Did you enjoy Sherlock but got frustrated when Holmes and Watson stopped, you know, solving crimes? Well, sat right there on Netflix is an Australian children’s show that will fill that mystery-solving hole in your heart with warmth, humour, and genuine head-scratchers.
The InBESTigators follows the small adventures of a group of 11-year-olds as they investigate low stakes crime in their neighbourhood. Crimes such as who ruined Mrs Maniaci’s roses, why all online shopping parcels have gone missing, and why everyone is getting a series of silent calls at a specific time? These child sleuths unpick any case in 15 minutes: beat that you Baker Street slowpokes!
Doing the solving is a cast of mixed skills. Leading the way is Maudie, a somewhat blunt but precocious thinker who spots clues that others miss. She is helped by tech loving Ezra who films their cases in a mockumentary style framing device that leads us through what happened. What Kyle lacks in smarts he makes up for in pure energy (indeed, him losing a 100 metre race becomes a case in itself), and when Maudie’s deadpan nature doesn’t work there is social butterfly Ava there to bring the personal touch.
The InBESTigators pitches its level perfectly. It doesn’t have adult scriptwriters put dialogue in the mouths of its young cast that wouldn’t ring true. All of their low stakes cases are played out through the lens of a child’s concerns or thought processes. An adult may not be able to unpick the mystery of a missing solar system diorama, but these kids can see the behavioural hints of their contemporaries more clearly than any deerstalker hat-wearing adult could do.
There is a good vein of comedy running throughout the show. Whilst not as bizarre or sharp as something like Odd Squad, InBESTigators relies on having great characterisation so that the dialogue comes from an honest and funny place.
Combined with this is a non-patronising look at the sorts of things that worry children. When Kyle throws a flag in temper at losing a race his emotions are processed with the kind of reality that goes beyond the usual saccharine kids TV fare. That this is wrapped up in a puzzle of a case makes it all the more entertaining.
Maudie, as the ostensive lead of the show, is a great miniature Sherlock. Played with depth by Anna Cooke, the character ticks the usual aloof detective boxes but has moments of emotive subtlety that elevate the show and allow an avenue to open dialogue with parents and children watching the show. When Maudie is despondent at having lost her notebook at first this seems like a surface level irritation. Yet when we learn that Maudie’s mother died when she was young and her desperation to find the notebook is because it contains a picture one of the few memories she has of her the subject is dealt with gracefully.
If endless Spongebob Squarepants is starting to drive you round the bend, then The InBESTigators is great entertainment for all the family to watch.
Words by Mike Record