BBC is the new home of Agatha Christie

THE BBC has announced new dramas based on Agatha Christie’s books, including David Walliams starring in the six-parter Partners in Crime, a 1950s-set series based on the stories of married sleuths Tommy and Tuppence.

There will also be a three-part adaptation of And Then There Were None, the author’s most successful novel, which has shifted more than 100m copies.

Case closed for ITV’s Marple and Poirot

At the same time, ITV has said it has no more plans for Poirot (no surprise there, having just finished filming the whole oeuvre) or Marple.

The Beeb has probably been eyeing ITV’s success with Poirot and Marple for two decades, and have now seized the chance to get in there as the 125th anniversary of Christie’s birth approaches in 2015. Fingers are no doubt crossed that Tommy and Tuppence can soon stand tall next to the spinster and the Belgian.

Crime-writing phenomenon Agatha Christie at work

There was much talk from Ben Stephenson, BBC drama honcho, and BBC1 controller Charlotte Moore in last Thursday’s press announcement about ‘raising our game’ and drama output being more ambitious.

And what have they come up with? More costume dramas based on Agatha Christie’s books. And they’re bringing back Poldark. And they’re doing another version of Mapp and Lucia. And the dull Death in Paradise is returning yet again.

Costume drama fluff rules

Even with the inclusion of the cancer story starring Sheridan Smith, The C Word, and Lenny Henry’s dramatised memoir of his teenage years in Dudley, this hardly smacks of a bold new era for BBC drama.

It’s more like saying you’re going to going to raise the game of popular music by bringing out a K-Tel album of cover versions.

Had the BBC drama chiefs said they had had enough of vapid, chocolate-box costume dramas and were going for punchy modern stories, that would have been a much beefier story.

True Detective is a genuine game-raiser

My problem with most British costume yarns on telly is that they are nearly all twee, prettified versions of the past that rarely inform the drama or seriously reveal anything provocative or challenging about the period at all. The period is just window-dressing.

A drama that is raising the drama game and shows plenty of ambition is True Detective on Sky Atlantic. Of course, this powerful series starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson may not suit a primetime audience, but until the BBC can resist the kneejerk lurch for corsets, trilbies and ‘classic’ adaptations, perhaps it should save the ‘raising our game’ speech for another day.

The BBC press release

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Miss Marple, Crime Thriller Awards 2013, Win The Fall on DVD

Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple returns on Sunday (16 June, 8pm) with another starry cast for A Caribbean Mystery, the first of three new films. As you would suspect from the title, Julia McKenzie’s sleuth is far from St Mary Mead, having headed to St Honore in the Caribbean. However, the Golden Palms resort turns out to be less idyllic that hoped for when fellow guest Major Palgrave dies soon after arriving. Antony Sher plays wheelchair-bound Jason Rafiel, who is press-ganged into being Miss Marple’s helper. Robert Webb, Charity Wakefield, MyAnna Buring, Hermione Norris and Warren Brown line up for questioning.

• If you’re a huge fan and bit of an expert on any of ITV’s best-loved crime series, then Cactus TV may want to put you in the hot seat on air. Cactus are the people who are putting together the season of ITV3 programming that will accompany this autumn’s build-up to the Crime Thriller Awards, which recognise the best TV crime shows and authors. They would like to hear from crime devotees who have extensively cased out shows such as Inspector Morse, Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Lewis, Poirot, Rebus, Taggart, Broadchurch or Midsomer Murders. You could be bloggers, book club members, run fan sites or fanzines – in which case, you may be asked to go into the studio to show off your knowledge. Other experts, such as scriptwriters, will also be called on and one idea being considered is to have a quiz element pitting the fans against the scriptwriters. Anyone who fits the bill can put themselves forward by email to Roxanne at Cactus TV – roxanne.liley@cactustv.co.uk

• We have two copies of The Fall on DVD to give away. The series starring Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan has just had viewers glued to BBC2 for the last five weeks in a powerful tale of a detective hunting a serial killer in Belfast. The Fall is released on DVD by Acorn Media on 17 June (rrp £19.99, cert 15). To be entered into a prize draw to win a copy, all you have to do is leave a comment or start a new topic on CrimeTimePreview’s brand new Forum.

RULES This offer is open to UK residents only. Prize Draw entrants must leave a comment or start a new topic on the CrimeTimePreview Forum; two names will be drawn on the closing date (Saturday, 22 June) and will be posted a free copy of The Fall. The selectee will need to provide their postal address. No prize alternatives. If anyone comments or starts a discussion but declines the The Fall DVD, an alternative winner will be selected. Good luck!

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