Here’s a challenge: Name a country that makes better detective shows than Britain. Monk? A pale imitation of Poirot. CSI? Totally McCallum. And don’t get me started on books: I’ve been reading only Agatha Christie for ten months with no signs of boredom (though I’ve got DVDs of Prime Suspect 7, Cracker: A New Terror, and The Inspector Lynley Mysteries: Series 6 on the back burner just in case).
So with Masterpiece topping off season 1 of its hip, new, revamped Mystery! by airing the Billie Piper-fronted Shadow in the North (pictured, left) this Sunday, I thought we’d discuss the decade’s other whodunit classics (all are available on DVD).
1. Marple: Series 1-3 (2004-2007). The lowdown: Geraldine McEwen plays Christie’s amateur female sleuth in a dozen fresh mysteries. The guest stars (from Jack Davenport to Timothy Dalton) are so impressive, you’d be barmy to miss them. Best Case: “At Bertram’s Hotel.” Love Actually’s Martine McCutcheon and Green Wing’s Stephen Mangan help McEwan solve a murder spree at a London inn. Here’s a clip:
More whodunit classics, and your B&B calendar for the week, after the jump…
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2. Lewis: Series 1 (2007). The lowdown: Former Morse sidekick Lewis (Kevin Whately) gets a young new partner (Piper’s real-life hubby Laurence Fox, pictured, middle). Best Case:“Expiation.” You’ll never guess the twisted secrets behind this mom’sfaked suicide, even when I tell you they involve husband-swapping andone really bloody sewing kit.
3. Wire in the Blood: Series 5 (2007). The lowdown:Quirky clinical psychologist Tony Hill (Robson Green, pictured, right) doesmore “thinking like a killer” to assist friend DI Alex (Simone Lahbib).Best Case: “The Names of Angels.” Two women are found raped and strangled. The catch:They’re wearing clothes belonging to victims killed years earlier inother countries and the murderer is working under not one, but three,stolen identities.
4. Poirot: The Definitive Collection (2000-2006). The lowdown: David Suchet returns as Christie’s Belgian detective for 12 feature-length episodes. Best Case: “FiveLittle Pigs.” Which of these family friends (Marc Warren, TobyStephens, Gemma Jones, and Julie Cox) poisoned an artist (The Wire’sAiden Gillen) and let his widow hang for it?
5. Rebus (2000-2001). The lowdown: Ian Rankin’s famous Scottish detective as portrayed by Mummy thesp John Hannah (Ken Stott replaced him for later seasons). Best Case: “Black and Blue.” Rebus tracks a copycat killer mimicking a murderer he locked up fifteen years before.
6. Murder in Suburbia: Series 1-2 (2004-2005). The lowdown: Small English towns have grisly murders too — and detectives Ash (Caroline Catz) and Scribbs (Lisa Faulkner) to solve them. Best Case: “Salsa.” Dancing’s dangerous — especially when you sashay off your balcony.
So, Anglophiles, agree with my ranking? What did I miss?
Your Bits and Bobs calendar for the week:
Monday (September 22nd): CBS premieres its adaptation of Worst Week of My Life (aka Worst Week) at 9:30pm. Comedy Central repeats Tony Blair’s Daily Show appearance at 11pm. Little Britain’s David Walliams and Matt Lucas visit Leno on NBC at 11:35pm.
Tuesday: Horatio Hornblower: Collector’s Edition, Jewel in the Crown: 25th Anniversary Edition, and Ken Russell at the BBC drop on DVD.
Wednesday: Walliams and Lucas appear on NBC’s Conan at 12:35pm.
Thursday: Journeyman’s Kevin McKidd joins ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy at 9pm.
Friday: Read A.S. Berman’s 30 Years of British Television,a fascinating collection of interviews with the likes of Lenny Henry,Eric Idle, and John Mortimer. Then pick up Sarah Lyall’s The Anglo Files, the New York Times writer’s witty account of moving to Britain in the mid-1990s.
Saturday: Professor Cutter and crew fight ginormous worms on BBC America’s Primeval at 9pm.
Sunday: Bubbles and Daffyd hit the States in HBO’s Little Britain USA at 10:30pm. It’s hilarious.