David Suchet’s Poirot – the Last Four Cases Trailer

And now, the end is near… ITV has released this trailer lifting the curtain on its final four films featuring Agatha Christie’s Poirot. David Suchet has worn the moustachioed Belgian sleuth’s polished spats since 1988. His first film, The Adventure of the Clapham Cook, was broadcast on January 8, 1989. But on Wednesday (23 October, ITV, 8pm), The Big Four is airing – the first of the final four mysteries for the sleuth (to be followed by Dead Man’s Folly, The Labours of Hercules and Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case). It’s been a huge undertaking for Suchet and ITV and given pleasure to millions. CrimeTimePreview raises its Homburg to them.

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Poirot – Elephants Can Remember, ITV, with David Suchet, Greta Scacchi PREVIEW

ZOE WANAMAKER as Mrs oliver, DAVID SUCHET as Hercule Poirot and GRETA SCACCHI as Mrs Burton-Cox.  Poirot: Elephants Can Remember Copyright ITV.
Zoë Wanamaker, David Suchet and Greta Scacchi. Pics ITV

Rating: ★★★½

ITV: Sunday, 9 June, 8pm

Story: While Poirot is pre-occupied with investigating the strange and gruesome murder of an elderly psychiatrist, his old friend, the crime writer Ariadne Oliver, has a case of her own to solve.

MES AMIS, it is almost time for a last au revoir. Having first played Hercule Poirot 1988, David Suchet is stepping into the spats for the last few times as ITV starts showing the final five remaining Agatha Christie adaptations of the Belgian sleuth’s mysteries.

Elephants Can Remember is a suitably lavish and star-studded production, featuring the return of Zoë Wanamaker as Poirot’s old chum Mrs Ariadne Oliver, along with Greta Scacchi – rather shockingly the former screen siren turns up as an old battleaxe – Iain Glen, Vincent Regan and Vanessa Kirby.

Who shot who?

It’s a tale of two investigations. Ariadne is cornered at a crime writers’ convention by a domineering old

VINCENT REGAN as Chief Sup. Beale, ANNABEL MULLION as Lady Ravenscroft and FERDINAND KINGSLEY as Desmond.  Poirot: Elephants Can Remember Copyright ITV
Vincent Regan, Annabel Mullion and Ferdinand Kingsley

boot, Mrs Burton-Cox (Greta Scacchi), who insists she look into two 10-year-old unsolved murders. Did General Ravenscroft shoot his wife, Margaret, Ariadne’s old school chum, or did Margaret shoot the general?

Ariadne requests Poirot’s assistance, but the buttoned-up detective is already fully engaged in the case of a psychiatrist who has been murdered in one of his old treatment baths, a rather cruel looking contraption.

It would be interesting to compare this latest Poirot with one of ITV’s productions from the early years. Surely those originals come nowhere near today’s almost fetishistic recreation of the 1920s, with its luxurious settings and beautiful furnishings, clothes and wirelesses, right down to the tea sets. If you like period setttings, this is a feast.

Ariadne and Poirot

Another trademark is the gentle humour in the scenes between Ariadne and Poirot, who’s often perplexed by his friend, and during Ariadne’s questioning of several forgetful old biddies in her quest for a solution to the Ravenscroft case.

Of course Poirot and his stablemate Miss Marple are hardly cutting-edge television. Poirot is a pretty

VINCENT REGAN as Chief Insp Beale and DAVID SUCHET as Hercules Poirot.  Elephants Can Remember Copyright ITV
Chief Insp Beale and Hercules Poirot confer

dull character (Ariadne is more fun), and much of the dialogue is dreary exposition – ‘Awful business… they left the house for a walk… didn’t come back… somebody or other found them dead… the revolver was lying by their bodies… bloody hard on the dog…’

But there has long been a big audience for period whodunits, and as Poirot comes to an end, ITV has fairly perfected the recreation of Agatha Christie’s world.

This thirteenth series still has The Big Four, Dead Man’s Folly (still to be filmed), The Labours of Hercules and Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case to come. Poirot and the whole cosy drawing-room whodunit game feels dull and bland to many of us, but there is no doubt that a swathe of fans will miss him in their millions. Man alive, the thing airs on over 200 broadcasters worldwide including: USA (WGBH), Australia (ABC), Brazil (Globosat), France (France Televisions), Italy (Mediaset), Japan (NHK) and Russia (TV Center).

