Posts Tagged ‘Masterpiece Mystery’

Jemima Rooper as Norma Restarick in Third Girl

Third Girl is the second installment of Season X of Hercule Poirot on PBS Masterpiece Mystery! Unlike his dark and edgy stint on Murder on the Orient Express, David Suchet relaxes a bit in this production, once again showing the fastidious side of Poirot and reintroducing some of the dark humor for which Dame Agatha was well known. Case in point, Ariadne Oliver, the author/sleuth who was wont to “help” Poirot. As played by Zoë Wanamaker, the character is delightful.

Zoë Wannamaker and David Suchet

Jemima Rooper plays heiress Norma Restarick, the third girl who shares an apartment with Claudia, the first girl, and Frances, the second girl. These two beautiful women share a confidence about their beauty and themselves that Norma does not possess. Haunted by her mother’s death, Norma fears for her sanity when she thinks she has murdered her former nanny.

It was nice to see Ms. Rooper team up again with Tom Mison, who in this production played David Baker, the young artist who was commissioned to paint a portrait and whose eyes light up every time he sees Norma. Both Jemima and Tom portrayed roles in Lost in Austen, Tom a very likable Mr. Bingley and Jemima a befuddled Amanda Price, who steps back in time to exchange places with Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.

David Suchet as the incomparable Hercule Poirot

Watching Third Girl I was happy that no commercials would interrupt the flow of the story. Still, it had so many plot twists and elements going in various directions, that I felt the production would have benefited from an additional half hour to flesh out the story line and characters. Nevertheless, it is good to see Suchet back in old familiar form. If you missed this episode, you can watch it online for a week at this link through August 1.

Read Full Post »

Miss MarpleYour own DVD set of Marple, Series 4 is available for shipping today! Agatha Christie’s spinster sleuth is brilliantly played by Julia McKenzie in this delightful mystery series. Julia as Miss Marple dons the traditional tweeds as if they were made for her, and the casts for all four episodes are stellar: Matthew MacFadyen, Rupert Graves, Wendy Richard, Hattie Morahan, Sylvia Simms, Anna Chancellor, Jemma Redgrave, Russell Tovey, Amanda Root, Elliot Cowan, Joan Collins, and Nigel Terry are among the suspects and victims. This set of finely produced DVDs, issued by Acorn Media, includes the following episodes:


Who poisoned wealthy businessman Rex Fortescue? Miss Marple barely has time to ponder this question before her former maid Gladys turns up strangled on the Fortescue estate, a clothes peg stuck on her nose. The murders seem to bear an uncanny resemblance to a child’s nursery rhyme. Miss Marple and Inspector Neele uncover clues from the dead man’s shadowy past that may reveal a method to the madness. Go to the PBS page to read about this episode.


Murder is easy, as long as nobody thinks it’s murder. So says elderly Miss Pinkerton to Miss Marple during a chance encounter on a train. Soon Miss Pinkerton herself dies, and Miss Marple believes that it was no accident. Her curiosity piqued, she travels to the peaceful village of Wychwood-under-Ashe to investigate. Charming her way into village life, she befriends a former policeman and discovers a shocking secret—one worth killing for.  Read the recap on Austenprose


Miss Marple’s old friend Carrie-Louise has always had a soft heart for charitable causes. This time it’s juvenile criminals, lodged in a reformatory on the estate she shares with her husband. But her sister, Ruth van Rydock, is worried about her and asks Miss Marple to pay a visit. With her sharp eyes and unerring sleuthing skills, Miss Marple quickly assesses the situation—but not in time to prevent a murder. Can she save her friend from becoming the next victim? Read the synopsis and about the cast in this PBS link.


A dying man’s last words turn young Bobby Attfield into an amateur detective. With the help of two assistants, beautiful socialite Frankie Derwent and family friend Jane Marple, he sets out to solve the riddle they pose. When someone tries to kill Bobby, it only strengthens his resolve. A trail of clues leads the unlikely trio to Castle Savage and its strange inhabitants, the discovery of yet another murder, and the lingering question: why didn’t they ask Evans? Read our review in this link.

