Shaun Micallef and Kat Stewart in new show Mr&Mrs Murder
South Yarra.

Shaun Micallef and Kat Stewart. Photo: Rodger Cummins

BY ANY measure, it's been a difficult year for the Ten Network, so the embattled broadcaster has begun looking to 2013 by commissioning a new 13-part Melbourne-made crime series.

This year's only genuine ratings blockbusters - The Voice and My Kitchen Rules - have bolstered the fortunes of Nine and Seven, respectively. Ten has so far failed to make a sustained mark in a ratings sense.

And the network's recent announcement of a slate of new reality shows, such as Being Lara Bingle, was met largely with derision.

This weekend, however, Ten begins looking forward. First, tomorrow night sees the premiere of a new season of its high-rating profit centre MasterChef. The prosperity of My Kitchen Rules and the perceived declining appeal of the MasterChef brand places extreme pressure on the cooking show. Ten executives will endure a sleepless night on Sunday waiting for its overnight ratings figures. Nine has helpfully moved its juggernaut The Voice away from Sunday evenings for a time. The two will instead clash on Monday.

Adding to the drama, this year's MasterChef is the first to be produced by News Corp's production company Shine. The last big reality project for Ten was the expensive ratings flop The Renovators.

Meanwhile, today Ten announces a new Australian scripted drama, starring two notable stars: Shaun Micallef and Offspring's Kat Stewart. Mr & Mrs Murder will begin filming in Melbourne in September and air on Ten next year. It is one of four new television projects given financial backing by Screen Australia in the body's latest funding announcement. Another, House Husbands, will film in Melbourne and air on Nine.

Micallef, who is at present working on a coming ABC news comedy show Shaun Micallef's Mad As Hell, said yesterday Murder will be his first attempt at playing a lead in a drama series.

The concept for the series - a married couple who are forensic cleaners decide to solve the crimes that they are cleaning up - came from Micallef and producer Jason Stephens.