So, perhaps a homburg should be raised to ITV for lavishing so much care on the detective for 25 years. They’ve done him justice.

Cast: David Suchet Hercule Poirot, Zoë Wanamaker Mrs Ariadne Oliver, Greta Scacchi Mrs Burton-Cox, Vanessa Kirby Celia, Adrian Lukis General Ravenscroft, Annabel Mullion Lady Ravenscroft, Ferdinand Kingsley Desmond, Iain Glen Dr Willoughby, Jo-Anne Stockham Mrs Willoughby, Vincent Regan Detective Inspector Beale, Alexandra Dowling Marie, Danny Webb Superintendent Garroway, Elsa Mollien Zelie, Claire Cox Dorothea, Caroline Blakiston Julia Carstairs, Hazel Douglas Mrs Matcham, Maxine Evans Mrs Buckle, Ruth Sheen Madame Rosentelle
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New TV crime dramas 2012

Sherlock returns to BBC1 on Sunday, 1 January, 8.10pm

The New Year should be quite a crime spree, with the return of popular series and some great-looking new dramas and thrillers. Here’s a rundown of 40 new series coming to UK television in 2012…
Pics: BBC, ITV

1 Sherlock, BBC1, Sunday, 1 January, 8.10pm
Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Rupert Graves, Una Stubbs
Three new adventures from co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss of this Holmes contemporary reboot to kick off 2012. These are A Scandal in Belgravia, The Hounds of Baskerville and The Reichenbach Fall (note the slight alteration in the titles from the originals). The first series, oddly tucked away during the July silly season last year, was a tremendous hit, winning the prestigious American Peabody Award for Entertainment and a Bafta craft award, the CWA Crime Thriller awards for best actor and US Satellite Award for Best Miniseries, among others. It’s been a long wait for Sherlock‘s return. Anticipation factor: ★★★★★

2 Hit and Miss, Sky Atlantic
Chloe Sevigny, Peter Wight, Jonas Armstrong
This is one of the most interesting looking crime dramas for 2012. Chloe Sevigny plays Mia, a contract killer with a secret – she’s a transgender woman. Eddie, Mia’s handler and a well-known name in the criminal underworld, will be played by Peter Wight. Eddie took Mia under his wing and trained her into a first class assassin using his Chinese restaurant as a front for his illegal affairs. Mia’s life is sent into a tailspin when she receives a letter from her ex, Wendy, who reveals that she’s dying from cancer and that Mia has fathered a son, 11-year-old Ryan… Exploring themes of family, sexual identity and killing, Hit and Miss is created by Paul Abbott (Shameless, State of Play). Anticipation factor: ★★★★★

3 Nemesis, BBC1
Melissa George, Adam Rayner
In a joint production with HBO, Kudos – makers of the now decommissioned Spooks – are producing this international espionage series. Nemesis is an eight-parter starring Grey’s Anatomy and Alias actress Melissa George with Adam Rayner (Mistresses). It is written by The X Files and Strike Back writer /producer Frank Spotnitz. This will go out at the end of 2012. Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

4 Inside Men, BBC1
Steven Mackintosh, Ashley Walters, Warren Brown
Three employees of a security depot  plan and execute a multi-million pound cash heist. This new four-part drama serial is written by written by Tony Basgallop (Worried About the Boy, Hughie Green, Most Sincerely) and stars Steven Mackintosh (Camelot, Luther) as John, manager of the cash counting house and entrenched in a humdrum normality. Joining him in the robbery is depot security guard Chris, played by Ashley Walters (Outcasts, Five Days), and forklift driver Marcus, played by Warren Brown (Luther, Single Father). They are not seasoned criminals. Our protagonists are honest, hard-working men who see an opportunity, weigh up the risks, and take a leap. Inside Men is a study of how men behave when they step out of their comfort zones, and focuses on what it takes to cross that moral line, what it means for our characters to risk their freedom, and the resulting fallout on their individual consciences. Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

 5 Endeavour ITV1, Monday, 2 January, 9pm
Shaun Evans
Inspector Morse returns as a young man, with Shaun Evans (left) taking on the role made famous by John Thaw. In this one-off film, fans of Colin Dexter’s much-loved detective will get a glimpse into the origins of the man famed for his love of crosswords, classical music and real ale. Set in 1965, Morse is here involved in an investigation for a missing girl. Sidelined and discredited, he risks everything in launching his own search for justice. Evans commented, ‘Morse as a young man is a wonderful character that I’m very excited to be play. My hope is that we can compliment what’s come before, by telling a great story, and telling it well.’ Endeavour will mark the 25th anniversary of Inspector Morse‘s first broadcast, shown in 1987. Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

