Two Christie novels fare less than well in new TV series

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Compared with the Poirot and Marple mysteries, Agatha Christie's "Tommy and

Tuppence" novels are decidedly third place. The idea of a young couple wanting

to solve crimes in the style of other fictional detectives was a cute one and

the plots and the approach were lighthearted.

In 1982-1983, British television came out with "Partners in Crime," in which

the Beresfords, Tommy (James Warwick) and Tuppence (Francesca Annis), sleuthed

around through 11 tales, one of which was "The Secret Adversary." Warwick was

rather dull, Annis a bit over the top; but they were enjoyable on a somewhat

shallow level.

For some reason, it was decided to redo "The Secret Adversary" and give "N or

M?" a try, with yet a new team: Jessica Raine (Tuppence) and David Williams

(Tommy). Each story is given 3 parts of 55 minutes each—and I read that the

British viewers' reaction was less than favorable.

For one thing, Christie's spy novels are never quite as good as her murder

mysteries. Secondly, Tommy and Tuppence are forever making the wrong moves, and

in the real world they would have wound up dead in the first few hours.

Alas, Warwick's Tommy was dull, but he looks like Olivier when compared with

Williams. As some actor once said about another of the profession, he "runs the

gamut of emotions from A to B." Nor is he handsome enough and certainly not

young-looking enough for the part. Raine is a better actor but again not

young-looking enough. So you can see that a much better set of leads might have

helped the clunky plots. And each story having165 minutes running time merely

emphasizes the awkwardness of the plots.

With an eye to a second series (which has been blurred by the poor reception of

this first series), the writers established two permanent secondary characters.

James Fleet plays Carter of the Secret Service, while Matthew Steer is the

scientist Albert. Neither is encouraged by the director to bring any life into

the proceedings.

At least the older series had the advantage of the colorful costumes of the

1920s. Here, the far drabber costumes of the 1950s are of no help. So while I

usually carp about television's taking a good series and remaking it into a bad

one, here we have a not all that good a series being made into a poor one. If

there is a lesson to be learned, why hasn't it?

There is some interesting bonus material and the subtitles are much

appreciated.

Frank Behrens reports on classical and Broadway music as well as recordings of books and plays for the Arts and Entertainment section. Visit franklinbehrens.com for past reviews.


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