Monday, January 2, 2017

Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime (1983)

James Warwick and Francesca Annis.
Premise:  After a chance encounter during World War I, childhood friends Tommy Beresford and Prudence "Tuppence" Cowley meet again in 1919 in London. Both are unemployed and looking for adventure. While sharing tea at a nearby cafe, Tommy mentions overhearing a conversation about a young woman with the unusual name of Jane Finn. Shortly afterwards, a man named Whittington approaches Tuppence, mentions the name Jane Finn, and says he may have a job for Tuppence. It's not long before the "young adventurers" are immersed in a spy plot involving the Lusitania's sinking and a missing treaty. This is the plot of "The Secret Adversary," which served as the pilot for this series. In subsequent episodes, the grounded Tommy and impulsive Tuppence are married. Tommy purchases a detective agency and the two become full-time sleuths. Albert, whom they met as a hotel elevator operator in "The Secret Adversary," becomes their butler/assistant.

Running Time: The pilot is 115 minutes; regular episodes are 52 minutes.

Status:  There has only been one season of 11 episodes, which aired in 1983-84. The series can be streamed on Acorn TV and is also available on DVD in the U.S.

Production Notes:  Agatha Christie introduced Tommy and Tuppence in 1922 with the aforementioned novel The Secret Adversary (by the way, the TV adaptation is pretty faithful). The couple appeared in three more novels and a collection of short stories titled Partners in Crime. One of the novels, By the Pricking of My Thumbs, was adapted in 2006 for the TV series Agatha Christie's Marple. It featured Anthony Andrews and Greta Scacchi as Tommy and Tuppence. However, it also inserted Miss Jane Marple into the plot, essentially having her replace Tommy who is away on intelligence business. In 2015, David Walliams and Jessica Raine portrayed the married sleuths in a new series that updated the setting to the 1950s.

Our Review:  Obviously intended as a lighthearted affair, Partners in Crime never finds the right mix of witty banter and mystery. Francesca Annis (as Tuppence) and James Warwick (as Tommy) are fine actors, but both appear to be trying too hard to inject energy into the slowly-paced episodes. Annis, in particular, exaggerates Tuppence almost to the point of irritation. The leisurely pacing is a huge liability, too; in "The Affair of the Pink Pearl," the episode is almost half-over before a crime involving the missing pearl is introduced.

Grade: C+.

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