6 A Touch of Cloth, Sky1
John Hannah, Suranne Jones, Julian Rhind-Tutt
If the title hasn’t already given you a clue, this is a massive mickey-take of every police procedural ever written (what would you expect – it is adapted by Charlie Brooker from a story by Boris Starling). John Hannah, who once played Rebus for ITV, here takes on another heavy-drinking maverick, DCI Jack Cloth. His wife is mysteriously murdered and the damaged, haunted detective throws himself into his work, partnered with plucky no-nonsense DC Anne Oldman (Suranne Jones, having a light-hearted break from Scott & Bailey). Their boss, ACC Tom Boss, played by Julian Rhind-Tutt (Green Wing, The Hour) repeatedly demands results, fast. No, faster than that. Faster! Charlie Brooker says, ‘After you’ve seen A Touch of Cloth you’ll never be able to watch another detective show again. Not because it’s a devastating pisstake, but because you’ll have smashed your TV to pieces in a disappointed fury.’ Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

7 The Scapegoat, ITV1
Matthew Rhys, Eileen Atkins, Sheridan Smith, Jodhi May, Andrew Scott, Anton Lesser, Sylvie Testud
Daphne du Maurier’s dark story of switched identities could be a real treat. Set in 1952 as England prepares for the Coronation, John Standing and Johnny Spence (both played by Matthew Rhys, who stars in the US series Brothers and Sisters) meet in a station bar. Two very different men who share one thing – their appearance. Charismatic Johnny wines and dines his new acquaintance, but when John wakes the next morning with a hangover he is alone and a chauffeur is standing outside his room, waiting to take him ‘home’. Despite his protests he finds himself sucked irresistibly into another man’s life. Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

8 Line of Duty, BBC2
Vicky McClure, Martin Compston, Lennie James, Gina McKee, Neil Morrissey
In this cat-and-mouse thriller about modern policing, This Is England‘s Vicky McClure is a detective constable who, with detective sergeant Steve Arnott (Compston) are part of an anti-corruption unit investigating a popular and successful officer, detective chief inspector Tony Gates (James). While Gates cleverly manipulates his unit’s figures, DS Arnott questions whether Gates is being made a scapegoat for a culture of institutionalised spin, or is guilty of darker corruption? Writer Jed Mercurio says, ‘I’m hugely excited by the opportunity to set a drama in the controversial realities of 21st century policing. Line Of Duty is a commentary on the perverse bureaucracy that hamstrings frontline officers, but first and foremost it’s a thriller. Lennie James is electric as DCI Tony Gates, a complex and elusive anti-hero, and a formidable antagonist for two of the most exciting young talents in British TV – Martin Compston and Vicky McClure.’ Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

9 Public Enemies BBC1, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, 3-5 January, 9pm
Anna Friel, Daniel Mays
Three-part drama from the award-winning writer Tony Marchant (co-creator of Garrow’s Law) about 28-year-old Eddie, who is released from prison on licence after serving 10 years for murder, and his probation officer, Paula. Returning from recent suspension herself, Paula has to help Eddie, who claims he is innocent, to reintegrate into the community. When Eddie wants to fight what he says was a miscarriage of justice, will Paula risk everything to help him? Anticipation factor: ★★★★

10 The Spies of Warsaw, BBC4
Rainy, cobbled streets of Prague, Berlin and Warsaw, espionage and romance – all should feature in BBC4’s adaptation of Alan Furst’s acclaimed novels in two 90-minute films. The characters of his best-selling spy novels include faded nobility, b-movie filmmakers, newspapermen, ship’s captains and compromised businessmen as well as waiters, shopkeepers, jaded intellectuals, tarnished grand dames, and boozy British secret agents. Somehow, they are all connected to an underground army that seeks to fight against the Nazi occupiers. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

