Friday, 26 December 2014

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death - Sky 1 TV review

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death aired on Sky 1 this evening,with Ashley Jensen playing the eponymous Agatha. It was based on the book of the same name written by M.C. Beaton, a prolific and extremely popular author of light mysteries. She also created Hamish Macbeth, who made the transition to television almost twenty years ago. I read a couple of the Macbeth books, but I've never read the Agatha Raisin series, so I am not sure how faithful the screenplay was to the original.

It's essentially a comedy thriller, and I've seen it described in the media as something of a reaction to dark and broodiing Scandinavian dramas.(My own feeling on that score is that there is, and always should be, room for all the different types of crime stories, ranging from darkest noir to fluffiest cosy and everything in between.) There are a number of shows of this type around at present - Death in Paradise and Father Brown have both enjoyed more success than many would have expected, while Grantchester has quickly earned a loyal following. As with Father Brown and Grantchester, there's more than a touch of Midsomer about the lovely rural setting of this story.

Agatha is a hard-nosed PR expert who has made a packet and sold her company so that she can relocate to a life of peace in the Cotswolds. (I also thought I spotted a scene set at the Bristol hotel which is home to Crimefest). She does not fit in to village life,and decides to cheat her way to success in the annual quiche making contest, a plan that backfires when her quiche appears to be responsible for the death by poisoning of the judge of the contest, the local Lothario.

This was a two hour show - in other words, rather longer than episodes of Father Brown and Death in Paradise - and this enabled the scriptwriter to establish the characters, and basic situation, although to me it seemed on the long side for such a lightweight piece. There were a number of good jokes, and Ashley Jensen's performance was energetic and engaging. I can't say that it had me on the edge of my seat, and it wasn't as funny or as sharp as The Wrong Mans, which returned to the screen the other day in a two-part episode that I very much enjoyed, but it passed the time pleasantly enough..


19 comments:

derwent said...

Unwatchable for me. Agatha was hopelessly miscast. No doubt in an effort to attract a teen audience. The very early episodes of Midsommer Murders are far closer in characterisation to the books. I'll stay with the radio series and the brilliant Penelope Keith.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Derwent. I don't listen to much radio drama, so I've never come across this series, but I'll bear in mind your recommendation.

mabel said...

watching the episode last night, I felt like Derwent, that it was hopelessly short of the mark, both in the casting and in being true to the book

mabel said...

after watching last nights episode all I can say is, hopelessly miscast and far off the mark.

Kacper said...

The radio series with Penelope Keith is definitely very good - when I read the Agatha Raisin novels now I often find myself hearing Agatha's dialogue in Ms. Keith's voice.

However, I'm prepared to give this a go - Ashley Jensen is too young and too conventionally attractive, but she's a very likable actress and she has the right sort of energy. It seems like the series is a pretty loose adaptation, and if it's not trying to be wholly faithful, I can tolerate a lot more from it.

That said, I am very upset there's no Mrs. Bloxby.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for your comments. It's looking as though existing fans are giving this one the thumbs down...

Anonymous said...

Aggie is a brunette and a brummie who has managed to 'lose' her accent although it does manifest itself occasionally. I love the books and was really looking forward to the drama but was disappointed. Could & should have been better.

pietro said...

" but I've never read the Agatha Raisin series, so I am not sure how faithful the screenplay was to the original."

The answer to this is: not in the slightest,

Kacper said...

Well, having seen it now - and being a big fan of the book series - I'll be the lone holdout and say I liked it a lot. Ashley Jensen is a charming actress, and I thought the changes made were understandable. I enjoyed the writing and the performances.

Fiona said...

I read the first half dozen books then decided I couldn't stand them any more. I enjoy humour, and I don't want gratuitous violence and/or buckets of gore, but there is a limit to my tolerance of inanity! I was recently put off trying a new-to-me author when a reviewer said 'If you like Agatha Raisin you'll love this!' Ah, well, there are plenty of authors I do enjoy (when is your next book due?!)