Read Full Post »

Retired policeman Luke Fitzwilliam and Miss Marple looking for clues

Retired policeman Luke Fitzwilliam and Miss Marple looking for clues

I’ve held off reviewing this excellent series showing on PBS Masterpiece Mystery! until I got a good sense of how well Julia McKenzie fares as the observant elderly sleuth, and I find that she plays the character true to form. Julia’s Miss Marple reminds me of the smart but deferential women of my grandmother’s generation who stand on the sidelines but whose power lay in maneuvering others into action or thinking their way. In PBS’s new Miss Marple series, Julia’s mousy character can easily disappear into the woodwork as she takes on the role of keen observer. She never oversteps her boundaries with the detectives who arrive on the scene to solve a case. And what fine detectives they are! This season we have Matthew MacFadyen as Inspector Neele,  Benedict Cumberbatch as retired policeman Luke Fitzwilliam, Alex Jennings as Inspector Curry, and Warren Clarke as Commander Peters. While these men are quite capable, they lack Miss Marple’s “insider” knowledge, as she has a knack for being at the right place at the wrong time, as it were. They also lack her female intuition, which prompts her to notice those tiny details that men often miss, such as a redhead not choosing to dye her hat red.

Wendy Richard as Mrs. Crump

Wendy Richard as Mrs. Crump

If I lived in Great Britain and I saw Miss Marple heading towards my village, I’d get into my Bentley and run, for everywhere Miss Marple goes, murder follows. In Murder is Easy so many victims fell, that I wondered if the village would have to be abandoned for lack of inhabitants.

The biggest treat in watching this finely produced series is to see the familiar stable of British actors who people the lovely villages in which the plots thicken. In addition to the detectives, we get to watch Rupert Graves, Hattie Morahan, Prunella Scales, Anna Chancellor, Amanda Root, Jemma Redgrave, Russel Tovey, Joan Collins, Elliot Cowan, Maxine Peak, Nigel Terry, well, the list goes on and on. We’ve seen all these familiar faces before on BBC, ITV, and PBS productions, and so we know that the quality of the acting will be superb. And then there are the shots of the British countryside, the beautiful costumes of pre-World War II Britain, and the exquisite mansions and their interiors. A cup of tea, my pooch on my lap, and Miss Marple is all the entertainment I need to relax on a Sunday night.

Matthew MacFadyen and Julia McKenzie

Matthew MacFadyen and Julia McKenzie

joan collinsMy enjoyment of the series does not blind me to the dated quality of these Agatha Christie plots. Also, Miss Marple is a woman of her time, and seeing how she boosts the egos of the males around her and makes polite “suggestions” that lead the inspectors in the right direction makes me cringe. This is how smart women once lived and how many women still get their point across – through manipulation. The murders are often solved through coincidences that are sometimes too convenient, and the mysteries themselves are contrived, too convoluted, and in many instances, weak. Despite all the red herrings thrown my way, in two out of three instances I had solved the murder halfway through the show, but I am being picky. I still prefer a good Agatha Christie mystery over almost anything aired on the cultural wasteland that t.v. has become. For production value I give this murder series. 5 stars. For entertainment, 4 stars. For quality of mystery, 3 stars.

Watch the series online:

DVDMissed the first three episodes? You can watch two episodes online on PBS’s website at this link. The DVD, which will come out soon as well, will feature all four episodes:

  1. A Pocketful of Rye
  2. Murder is Easy
  3. They Do it With Mirrors
  4. Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?

Order the Poirot Set 4 DVD’s from Acorn Media. Click here.

More About the Series

Read Full Post »

David Suchet is the quintessential Poirot

David Suchet is the quintessential Poirot

Alas the two Poirot episodes with David Suchet on PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery! have been aired and are no longer available for online viewing on PBS’s website. The good news is that the DVD set is for sale on July 7th. Beautifully packaged by Acorn Media, this fabulous boxed set offers three DVDs:

1. Cat Among the Pigeons

As Meadowbank School for Girls begins its term, a new student causes the headmistress, Miss Bullstrode (Harriet Walter, Atonement), unease. Princess Shaista is a political refugee hiding from revolutionaries in her native land. Fortunately, when the bodies start turning up, Poirot is on hand. Read my short review of the episode on this blog.