11 The Fuse, BBC1
Christopher Eccleston, Dervla Kirwan, Ewen Bremner, Andrew Scott, Lyndsey Marshal
Daniel Demoys (Eccleston) has gone from being an idealistic young man with a desire to make the world a better place, to a disillusioned and corrupt council official. His alcoholism has driven a wedge between him and wife, Alex (Kirwan), and their three children. When Daniel wakes up after another drunken night, he realises he might be responsible for a murder. A dramatic act of redemption buys him public adoration, so much so that he has become a candidate in the race for Mayor, persuaded by council official Jerry Durrans (Bremner), and lawyer sister Lucy (Marshal). Can he repair the damage he’s done to his private life, or will events – and detective Dalien Bevan (Scott) – bring his life crashing down? Christopher Eccleston says, ‘Bill Gallagher has written a fantastic four-episode drama about obsession, addiction and redemption. I’m very excited about the role of Daniel Demoys.’ Anticipation factor: ★★★★

12 Ripper Street BBC1
An intriguing premise – a drama set in London’s East End in 1889, the year after Jack the Ripper stalked its streets. The focus of the drama is the notorious police division H – the precinct from hell – which tries to maintain order in the chaotic streets of Whitechapel. The eight-part series is created by writer Richard Walow (Mistresses, Waking the Dead). Anticipation factor: ★★★★

13 Savage, BBC1
Warren Brown, Stephen Graham, Michael Angelis, Aisling Loftus, Mark Womack, Christine Tremarco
A young, honest Liverpool beat cop, played by Warren Brown, witnesses the brutal murder of his closest friend and is torn between his desire to protect his family, his duty and an intoxicating instinct for revenge. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

14 May Day, BBC1
When a young girl goes missing, feared dead, the community in which she lives looks to one another for answers. Four of the girl’s neighbours fear someone within their family may be involved. A sophisticated thriller about suspecting those closest to you of committing an appalling crime. This five-parter is written by Ben Court and Caroline Ip, creators of ITV’s Whitechapel. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

15 The Mystery of Edwin Drood, BBC2
Matthew Rhys, Tamzin Merchant, Freddie Fox
The mystery is solved at last. The Beeb has taken the liberty of finishing Charles Dickens’ mystery as part of the bicentenary of his birth, handing the assignment to writer Gwyneth Hughes. This is Dickens’ psychological thriller about a provincial choirmaster’s obsession with 17-year-old Rosa Bud (Tamzin Merchant) and the lengths he will go to to attain her. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

16 The Bridge, BBC4 
One of two new Scandinavian crime series that BBC4 snaffled up after unexpectedly striking gold with The Killing in 2011 (the other is Sebastian Bergman, below). The Bridge, a 10-part investigative crime drama, begins when the body of a woman is found in the middle of the Oresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark. A bi-national team is put together to solve the crime and the killer, always one step ahead of the police, becomes the object of a dramatic manhunt. A Danish/Swedish co-production. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

17 Sebastian Bergman BBC4
Rolf Lassgård
This police thriller stars Rolf Lassgård, one of Scandinavia’s most popular actors (Wallander, Beck), in a powerful new role as profiler Sebastian Bergman. Strong-headed, politically incorrect, abrasive and grief-stricken, Bergman has still not come to terms with the loss of both his wife and daughter in the 2004 Thailand tsunami. In the first of two 90-minute thrillers, he helps police in his hometown solve the murder of a 15-year-old boy. In the second, he attempts to catch a serial killer who seems to be modelling his attacks on those of a jailed killer whom Bergman put behind bars himself. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

18 Accused, BBC1
Anne-Marie Duff, Olivia Colman, Robert Sheehan, Sheridan Smith, Thomas Brodie-Sangster
The second series of Jimmy McGovern’s drama returns with four more episodes about people dealing with crises in their lives – gun crime on an estate in the opening story. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

19 Law & Order: UK series six, ITV1, Friday, 6 January, 9pm
Paul Nicholls, Bradley Walsh, Freema Agyeman, Harriet Walter, Peter Davison, Dominic Rowan
Nicholls, playing DS Sam Casey, joins the investigation into the previous season’s cliffhanger – the shooting of Matt Devlin (Jamie Bamber). Guest stars joining the cast for series six include Tamzin Outhwaite, Toby Stephens, Eva Pope, Luke Roberts and Tim McInnerny. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

20 Homeland, Channel 4
Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Mandy Patinkin, David Harewood
Contemporary US thriller series. An American soldier (Lewis) is left for dead during the Iraq invasion of 2003. However, after years in captivity, the solider returns home a hero. CIA officer Carrie Anderson (Danes) smells a rat and thinks that the national hero may be a double agent working for Al Qaeda. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