Martin Edwards said...

More interesting comments - thanks all.
Kacper, I hope to read another Barrington novel before long...Fiona, good to hear from you again. On New Year's Day, I'll set out my forthcoming publications (not quite finalised yet...)

Jules said...

I agree with Kapcer (29 Dec). I really enjoyed it and hope there are many more to come.

Cynical, moi?. said...

I really enjoyed this in fact I'm watching it again. Agatha was 50 in the books and a social climber and Ashley Jensen portrays this really well. Don't know who mentioned it but Mrs Bloxby is in it as Sarah the vicars wife. I'm hoping this will be a series. I like the fact they haven't stuck to the characters religiously but they are easily identifiable, hope Sky run with this.

Katy said...

The casting was awful and I didn't find it 'understandable' or 'forgivable' that characters were gratuitously changed beyond recognition. Ashley Jensen might be a charming actress but she was not right for this role. Three of the main characters were far too young and so much of what made the books highly readable was lost, partly because of this. I would love to see a worthwhile TV adaptation of the books but what Sky produced was not it - if they do any more I will not be watching.

DitzieB said...

My mother enjoys reading the books and having accidentally coming across the TV programme, I thought I would give it a go. Typical to most productions, it is not true to the book, but an enjoyable 2 hours spent with my children. It even kept my son from playing his new XBOX One! I hope there is another episode as it was a highlight to our Christmas viewing.

Emma Bowey said...

I have read the books, and were mightily impressed with both books, radio adaptation and with the tv drama. Infact, out of the radio and the tv, I would choose TV. This may be a controversial opinion, considering other people's comments and views, but I found Ashley Jensen great and she really shined through many of Agatha's characteristics.

Julie Jones said...

I have also read all the books and When I heard that Ashley Jensen would be cast as Agatha I was stunned. She is a lovely actress but completely wrong for this part, for reasons which have already been mentioned. I have read on some other reviews where people have said that Caroline Quinton would make a good Agatha, I must say that I agree. Having said all this I do hope they commission a series.

Anonymous said...

I did not see this show, because I love the books and after seeing how miscast the characters were, I knew it would ruin Agatha Raisin for me forever. Agatha should be older and what happened to her shiny brown hair? Roy is way too old and not at all skinny. James is too young. Rev. Bloxby, a black man? Really? In a village so traditional that the women's society call each other by their last names? I don't think so. I wish I was rich. I would buy up the rights to all the books and do it right.

Anonymous said...

I am an avid and loyal reader of MC Beaton's Agatha Raisin series, having read all but the last four! And I have to say I'm rather disappointed......
Ashley Jensen is misscast, but for me isn't the problem. Despite her blonde locks and slim figure (and the fact that she doesn't smoke or indulge in junk food binges), she plays the part reasonably well. She's glam, forceful and really quite funny and for that I can excuse her shortcomings in playing the dark haired, slightly portly, foul mouthed but hilariously amusing 'Aggie'.
No, the real issue I have is how poorly represented the Bloxbys are! Alf and Mrs Bloxby should be on the wrong side of middle age and should be quintessentially 'Miss Marple'ish. Their home should be a creaky but atmospheric vicarage with a hoary study and a flower-filled (if slightly untidy) garden - a regular refuge for our crime-solving matriarch in times of need. Instead, we have a trendy multicultural couple who call Agatha by her Christian name and act like a pair of London yuppies! (Sorry, don't know if the word 'yuppy' is even used any longer).
Other than that, I find the programme nice and lighthearted and fast-paced....But take heed producers - MC Beaton is at the top of her game; don't mess with what's written in black and white! I'd like to see another series but with correctly cast primary characters.
I write myself under a pen name (poetry mainly), but I do have a detective novel in the pipeline. It's a bit of a 'Christie' pastiche - set on a train in Scotland; I'd be hopping mad if Sky got hold of it and mucked about with any of my characters!!