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Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime (1983-84)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime (1983-84)
LWT for ITV, tx. 16/10/1983 - 14/1/1984, 9 x 60 min episodes, colour
DirectorsPaul Annett, David Butler, Christopher Hodson, Tony Wharmby
ProducerJack Williams
WritersPaul Annett, Jonathan Hales, Gerald Savory
Original storiesAgatha Christie
MusicJoseph Horovitz

Cast: James Warwick (Tommy Beresford); Francesca Annis (Tuppence Beresford); Reece Dinsdale (Albert); Arthur Cox (Detective Inspector Marriott)

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Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, in need of further thrills and excitement from their inaugural adventure, decide to open a detective agency and, with their enthusiastic young office boy Albert as receptionist, engage in a series of murder investigations.

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With this spirited comedy-thriller series, LWT producer Tony Wharmby crossed the twisting thread formula of Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (ITV, tx. 30/3/1980) with bouncy humour after the manner of The Seven Dials Mystery (ITV, tx. 8/3/1981), and laced the mixture with resourcefully used locations, sets and costumes to suggest the dizzy flavour of the 1920s. That the resulting mélange didn't quite jell, surprisingly enough, seemed due mainly to the fact that the subject matter, as evidenced by the air of strain around the various crimes that were investigated, was often too heavy to be entirely suited to comedy.

Despite longueurs (notably the perpetual cooing-doves relationship of the sleuthing duo), however, the series rattled along very amiably, one of the chief sources of pleasure being Francesca Annis's zestful Tuppence. Before the arrival of Joan Hickson as BBC's Miss Marple in 1984, Annis was the face of the television Christie heroine. Her vibrant presence had adorned Why Didn't They Ask Evans? and the starter for this series, Agatha Christie's The Secret Adversary (ITV, tx. 9/10/1983).

Apparently, Miss Christie was having some fun with the original stories, published in her 1929 collection Partners in Crime, by furnishing each case with the characteristics and ambience of a popular literary sleuth of the period. 'The Affair of the Pink Pearl' drew on the scientific deductions of author R. Austin Freeman's Dr. John Thorndyke; 'The House of Lurking Death' was investigated in the fashion of A.E.W. Mason's ingenious French Inspector Hanaud; in 'The Man in the Mist', Tommy was disguised as a clergyman in the manner of G.K. Chesterton's celebrated Father Brown; and for 'The Crackler', with its organised forgery ring, the plotting was inspired by the works of Edgar Wallace.

The main assets of Partners in Crime are its tireless sense of fun and charming simplicity. That the flapper-era world of Tommy and Tuppence is so unashamedly divorced from reality, and the plotlines allowing the actors to romp from one absurd scene to the next without pausing for too much explanation, is of little consequence when the series so fully embraces its good-humoured silliness.

James Warwick and Francesca Annis, casual and elegant, bring the right qualities of self-mockery and accurate but offhand comedy timing to parts which demand nothing more but could get by with nothing less.

Tise Vahimagi

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Video Clips
Agatha Christie's The Secret Adversary (1983)
Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (1980)
Agatha Christie on Television