21 Top Boy, C4
Writer Ronan Bennett’s acclaimed four-parter about gang life on a Hackney estate has been recommissioned. C4’s chief creative office Jay Hunt says, ‘For me, Top Boy encapsulates everything that our drama is about – hugely original, passionate, with a brilliant roster of new talent. I’m thrilled that we’ll be seeing more.’ Anticipation factor: ★★★★

22 Mad Dogs series 2, Sky1
John Simm, Marc Warren, Max Beesley, Philip Glenister
The amateur criminals caught up in dirty shenanigans out in Majorca return. The story picks up where series one ended with Woody, Baxter and Rick driving away from the villa as Quinn has chosen to stay and make a new life in Majorca. In the opening scenes viewers will see Woody, Baxter and Rick have a change of heart and turn back – and from there it just gets crazier. Terrific cast, and series one had menace and bags of humour. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

23 Falcón, Sky Atlantic
A four-episode drama, based on Robert Wilson’s bestselling Javier Falcón novels. The series centres on Falcón, a Chief Inspector in the Seville police, a complex and layered character, with a psychological depth that mirrors the darkness around him in Seville. An innately sexual and charismatic character, Falcón is forceful and focused, happy to ignore the distinction between the law and criminals… Anticipation factor: ★★★★

24 Dirk Gently series two, BBC4
Douglas Adams’ holistic detective, played by Stephen Mangan in series one, returns in three more stories. The chaotic and infuriating sleuth, who solves crimes according to the interconnectedness of all things, was funny and proved a quiet success for BBC4. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

25 Restless, BBC1
Adaptation of William Boyd’s award-winning book about a young woman who discovers her mother was a British spy in the Second World War, specialising in espionage in America. Anticipation factor: ★★★½

26 Kidnap and Ransom series 2, ITV1
Trevor Eve, Helen Baxendale, Sharon Small, Madhur Mittal, Sean Gilder, Chris Fairbank
Eve (right) returns as hostage negotiator Dominic King, who is in Kashmir in this three-parter, trying to secure the release of the Mehtas, a British Asian family taken while on holiday visiting their son. As the handover is completed, the police arrive and a shootout ensues… Anticipation factor: ★★★

27 Scott & Bailey series 2, ITV1
Suranne Jones, Lesley Sharp
The first series got mixed reviews, but Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp are liked by many viewers and the drama obviously clicked with enoughof them  for ITV to commission eight new episodes. The show will once again explore the personal and professional lives of DC Janet Scott (Sharp) and DC Rachel Bailey (Jones), both members of Syndicate 9, a Major Incident Team within the Manchester Met Police, who are tasked with tracking down killers. Anticipation factor: ★★★

28 Case Sensitive series 2, ITV1
Olivia Williams, Darren Boyd
A two-part story based on author Sophie Hannah’s novel The Other Half. The first series averaged 6million viewers. Anticipation factor: ★★★

29 Vera series 2, ITV1
Brenda Blethyn
Author Ann Cleeves’ unlikely copper, detective chief inspector Vera Stanhope, is back for another four 120-minute investigations, the first being The Ghost Position. The second will be Sandancers, and the third Silent Voices, adapted from Cleeves’ latest novel. The fourth was untitled at the time of the ITV announcement for series two. Anticipation factor: ★★★

30 New Tricks, BBC1
Alun Armstrong, James Bolam, Dennis Waterman and Amanda Redman
Neither the retired detectives or the actors are past it, if the UK audiences of nearly 10million during the last series tell the truth. So the Beeb has ordered another two lots for 2012 and 2013 of what could become the crime genre’s Last of the Summer Wine. The eccentric, rule-bending cold case cops, however, are played by a much-loved cast who have notched up several great performances in terrific series down the years. It may not do anything exciting with the crime format, but it is adored by a mainstream audience and sells by the truckload to international audiences. Anticipation factor: ★★★

31 Hustle BBC1, Friday, 6 January, 9pm
Adrian Lester, Robert Vaughn, Robert Glenister, Matt Di Angelo, Kelly Adams
What looks like being the last series – certainly with this cast and for the foreseeable future – of the con-team series returns in the first week of the New Year. In the opener,  Mickey Bricks (Lester) and the gang take on a gold dealer, Dexter Gold (Paterson Joseph). Anticipation factor: ★★★

