|LWT for ITV, tx. 16/10/1983 - 14/1/1984, 9 x 60 min episodes, colour|
|Directors||Paul Annett, David Butler, Christopher Hodson, Tony Wharmby|
|Writers||Paul Annett, Jonathan Hales, Gerald Savory|
|Original stories||Agatha Christie|
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
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.