’s also a bit of an atypical Indian “auntie”.

South Asian culture definitely plays a part in the series, given how she has a “cupboard of death”, as Tez calls it, where Mrs. Sidhu talks to her late father, a former cop, as well as her mother and husband. There is also going to be a layer of Tez and his mother re-bonding over him figuring out that he likes to cook.

The plot of the mystery itself is a touch confusing, with a few too many characters to keep track of, and the resolution wasn’t a big surprise, especially given some of the closeups and other visual clues that are also part and parcel of the traditional mystery series. And there are moments in the episode that would have been better utilized developing some of the regulars” characters a bit more instead of showing interactions between suspects. But a lot of that will vary from episode to episode; as long as Syal and Parkinson continue to be a fun-to-watch investigative pair, that will be much more the reason to watch than the mysteries themselves.

Sex and Skin: There’s a bit about a video being used as blackmail, but you just hear it instead of see it.

Parting Shot: After Tez comes in spewing complaints and demands, Mrs. Sidhu says to the “cupboard of death” that it’s good to have a man about the house again; she then blows out the candle, wishes her loved ones good night and closes the door.

Sleeper Star: Naana Agyei Ampadu’s character, DS Mint, is basically there to keep Burton honest and likely call him on the fact that he leans on Mrs. Sidhu so much. But she’s the one who also managed to find out who Mrs. Sidhu’s father really was, so she has an interest in the “hot pot lady” who helps Burton solve these crimes.

Most Pilot-y Line: Burton examines the crime scene and says that Dan King “came in for a massage and got an unexpected haircut.” Oof.

Our Call: STREAM IT. We really enjoyed Mrs. Sidhu Investigates because of its self-aware writing, Meera Syal’s funny and fearless performance, and the fact that it’s a throwback and proud of the fact.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon,,, Fast Company and elsewhere.

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