August 29, 2012 6 Comments

St Merry Mead is a quiet village, a place where gossip flourishes and even the slightest hint of scandal is the source of ladies conversation at afternoon tea.

Marple, Series One (2004) ITV TV Review

Colonel Lucius Protheroe (Derek Jacobi) has made a reputation as one of the most despicable residents. He thinks himself superior to everyone else, and finds pleasure in putting down the local vicar, Leonard Clement (Tim McInnerny), even going so far as to covertly express the matter in front of the entire congregation. This is something that Leonard’s new wife (Rachel Stirling) takes offense at. Much younger than her husband, Griselda Clement is often the topic of conversations, especially in relation to the younger resident artist.

Lawrence Redding (Jason Flemying) has a reputation as quite the ladies’ man and in St. Merry Mead alone he’s associated with several. Commissioned to paint Colonel Protheroe’s daughter, Lettice (Christina Cole), the Colonel is outraged to discover his daughter posing for the portrait. All as his second wife, Ann (Janet McTeer) attempts to keep peace in the household.

‘MARPLE,’ SERIES ONE (2004). Review of the first series of the ITV Masterpiece series. All review text © Rissi JC and RissiWrites.com

Meanwhile, St. Merry Mead’s most revered resident – quite well-known for her tendency to solve puzzles, Miss Jane Marple (Geraldine McEwan) has a front row seat to all the mysterious happenings after a sprained ankle. The vicarage garden shed is the place where so many of the goings-on occur, and the rumors going on raise more questions than answers.

When finally I saw these, it’s backwards. I started with series five before purchasing the “collection” release. Though these modern adaptations are far from perfect, they’re probably some of the most intelligent scripts on TV. Dialogue is sharp and witty, and the mysteries are top-notch. Each one is complex all while building the kind of suspense to keep us wavering on the edge. And I was on the edge of my seat. Through their roles, the writers, directors, and cast show what capable hands this series is in. All four tele-films are exciting. Murder at the Vicarage is probably the least impressive in terms of the crime but nevertheless it is still entertaining. The Body in the Library is the most ingenious while 4:50 from Paddington (although the end is cute, I will confess, I was rooting for the alternate) is likely my favorite.

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‘MARPLE,’ SERIES ONE (2004) #FWarchives Click To Tweet

I’d be remiss not to mention the guest stars are some of the best, most talented Britain has to offer. Derek Jacobi, Christina Cole, Cherie Lunghi, Keeley Hawes, Matthew Goode, and Jack Davenport are only a few of the recognizable names. Also, Julie Cox stars as a young Miss Marple in a heartbreaking flashback. There’s been much disagreement and conflict as to which actress depicts Miss Marple the best. Coming from someone unfamiliar with the original context, I can say that now I’ve seen ladies in the role, I think Geraldine McEwan takes two sides of a personality in the best portrayal of Miss Marple. Her interpretation of the iconic figure is just enough of the grandmotherly type, while maintaining a slight sinister characteristic when she lays out the crimes. She totes around her knitting bag, a mystery novel and still manages to catch a killer, all while knitting.

Filmmakers more than make up where they fail conservative viewers in the content. Sets and costumes are rich in period detail. The countryside scenery is breathtaking and the filmmaking good, too. If one thing does become a bit “old,” it’s the use of so many flashbacks. They’re frequent most especially in the opening but does seem to settle down to some extent so that it isn’t quite the distraction it once was; they’re all eight, ten, fifteen years prior. No matter your motivation for seeing these – cast, genre, era, they’re an entertaining evening of fun. Help to solve a jolly good murder with the delightful antics of St. Merry Mead’s most famous resident.  

Content: Two episodes include a homosexual plot; both of which show a same-sex kiss. There’s mention of illegitimate children as well as adulterous affairs, some of which are motive for murder. The first of the set sees a brief tryst between a married woman and her lover. Poison acts as murder for some victims, bludgeoning for others; one person gets a fatal bullet. The worst of the language are uses of b*sst*rd and b*tch.

About Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.

Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.

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  • Natalie August 29, 2012 at 11:44 PM

    I LOVE Agatha Christie books, and look forward to BBC's Miss Marple movies every year! =D

  • Rissi August 30, 2012 at 2:35 AM

    I think these are just phenomenal. Love the intricate scripts – these are such great writing in my book. :-)

  • Charity U December 31, 2012 at 7:41 PM

    I have enjoyed Agatha Christie's Miss Marple stories so much! I've seen a few TV episodes as well, but I think they were different ones…not sure, it's been quite a while. :) Good review!

    • Rissi December 31, 2012 at 8:50 PM

      As have I, Charity. My mother and I have breezed past all of the currently available ITV productions and are *dying* to see the new ones in 2013. :)

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