Sunday, August 5, 2012

Up and Coming British Mystery

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The year of 2013 isgoing to be a great one for British mystery buffs. Like, say, yours truly.

First on the list is my personal favorite: Hercule Poirot. For the last twenty-some years, he’s been portrayed (quite excellently, I might add) by David Suchet.

David Suchet as Hercule Poirot

I remember watching Poirot episodes when I was a small child, and I’m still watching and loving the series. But in the next year or so the eccentric little Belgian’s TV career will draw to a close, which is causing me some serious nostalgia. Later this year, shooting will begin on the last five episodes of the Poirot canon. With the exception of one short story (“The Lemesurier Inheritence”), Suchet will have filmed every Poirot tale that Agatha Christie ever wrote, which is a huge accomplishment. I just realized a few weeks ago that I’ve now watched every single one so far - all sixty-five of them.

The show itself is great - the costumes, settings and acting are usually stellar. It's just icing on the cake to know that David Suchet is, in fact, a Christian - a rare thing in actors, much less British ones. The post-2004 episodes have become much heavier than the light fare of the 90's, but it's not such a bad thing. It took a bit of getting used to and I won't deny that I miss the regular cast of the good old days (Hastings, Miss Lemon, and Inspector Japp), but the darker themes (such as religion and capital punishment) place Poirot in totally new situations and reveal a lot about his character in a more mature setting. The only downside is that the directors have started putting more and more homosexual characters in the shows, which annoys me somewhat on a Christian level. However, Poirot never condones that, so I'm satisfied that they've stayed true to the character's Catholic origins.

I'm very excited to see the end of such a long and distinguished run. Also, I'm really curious as to how they'll portray the extremely dark and emotional episode Curtain.

Next, we have season seven (or eight, if you're British) of Foyle's War. Though I haven't been a fan of Foyle's War for anywhere near as long as Poirot, during the last six months I fell completely in love with the show. Me and my parents watched all six (American) seasons, in one go.

Foyle's stoic morality, humility and devotion to the Law made him an immediate hit with me. I'd never seen Michael Kitchen in anything as a main character, but after only a few episodes, he'd taken a place in my Favorite British Actors List. It wasn't so much great displays of emotion, but Kitchen's incredible subtlety and meaningful gestures that are so amazing. This guy can say more with the twitch of an eyebrow than most actors can say with an hour-long speech. He's that good.

Michael Kitchen as D.C.S. Christopher Foyle

The LA Times says it best: "Though he is small and quiet for a TV cop, he possesses a fearsome decency, not to be swayed by rank or authority, that borders on the superheroic. He's clear-sighted and dogged, courteous where it's merited and cutting where it's not, and it is pure joy to watch him go."

Press releases hint at tales packed with high-level espionage, Communists, and corruption - I'm looking forward to seeing good old Foyle raising his eyebrows at even bigger game.

Lastly, we have the hotly anticipated season three of Sherlock. Latest news was that shooting would begin in January, so perhaps we can expect a release late in 2013. This show can't fairly be compared to any other - it has it's own charms and faults.

Martin Freeman as John Watson; Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes
The level of production is extremely high, with amazing locations, costumes, music, editing, cinematography and writing. Full of lovely British wit, there's rarely a dull moment. Whoever did the casting should be given a medal - Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Andrew Scott, Rupert Graves, Mark Gatiss, and Una Stubbs - the primary cast - are perfect for their roles. Though it isn't a mystery show per se, there's usually a great deal of suspense and a few murders thrown in. Like in the original stories, they aren't really whodunnits like Agatha Christie, being more focused on Sherlock's methods and dramatic inductive jumps between A and B, which are always fun, if a little unrealistic. The pacing is terrific, like I said, rarely a dull moment.

Why did I say "charms and faults"? I do have some quibbles. There is some soap-opera-drama going on, with a few overly TV-movie scenes between Sherlock and John (which, though I'm slightly embarrassed to admit it, I don't mind). However, it's certainly not as bad as many dramas (see Downton Abbey 2) and there's no tension of the who's-sleeping-with-who variety (or even whether the Earth goes round the sun - fan's inside joke), excepting Scandal in Belgravia.

And that's my second dislike - while that episode has many good scenes (and some of Mycroft's best moments), the bits with Irene (Lara Pulver) made me very uncomfortable. In several, she appears completely naked, and though she's conveniently obscured by camera-angles and furniture, I really can't see how it advances the plot. All the same, with or without that episode, the series is a pleasure to watch - I eagerly await the third season, and hope that the third Hobbit movie won't interfere with it's schedule.

EDIT: Father Brown will also make a 2013 appearance. This will be a great year of mysteries.
EDITED EDIT: I've since become a fan of Morse, so the fact that there will be more Endeavour has me over the moon. Also, more Inspector Lewis, though I have yet to watch many of those.

Toodle pip,
Neo-Mayberry, Middle of Nowhere, America


  1. Did you know that David Suchet (and other members of his family) were in the radio Narnia series? David played Aslan. :)

    1. I did know that! Or rather, I knew he was involved, and that he also narrated the audiobook for Shadowlands, but I didn't know his family was involved. He seems like a really charming guy, even in real life...I love him as Poirot and Reacher Gilt (in a TV mini-series called Going Postal).

    2. Yeah, his nephew Richard Suchet played the voice of Caspian X and his daughter, Katherine Suchet played the voice of Susan.


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