32 Whitechapel series 3, ITV1
Rupert Penry-Jones, Phil Davis, Steve Pemberton
Having dealt with the legends of Jack the Ripper and the Krays, detective inspector Chandler (Penry-Jones) returns to be haunted by more ghosts of East End crimes – murder, body-snatching, poisoning and grisly discoveries await. Anticipation factor: ★★★

33 Above Suspicion: Silent Scream ITV1
Kelly Reilly, Ciaran Hinds, Shaun Dingwall, Michelle Holmes, Celyn Jones, Ray Fearon, Joanna Vanderham
The fourth and latest Above Suspicion three-parter with Kelly Reilly as DI Anna Travis arrives in January with this mystery about a murdered British film star. Travis is shocked to discover that behind all the fame and glamour, the victim was lonely, damaged and afraid. Anticipation factor: ★★★½

34-36 Miss Marple ITV1
Julia McKenzie
Caribbean Mystery, Endless Night and The Seven Dials Mystery are three Marple stories slated for filming in 2012. Caribbean Mystery finds Miss Marple far from St Mary Mead, staying in a luxurious hotel in the tropics.  Fellow guest Major Palgrave dies shortly in suspicious circumstances and Miss Marple must find his killer… ‘It’s a huge privilege for me to play Miss Marple,’ says the actress.  ‘After such a successful career, I was content to play guest roles, but then Marple came along.  How could I not play her? I love her shrewd intelligence, and yet she has a warmth and a sweetness that is so disarming. I find it stimulating watching how her insights into human nature can unlock big complex mysteries.’ Anticipation factor: ★★★

37-40 Poirot, ITV1
David Suchet
David Suchet is returning in 2012 to complete the cycle of Poirot stories written by Agatha Christie, filming the remaining mysteries not yet made by ITV – Labours of Hercules, Dead Man’s Folly, The Big Four, Elephants Can Remember and Curtain. The actor has often said he would like to finish the Poirot canon, having now worn the spats and mustache for 22 years during 65 films. Curtain is the Belgian sleuth’s last case, in which the arthritic Poirot calls on his friend Captain Hastings for assistance as they return to the scene of the first case, Styles Court, to prevent another killing. Anticipation factor: ★★★

And a very Merry Christie to you all

David Suchet as Poirot (all pics ITV)

Murder on the Orient Express, ITV1, Christmas night, 9pm

ITV is spoiling Agatha Christie devotees by gift-wrapping three new dramas featuring Marple or Poirot this Christmas season – including a fresh adaptation of the author’s much-loved Murder on the Orient Express.

This is a different take on the story compared to the famous movie of 1974, more of what David Suchet, who plays the sleuth, calls a psychological drama.

David Morrissey as Colonel Arbuthnott
He says, ‘To be making the most famous and iconic Poirot story Agatha Christie ever wrote is possibly the most daunting task I’ve had in over 20 years of filming Poirot.
‘Albert Finney got an Oscar nomination for his portrayal as Poirot so to be making it again is a real challenge. And an exciting one because we’re not doing it as a remake of the film. Stewart [Harcourt, the screenwriter] has approached it from a very interesting and tantalising point of view.
‘Tragic occurrences happen before Poirot even steps on the train which affect him very much. First, a man commits suicide as a result of his evidence, and then he witnesses a stoning in Istanbul. 
Barbara Hershey as Mrs Hubbard
‘We see him, in both instances, full of his own self justification and almost self righteousness in saying “well, that’s the world – it’s nothing to do with me”. Then he boards the Orient Express and is  approached by this horrible man, Samuel Ratchett, who asks him for protection. 
‘Poirot turns him down because he takes an instant dislike to him. The man is later found dead. And so we’re dealing with a very different Poirot. You can’t make Poirot the same as he’s always been with those three things happening in his life. 
Hugh Bonneville as Masterman
‘It’s really a psychological journey for him, one that absolutely breaks him. The decision he is forced to make at the end forces him to drop his whole raison d’être, which is ridding the world of crime. He is made to dig deep and finally do the right thing against his better judgment.’
ITV has lavished a fine production and international cast on this Christmas Day two-hour special. 
Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) plays Edward Masterman, David Morrissey (Thorne, State of Play) is Colonel John Arbuthnott, and Barbara Hershey (Portrait of a Lady) is Mrs Hubbard. Serge Hazanavicius (I’ve Loved You So Long) is Xavier Bouc, Denis Ménochet (Inglourious Basterds) is Pierre Michel, and Dame Eileen Atkins (Cranford) is Princess Dragomiroff.

