Agatha Raisin: The Quiche of Death, Sky1, with Ashley Jensen, PREVIEW

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death
Ashley Jensen and the cast of Agatha Raisin The Quiche of Death. Pics: BSkyB

Rating: ★★★

Sky1: Boxing Day, 8.30pm

Story: After a high-flying career as a PR in London, Agatha Raisin decamps for an idyllic life in the country. However, events take a tragic turn when a judge in the village quiche contest dies after sampling her quiche.

‘TIS THE SEASON for jolly family dramas, so if you’re hoping for something bloodcurdling and dark you’ll have to wait till next month when the likes of Broadchurch 2 and Fortitude arrive.

In the meantime, Sky1 is wheeling out this slice of festive flan, based on the bestseller by MC Beaton

Matthew McCooey as DC Bill Wong & Jason Barnett as DI Wilkes
The old bill, played by Matthew McCooey and Jason Barnett 

(of Hamish Macbeth fame). Ashley Jensen heads a nice cast as Agatha, a PR whizz who is
escaping life as a publicist for cretinous boy bands and heading in her Porsche for a new life in the Cotswolds.

Mathew Horne, Robert Bathurst and Hermione Norris are all on parade here, in a light-hearted crime drama full of comedy sex, buffonish cops and oddball country nimbys. First up is Robert Bathurst as the village lothario, Andy, a reactionary sort constantly on the hunt for new conquests.

Murder at the village fete

Hermione Norris is his snooty wife and Mathew Horne is Agatha’s work colleague. Trying to

Ashley Jensen as Agatha Raisin
Agatha goes snooping

immerse herself into village life, the competitive Agatha enters the local quiche contest. When one of the judges snuffs it after eating her quiche, the newcomer finds herself in a spot of serious bother.

The two-hour production has that prerequisite for most Brit TV dramas these days – a pretty twee setting. So it looks good, moves at a slick pace and the actors look like they’re enjoying themselves.

The comedy is about a subtle as a pantomime, with the cops in particular being too annoying to be funny. But Ashley Jensen as the dressed-to-the-nines city slicker is a charming character, and it certainly tickles the odd ho-ho-ho out of you.

In fact, once the crime is committed the whole show becomes a lot more savoury, particularly when Mathew Horne reappears, trying at one point to console number-one suspect Agatha – ‘What did the Boston Strangler say? It’s better to be wanted for murder than not to be wanted at all.’

Follow @crimetimeprev

The Escape Artist, BBC1, with David Tennant, Sophie Okonedo, Ashley Jensen PREVIEW

Will Burton (DAVID TENNANT) The Escape Artist
How will he get out of the case that becomes a nightmare? David Tennant as Will Burton. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC1: starts Tuesday, 29 October, 9pm

Story: Barrister Will Burton is in high demand as he has never lost a case. But when his talents acquit the prime suspect in a horrific murder trial, that brilliance comes back to bite him with unexpected and chilling results.

LAWYERS SOMETIMES have a really hard time on screen. Whether they’re being framed for crimes (Presumed Innocent), attacked by killers they’ve defended successfully (Jagged Edge) or hunted by disgruntled clients (Cape Fear), several cracking thrillers have put the profession through the mincer.

Will Burton (DAVID TENNANT), Kate Burton (ASHLEY JENSEN) The Escape Artist BBC1
Before Foyle enters their world – Will and Kate

Will Burton, played by David Tennant, is the latest lawyer as victim in this intriguing BBC1 three-parter. It asks the time-honoured question – how do lawyers bring themselves to defend society’s most sleazy, revolting people?

And barrister Burton is very good at defending them. He’s never lost a case, he’s rated number one by a law magazine and is being urged to take promotion to silk.

Toby Kebbell is unsettling as psycho Foyle

Everything is hunky dory for Burton – until he is asked to defend Liam Foyle, who’s accused of the sadistic murder of a woman. Toby Kebbell, who’s been seen around in TV’s The Street and the films RocknRolla and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, plays Foyle, and the thriller comes alive when he appears.

Liam Foyle (TOBY KEBBELL) The Escape Artist BBC1
Chilling – Liam Foyle

Until then it mostly all about Will’s smooth middle-class existence with his charming, sparky wife Kate  – Ashley Jensen in a straight role – and their son.

From the moment he meets the disturbing Foyle, however, Will’s life is on tilt. Kebbell is terrific as the mood-switching manipulator, who even has the clever barrister dancing to his tune. Will is so repulsed by the ‘malignant sadist’, as the prosecution calls him, that he even hits the cigarettes.

