Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime, with David Walliams, Jessica Raine

Tommy (DAVID WALLIAMS), Tuppance (JESSICA RAINE)in BBC1's Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime

On the run – Tommy (David Walliams) and Tuppence (Jessica Raine)

Agatha Christie’s investigative husband and wife Tommy and Tuppence in a jolly decent period mystery

★★★½ BBC1, starts Sunday, 26 July, 9pm

FROM THE cosy era of crime novels comes this cosy drama, starring David Walliams and Jessica Raine as Agatha Christie’s sleuthing couple Tommy and Tuppence.

Tommy (DAVID WALLIAMS), Tuppance (JESSICA RAINE)

Detective novels for Tuppence, the newspaper for Tommy

It’s a polished Sunday-night, 1950s piece, with lovely costumes, twee villages full of Morris Minors and a dog called Tiffin. With ITV having mined the Poirot/Marple library to exhaustion, the Beeb must be delighted to get its hands on the Agatha Christie jewels at last.

As David Walliams says: ‘In bringing these thrilling stories to the screen, it is our ambition for Tommy and Tuppence to finally take their rightful place alongside Poirot and Marple as iconic Agatha Christie characters.’

David Walliams and Jessica Raine well cast

The most popular author of all time wrote the first Tommy and Tuppence mystery in 1922, and this new screen incarnation does a good job of breathing life into the duo for a modern audience. Walliams and Raine are certainly well cast as the cack-handed Tommy – ‘pipe-and-slippers man’, according to his uncle – and the have-a-go Tuppence.

Robert Whitelock (as Conrad) and David Walliams (as Tommy Beresford) Episode One: ‘The Secret Adversary’

Rough stuff – Tommy in a tight spot

David Walliams can play ineffectual fastidiousness in his sleep, while Jessica Raine is very good as the wife who wears the trousers. Award-winning author Zinnie Harris’s adaptation has fun with the pair, giving the stories a modern feel with some delicate fruity banter between the couple, such as Tuppence in a blonde-wig disguise pricking Tommy’s buttoned-up ardour.

The Secret Adversary is the first of two three-part tales. It begins with T&T encountering a lady who vanishes on a train. They’re travelling from Paris to London when Jane Finn disappears and the passengers are ordered to change trains. [Read more…]

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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