Julia McKenzie and Dervla Kirwan
 Agatha Christie’s Marple, The Secret of Chimneys, ITV1, Monday, 27 December, 9pm
As well as being the 120th anniversary of Christie’s birth and the 90th anniversary of Poirot’s first appearance, 2010 is also the 80th year since Marple’s debut. 

ITV has continued to mount lavish productions of author’s two amateur detectives throughout this special year, rounding off with The Blue Geranium and The Secret of Chimneys. Among the cast of the latter are Gavin and Stacey‘s Mathew Horne and Ruth Jones, along with Edward Fox, Michelle Collins and Dervla Kirwan.

Classic Christie ingredients are all present here – the country house, aristos, a murdered Austrian count, and a secret love affair.

The Blue Geranium, Wednesday, ITV1, 29 December, 8pm
Yet another star cast is in the dock for this final Marple of 2010, including Donald Sinden, Patrick Baladi and Toby Stephens. Here, Jane Marple is appealing to an old friend, Sir Henry Clithering (Sinden), to get a court hearing into the death of unpopular Mary Pritchard (Sharon Small) stopped because she has some new evidence.

While Julia McKenzie still feels like the new girl in this role, The Blue Geranium is actually her eighth outing as Marple (and her fourth this year). After a lukewarm reception to her portrayal in some places, she now seems to have put her own brand on the character.

She says,  ‘I’ve gone for the sturdier version, as it were. Agatha Christie wrote Jane Marple in two different ways. When she first invented the character she was a more fragile, rather Victorian soul. Then she rewrote her about 10 years later and she came up a bit tweedier and more solid. I’ve really gone for the latter one because of the modern audience. I think, for her age, Miss Marple is quite a modern woman. She’s certainly got a tremendous intelligence and intellect that I have had to work hard at! But, I’ve based most of her on the fact that she’s a woman who’s very much of her period, but also modern.

‘I feel I’ve settled into it and would like to play her for the rest of my working life, if there are enough stories to go round.’

Agatha Christie Poirot: Hallowe’en Party PREVIEW

Ariadne and Poirot (pics ITV)

Rating ★★★

Wednesday, 27 Oct, 8pm ITV1

Since 1989 ITV has produced more than 60 Poirot’s with David Suchet as the smug Belgian.

There is no mystery in concluding that Agatha Christie’s sleuth has his fans, that a hardcore of viewers relish Suchet’s performance along with the period of steam trains, sensible cardies and roaring hearths.

Equally, there are many left bored by the formula, finding the implausible dramas as satisfying as solving sudoku puzzles, and ‘Ercule Poirot with his GCSE French (‘Oui,’ ‘N’est-ce pas?’ etc), references to himself in the third person (‘Poirot will find out all’) and all-round pomposity simply naff.

C’est la vie (that’s enough school French, Ed). But whether the series is considered a trick or a treat, it is back with a decent seasonal mystery that should delight devotees. Hallowe’en Party is dark and atmospheric, as should be expected from a script by Mark Gatiss (who not only co-wrote and starred in Sherlock this summer, but has his History of Horror on BBC Four, and is soon to be seen in The First Men in the Moon, also on BBC Four).

It features the return of one of Poirot’s few female friends, crime writer Ariadne Oliver in an almost affectionate performance again by Zoë Wanamaker. Timothy West, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Deborah Findlay are among the suspects.

It is Ariadne who is attending a children’s Hallowe’en party at Woodleigh Common when  a young girl, Joyce, brags that she once witnessed a murder. Everyone pooh-poohs her story, but when the child is found with her head submerged in an apple-bobbing tub, Ariadne knows who to call.

Poirot realises that even if Joyce was a fantasist she may not have lied about the murder, and that if he can work out which of three recent local murders the girl was talking about, he will be close to the killer.

Armchair sleuths will have to strain every little grey cell to fathom out whether a forged codicil in will, a missing au pair or a secret love affair is the key. 

Only six or seven Poirot stories remain to be filmed, and from what David Suchet says it is not only older viewers who will be saddened that the production line is coming to an end. ‘I’m now getting letters from seven year olds who have suddenly got hooked!’ the actor said. ‘I recently sent photographs to two eight year old twins who come home from school and make their mother put on Poirot! In the same month I sent a box of chocolates to someone who was 94 in an old people’s home. Almost 90 years difference in age yet they are watching the same programme.’

Go figure.   

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