Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


-- television -- ask evans for the secret of easy murder

I'm beginning to wonder if, by some alchemy or disaster, the estate of Agatha Christie is in desperate need of money. What they've permitted to be done to the books and stories for Agatha Christie's Marple, the latest series made first with Geraldine McEwan and now with Julia McKenzie in the title role, is really baffling. And make no mistake: the series that ITV has been leisurely producing since 2004 is, in fact, authorized by the Christie estate.

It's one thing to put Miss Marple in stories where she doesn't properly belong, and to a certain extent, you can even understand that. There are, after all, only so many novels, and the short stories are unfilmable. All of the Miss Marple shorts involve her club of relatives and friends, sitting around and discussing old cases and problems that she, of course, solves just from hearing all the details. But you can't reasonably film that. (That said, they've actually filmed "The Blue Geranium". I would imagine that this goes from being a story told by Sir Henry Clithering to Miss Marple to being a story investigated by Miss Marple with Sir Henry drifting along in the background.)

The thing is ... the current producers change the motives and the murderers, even in stories in which she actually appears. (There is no lesbianism in the novel The Body in the Library, no matter what the series would have you think.) And in several other stories, they've combined and reworked characters, and changed motives and murderers wholesale. (The Secret of Chimneys and Murder is Easy are unrecognizeable .... although at least Murder is Easy keeps the same murderer, although the motives are drastically changed. (Dame Agatha would not, I believe, have ever dreamed of giving the murderer the particular motive that shows up in the episode. She would have been genuinely shocked at the very idea.) The baffling thing is that there are other stories given a straight-ahead narrative filming more or less exactly as they were written. The Mirror Crack'd and A Pocketful of Rye are recognizable adaptations of their source material. (And perfectly cast, besides.)

It is a puzzlement.

Posted by iain at 09:25 PM in category television