Sophie Okonedo as Maggie

When Foyle’s credit cards show that he used sadistic pornographic websites that showed images

Maggie Gardner (SOPHIE OKONEDO) The Escape Artist BBC1
Rival – Maggie Gardner

echoing the woman’s murder, Foyle says stonily, ‘The credit cards are lying.’

But while Foyle admits he is not a nice person, is he guilty? He says no, and Will takes the case. When he uses a mistake by the judge during the trial to get Foyle released, that’s when Will’s nightmare begins.

The story is a little contrived, almost a morality tale for lawyers, so much so that when Foyle ends up back in court, it is Will who wants him imprisoned, while his arch-rival in law, Maggie Gardner (Sophie Okonedo), will stop at nothing to free Foyle, the man who has destroyed Will’s happiness.

Another charismatic performance from David Tennant

The Escape Artist recalls ITV’s Injustice by Anthony Horowitz, which in 2011 starred James Purefoy

Will Burton (DAVID TENNANT) in The Escape Artist BBC1
On the case – Will Burton

as a lawyer who wins the freedom of a bomber who later tells him that he was guilty.

This new drama has a less confusing plot and is also boosted by David Tennant’s subtle performance as a brilliant man, yet one who is insecure and can’t work a dishwasher. Tennant must be Britain’s most charismatic TV performer, with strong and varied performances this year in Spies of Warsaw, Broadchurch and The Politician’s Husband, and with another outing as Doctor Who still to come this Christmas.

David Wolstencroft, the writer behind Spooks, wanted to create a Hitchcockian suspense story with The Escape Artist, and while it is too neat a plot to be totally believable, it does successfully conjure an air of menace as we wonder if Will can extricate himself from his own personal horror trial.

Cast: David Tennant Will Burton, Toby Kebbell Liam Foyle, Sophie Okonedo Maggie Gardner, Ashley Jensen Kate Burton, Brid Brennan Mary, Kate Dickie Jenny, Monica Dolan Eileen Morris, Tony Gardner Trevor Harris, Anton Lesser Richard Mayfield QC, Roy Marsden Peter Simkins, Alistair Petrie Julian Fowkes QC, Patrick Ryecart Gavin de Souza QC, Stephen Wight Danny Monk, Gus Barry Jamie Burton

Follow @crimetimeprev

Happy bloody New Year!

Rufus Sewell as Zen (pic: BBC/Left Bank Pictures)

Christmas is not the season for brutal murder and new crime series on TV, apart from the cosy Agatha Christie staples of Marple and Poirot. So I’m looking in the crystal ball to see what’s new on the crystal box in January instead.

The New Year will kick off with one major new detective onscreen – the BBC’s Aurelio Zen, played by Rufus Sewell. Set in and around Rome, the three feature-length dramas should be very exciting for fans of the late Michael Dibdin’s suave Italian detective.

Rufus Sewell
Dibdin’s first Zen novel was Ratking, which won the CWA Gold Dagger in 1988. The author wrote a further 10 Zen novels. Ratking is one of the BBC dramas, along with Vendetta and Cabal. Zen is at times a shadowy, unknowable police hero in the stories, which capture much of the intricacies and corruption of Italian life, and Sewell will certainly bring a brooding masculinity to the character.

He says, ‘I’m thrilled to be part of this project with the opportunity to play such an intriguing, complex and likeable character.’

Zen has been made by Left Bank Pictures for the Beeb, the people who produced Kenneth Branagh’s Wallander and the recent DCI Banks drama for ITV.

Ashley Jensen
Ashley Jensen, fresh from her US roles in Ugly Betty and Accidentally on Purpose, will turn up with Max Beesley in a two-part thriller for ITV called Helter Skelter (though the title may change).

Harassed single mum Sally is faced with a grisly proposition here. She turns up at a swanky lawyer’s office to hear she has been left £5m – but can only have the dosh if she kills a ‘man who deserves to die’. The kind of thing that happens every day…

Meanwhile, crime channel Alibi has two new (to the UK) dramas from the doyenne of forensic crime fiction, Patricia Cornwell, starring Andie MacDowell as an ambitious district attorney.

Andie MacDowell
Patricia Cornwell: At Risk (Alibi, Sunday 2 January, 9pm) sees MacDowell’s character trying to re-open an unsolved 20-year-old murder case when a shocking moment of violence throws her and her colleagues into chaos.

The actress returns as DA Monique Lamont in Patricia Cornwell: The Front (Alibi, Saturday, 8 January, 9pm). This time she takes on Boston’s most famous criminal.

Don’t know how these went down in the US, but Alibi has a knack for uncovering some good new but often overlooked little gems.

%d bloggers like this: