Square Eye

Detective Inspector Jack Robinson (Nathan Page) and Miss Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) in Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, season two (starting sept 2013 on ABC TV).

Intrigue: Essie Davis and Nathan Page in Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. Photo: Ben King

All the clues are there that they are slowly falling for each other. But while the guarded Detective Inspector John ''Jack'' Robinson, played by Nathan Page, was not enthusiastic about working alongside Miss Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis), he soon becomes a lot closer to her than either of them first imagined.

It's the kind of romantic subplot that will draw Australian viewers back into the second series of the luscious ABC1 drama Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, not to mention audiences in the multitude of countries overseas where the show has now been sold, including France and Britain.

And Page, who is playing Miss Fisher's love interest, is enjoying the intrigue.

Description: Constable Hugh Collins (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) Miss Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) Detective Inspector Jack Robinson (Nathan Page) in 'Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries',  Series 2, Episode 3.

A-team: Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Essie Davis and Nathan Page in Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. Photo: Ben King

''In the first series it was always hard to know where it was going to go,'' Page says. ''But in the second series there are more obstacles put in front of them, particularly the two of them … There's an ex-wife [of his] who comes into play, so there are difficult situations at work for him.''

Page, 40, used to be a champion cyclist who trained with the Australian Institute of Sport as a teenager before moving into acting in his 20s. He says taking on a pivotal role in the show was a great challenge, particularly in making his character not instantly charming.

''From the outset I wanted to make him a little bit darker, a little bit less willing to be likeable,'' Page says. ''And it's a bit of a risk because I'm not sure we're used to that in Australian television. I think we just like to lay all our cards on the table [with characters]. They don't hold too much back, usually. But I wanted him to be a slow burner.''

Page says Davis is ''fantastic'' to work with and they had an instant natural chemistry that helps their characters on screen. ''You don't always have chemistry with the two romantic leads, so you have to improvise a bit, but we do and we get on really well.''

Page describes Davis as ''playful'' on set. ''That makes her a dangerous partner in crime, really,'' he says, with a laugh. ''There's a lot of work to be done and it's got to be done at a bit of a pace and there's not enough hours in the day, and when you end up playing too much and laughing too much, you know, we get into trouble.''

The building sexual tension between Fisher and Page is a key part of the second series, but Page says it's also the aesthetics of the program that will capture viewers' attention. ''It's just so beautifully shot. And the meat and bones of it are the murder mysteries and they're great. You know I used to love Agatha Christie books as a kid.''

The Australian series is based on the books by Kerry Greenwood. ''It's a rich little world of characters,'' Page says.

The second series of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries begins on Friday at 8.30pm on ABC1.

 

Reality bites

If you didn't notice the footage of their product warehouses, their supermarket shelves, their company-branded semi-trailers - let alone one of their corporate executives on the final judging panel - then Woolworths would be mightily disappointed.

For as the ''official partner'' of Ten's new show Recipe to Riches, the supermarket giant has taken cross-promotional television to a whole new level in Australia.

Just when we'd become accustomed to foods and cooking products being blatantly plugged by major shows such as My Kitchen Rules and MasterChef, along comes this show putting a major supermarket front and centre of the narrative. It reveals the creation, marketing and testing of products from an initial idea to their place on the shelves.

It is an interesting behind-the-scenes concept, yes. Is it also a chance to flog the supermarket's brand repeatedly? Yes, yes, yes.

In its favour, the Ten show has a strong and likeable cast of judges, centred on charismatic entrepreneur Carolyn Creswell (who sells her products through a certain supermarket chain starting with W), advertising expert David Nobay (a good discovery for television with his warm wit) and chef Darren Robertson.

Based on a successful Canadian format, the premise of Recipe to Riches is simple: people pitch a recipe idea in the hope of scoring a store contract (and $100,000 prizemoney) as the overall winner. Each week, a finalist's product goes on sale in the supermarket, the morning after the show airs. Some may say it is no different to watching a talent show such as The Voice and downloading a track from iTunes straight after the show.

Whether or not viewers are tired of such blatant cross-promotions is a completely different story.

Recipe to Riches airs on Tuesday at 7.30pm on Ten.

 

Is three a crowd?

Nuala Hafner's news will be beamed from Federation Square in Melbourne, while hosts Natarsha Belling, James Mathison and Natasha Exelby will be sitting in their purpose-built studio in Manly.

It's all coming together well for Wake Up, the new breakfast show being created by Adam Boland for Ten, but the only question being asked within the television industry is whether there is one too many in the hosting crew.

Belling and Mathison are perfect choices for the show: the former a highly talented journalist and news reader with a warm wit; the latter an experienced television host with a dry, insightful sense of humour. But would they have been absolutely perfect as the key duo on the show, without the lesser-known Exelby alongside them?

Only time will tell whether three's a crowd on the program. (Not to mention having a Natarsha and a Natasha).

But for Belling, who has been on annual leave since the announcement of the role, and Mathison, who is eager to get started on the show, it appears to be perfect timing for them to become the younger, fresher and funnier faces of breakfast television.