2. Mrs. McGinty’s Dead

With help from mystery novelist and old friend Ariadne Oliver (Zoe Wannamaker), Poirot tries to save a man from hanging for a murder he might not have committed. As Poirot tracks down the real killer, he finds his own life at risk. Read my short review of the episode on this blog.

3. Super Sleuths: Poirot – Exclusive bonus

This 47 minute DVD features inteviews with stars Dvid Suchet, Philip Jackson (Chife Inspector Japp), Hugh Fraser (Captain Hasings), and Puline Moran (Miss Lemon). Also interviewed are producer Brian Eastman, director Ed Bennett, and writer Anthony Horowitz (Foly’s War).

Suggested price of the 3-Vol Boxed set is $49.99 at Acorn Media but it is on sale at Amazon.com for $36.99. Acorn media distributes distinctive home video releases to the North American market with a focus on British television.

Read Full Post »

New Season 2 Wallander episodes can be watched online on PBS Masterpiece Mystery! To read my review, click here. To watch this week’s episode online until November, click here.

Watch Wallander on PBS Masterpiece Mystery, Sunday May 17th

Watch Wallander on PBS Masterpiece Mystery, Sunday May 17th

Missed the first two episodes of Wallander? Watch them online at this PBS link starting May 11, as well as behind the scenes videos and interviews with the actors.
Kenneth Branagh’s performance as Wallander in PBS’s new mystery series of the same name is memorable. His baggy eyes are rimmed with red from lack of sleep, his middle aged body is lumpy and careworn, and he is as depressed as the families of the victims he investigates. From the opening scenes I immediately understood that this production of the popular Swedish detective series, which has a spare and existential feel, will offer no light frothy treatment of the detective genre. Set in southern Sweden and the Swedish port city of Ystad (pronounced EE-stad), the movie is beautifully filmed. Having never visited Sweden, it was a delight to view the film’s stark and gorgeous settings.

46802581PBS will offer three 90-minute installments of Wallander on Masterpiece Mystery during May. The first episode is called Sidetracked and opens with the gruesome suicide of a 15-year-old girl. Wallander is on the trail of a serial killer who, after he murders his male victims, scalps them. The story, while beautifully filmed and acted, was a little too easy for me to solve. I knew almost immediately that there was a connection between the young suicide and middle-aged victims, and I guessed the killer at almost the moment I saw the person. Mind you, I have never read Henning Mankell’s books, so I didn’t know the plot ahead of time, but when one is exposed to superb acting and excellent production values  (shot last summer, the series cost £7.5m), one can forgive the heavy-handed clues that were dropped like lead-footed bombs throughout the plot.

The author observed about Wallander:

My ambition from the beginning was to show a man who was always changing, never fixed,” Mankell says. “That is one of the secrets to his success. He has a working-class background, and to become a police officer, he had to choose his place in society. At that time, you had to be conservative. But he’s not completely sure about what’s right and wrong.

From Mankell’s description, Kenneth Branagh IS Wallander. You can watch the first episode online on PBS’s website for a limited period starting May 11. Look for the next two episodes to air Sundays on your local PBS station at 9 pm.

Sidetracked, Episode One of Wallander

Sidetracked, Episode One of Wallander

1. Sidetracked: A 15-year-old girl commits suicide by immolating herself. Click on the link to learn more about episode one.

2. Firewall: A teenage girl stabs a taxi driver and seemingly doesn’t care about the consequences. Wallander races against the clock to solve a mystery that is reminiscent of a ’24’ episode. In this episode Wallander shows his softer, tender side as his daughter convinces him to start dating again.  Unfortunately, he fails to balance his personal life with his work life, and his new relationship almost ends before it starts. Online episodes of Firewall will be available on Monday, May 18th.


Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: