Tommy & Tuppence are back on TV

So, here is the first official look at the new Tommy and Tuppence from the upcoming six-part BBC series Partners in Crime, starring David Walliams and Jessica Raine.

PinC

(Left to Right : Jessica Raine as Tuppence and David Walliams as Tommy. Photo: Laurence Cendrowicz / Copyright: Endor Productions )

The series, directed by Edward Hall, is made up of adaptations of the first two novels in Agatha Christie’s series of five books devoted to the Beresfords (and not the short story collection that gives the series its title, previously adapted for the eponymous 1983 ITV series starring Francesca Annis and James Warwick) – they are:

The Secret Adversary adapted in three parts by Zinnie Harris
N or M? adapted in three parts by Claire Wilson

Each novel has been turned into a three-part serial.  Here is the blurb from the press release:

Partners in Crime is an adventure series with espionage and humour at its heart. Set in a 1950s Britain rising from the ashes of the Blitz into the grip of a new Cold War, our beekeeping duo stumble into a world of murder, undercover agents and cold war conspiracy. Tuppence is a woman who sees adventure round every corner, throwing herself head first into every mystery with passion and fervour, determined to get to the truth no matter what it takes, much to the dismay of her more cautious husband Tommy.

As with the recent Father Brown series from the BBC, the setting has been relocated to a generic 1950s that is still within living memory for its target audience. Jessica Raine, fresh from the success of Call the Midwife would seem like ideal casting – as for Walliams, who is also one of the producers of the show, we shall have to wait and see. It is due out next year, to coincide with Agatha Christie’s 125th celebration year.

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52 Responses to Tommy & Tuppence are back on TV

  1. Skywatcher says:

    Well, they look the part, although I remain to be convinced. Why the 50s? Some of the later stories, perhaps, but in THE SECRET ADVERSARY the Post-WW1 setting is really vital to the story, whilst N OR M is about them foiling Nazi spies. Wouldn’t it be better to simply write their own stories or even, extraordinary idea, create their own characters rather than simply try to piggy-back on Christie’s work.

    • The generic 1950s has become a sort of industry norm – it was used for the BBC Marple series starring Joan Hickson as well as the current iteration on ITV and in the end it is a fairly cool marketing decision – but even the Suchet Poirot series did the same – apart from the final series, the show was always set in 1936! Because period shows are always more expensive, I suppose they want to rely on the Christie brand as a crutch? It will be interesting to see how faithful they are (replacing Nazi with cold war spies isn’t too big a stretch)

  2. Sergio – Thanks for this information. I have to say, I too wonder why they’ve changed the decade. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. That said though, it will be interesting to see what this series is like.

    • Well, I suppose given that the books are set so far apart they had to come up with one peirod and stick with it – one might think they just picked the exact middle between 1922 and 1973 but I think it a recognisable era that many of the target viewers will actually be able to remember but can still seem glossy – we shall see …

  3. Bev Hankins says:

    I hate it when they take stories out of period (I guess I’m a purist). And, I have to say that David Williams doesn’t fit my idea of Tommy at all.

    • But it’s not strictly out of period, is it? I mean for a cotninuin series it would have been unrealistic to set the stories between the 20s and the 70s so they had to pick one really – and it is the same as was done for the Joan Hickson micc Marple series and everyone seems to love that, right? Walliams I am on the fence about too …

  4. Colin says:

    Hmm, not generally keen on Walliams but it may work out. I can’t see the updating causing major problems – nothing that can’t be written around anyway.

    • Certainly – it might have been nice if they had not set it in the 50s just because that is what you would expect them to do in a way … But I guess the 20s feels just too remote nowadays for an expensive series.

      • Colin says:

        I think it just depends which period happens to “in” with the producers. Didn’t the ITV Poirots all more or less take place in a generic 30s setting, regardless of when the books they were based on were written?

        • I actually quite liked what they did with Poirot – the original series was in fact always set in 1936! The final few films (obviously with the ecxeption of CURTAIN) got moved a couple of years later, but that’s it. In the case of the lovely NERO WOLFE series starring Timothy Hutton they actually followed the dates in the books mor eor less, which meant that from one week to the next the setting might be the 40s, 50 or 60s though nobody aged at all – it was a very artificial show anyway, but this is another thing I love about that too short-lived series. The arguemnt usually made by media types is the ‘living memory’ one and from a marketing standpoint the 50s makes sense I guess – just think, soon it will be the 1960s and it will be ‘our’ living memory they are talking about Colin – are you ready for that? I’m not …

          • Colin says:

            No, I think I’ll go and weep softly now!

          • Colin says:

            Quite. Maturity (I was going to say advancing years but thought better of it) ought to bring wisdom and dignity. So, silent weeping it is then, 🙂

          • I think I’ve got something in my eye … but you are right, because age, if we are lucky, will advance for us all, whereas this is not the case with maturity – well, not in my exprience anyway! It will be fascinating though to see how the heritage / period label shifts chronologically, to accomodate potential viewers – but I feel lucky being an outsider anyway … Now, a TV show about growing up in Rome in the early 1980s I might enjoy … (but not with subtitles I wouldn’t)

          • Colin says:

            Just do what I do – lie about your age.

          • 39 forever? With your fine head of hair you can probably get away with that – with my thinning locks I’ve looked about 40 since I was 19!

          • Colin says:

            40 is a good age and look – don’t knock it.

          • Sold to the man in Greece 🙂

          • Skywatcher says:

            What really scares me is the thought that in another twenty years time the default date for any Christie adaption will be the 1970s. Hastings bounces behind Poirot on a space hopper whilst the great detective tucks into a Pot Noodle. Oh, and all that lovely brown wallpaper.

            I think that the Hickson/Marple started off set around 1947, but gradually worked its way up to the end of the 50s. I didn’t spot it first time around, but watching them recently it became apparent that the clothes, cars, and newspaper hoardings are subtly altered to suggest time passing. I remember that the Ngaio Marsh adaptions with Patrick Malahide were all set post-war in the 40s, to the extent that some of the stories were even altered to point this up. Tommy & Tuppence could presumably work as characters in the 50s, since their stories take place over a long length of time, but trying to rewrite the early books, with their highly period settings, doesn’t bode well for me. When the recent MARPLE series tried to do THE SECRET OF CHIMNEYS they mangled it so much by moving it to the 50s that even the talented cast couldn’t save it.

          • Thanks Skywatcher. Interesting about the Hickson series – didn’t really pick up on that – but then it’s been years since I watched any of them. The new MARPLE series seems to delight in messing about with the original stories as much as possible, though I do think the Tommy & Tuppence BY THE PRICKING woke very well actually. All the Suchet Poirots were set in 1936 until the very last few films (I noticed a not so subtle reference to the death of George Gershwin, in 1937) but it certainly got no later than 1938 until CURTAIN (which I was quite disappointed by)

          • richmcd says:

            I also enjoyed the Marple adaptation of By The Pricking of My Thumbs. One of the last good episodes (I pretend there are only two series!) I always find Tommy and Tuppence a bit twee and tiresome, so I appreciated the extra characterisation. Much better than the original book.

          • Although I prefer the less camp and garish approach of the Mackenzie Marple films, I know exactly what you mean Rich – I only disagree with you about Christie’s By The Pricking of My Thumbs, which for me is a major late work.

  5. Sergio, I have only read THE SECRET ADVERSARY. While David Walliams does look the part of Tommy, I’d have expected him to be a bit leaner, perhaps. But they look like a couple out to have fun in their mysteries.

    • Yes, I know what you mean actually – he looks a bit too well-fed for the era! But he is quite a beefy bloke in fact – an interesting contrast with the 80s TV version – here are Annis and Warwick in an equivalent shot from their version of Secret Adversary from 1982:
      SECRET ADVERSARY

  6. I have all kinds of reservations about this, but will certainly at least start watching – I have realized that while I am quite stuffy and picky about people writing follow-ups to dead authors’ books (the new Poirot, the new Lord Peter etc) I am much more forgiving about, and open to, changes in the actual adaptations. Which is odd in a way. But (unlike many) I really enjoyed a lot of the TV dramas, loved the settings and high production values, and if they changed the ending – well, that kept us on our toes. So I’ll be giving it a go.

    • I know what you mean Moira. I have enjoyed only a few of the new MARPLE episodes (and actually though t the best was the late Tommy and Tuppence story BY THE PRICKING OF MY THUMBS), which on the whole have been too garish for me. I thought most of the later Poirots were frustratingly solemn and humourless (though FIVE LITTLE PIGS was wonderfulyl well done) and was really disappointed by CURTAIN, which had far too much Suchet and not enough Hercule!

      • richmcd says:

        I still haven’t seen CURTAIN. I thought Death on the Nile was a high point for the revived Suchet series, and then didn’t enjoy any of them after that. You’re right that they’re very humourless. They also extended the solutions to an interminable length, sometimes over a quarter of the running time. Which made them feel both too rushed and too slow.

        • It’s odd an frustrating for me because you would hope that the success of the series ‘brand’ might in fact encourage the filmmakers to maybe take a few risks, in the knowledge that they have banked enough goodwill to weather the odd bump in the road (to mix one’s metaphors). Instead the opposite happens, they get more and more conservative in terms of presentation but feel the need to tweak stories because they don’t trust audiences to accept the older attitudes and conventions of the original Christie period. They behave as though they are more and more desperate to keep what they have for fear of losing it – as if the final Poirots after nearly 25 years of loyal viewing wouldn’t make their money back!!!

        • richmcd says:

          I completely agree. That’s why I’m so fond of the early Marples, despite their campness. There’s a strong sense of style and an attempt to grow the character in a particular direction, especially by giving her strong, complicated friendships with younger women (Tuppence, Miss Murgatroyd, Anne Protheroe – that last one’s a brilliant idea) and a sense that her deduction method (understanding human psychology) is based not just on being observant but having had a wealth of experience. Which is a shift in the character but I think an improvement, and one that comes organically from the source material.

          And even when they fell flat, they were at least TRYING something, whereas a lot of the late Poirots feel as though they made them more out of an obligation to Suchet’s dream of completing the canon than anything else.

          To return to the original topic, I can understand people’s wariness about Walliams’ casting, but hopefully it means they’ll try and do something original with the material. When it comes to adaptations vs completely new material I think I agree with Moira: I like new material to feel authentic but adaptations to take risks or highlight a particular aspect of the source material.

          • While I agree that the Marple series should have been applauded for doing somethign different, I thought it was often crass and silly so in the end I wished they hadn’t bothered, though there were successes and I agree, if they had done it better, the approach could have worked very nicely. We shall have to wait and see about T&T …

  7. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    I love Tommy and Tuppence, and frankly I think Walliams is wrong for the part. I liked the 80s adaptations, although perhaps Annis was a little too pretty. The jury is out on this one….

    • The casting of Walliams is what I am most curious about (not been crazy about his few dramatic outings so far). As for Annis, had a huge crutch on her then so no complaints for me in that department 🙂

  8. Noah Stewart says:

    I’ve known a couple of production designers for television and I suspect that the reason the current default BBC “period piece” is about 1950 is that it’s the earliest period for which they can get authentic-looking locations and props. Clothes can be made, and are, but they need a big store of things like teapots and antimacassars, cars and purses, not to mention apartment buildings and gas stations, and as time goes by it’s harder and harder to do the 20s and 30s. When computer-generated stuff becomes even less expensive and a lot quicker to do, I suspect we’ll be back in the 1920s, faithful to the originals, again.

    • I’m sure you’re right Noah – external locations in particular must be a real pain! The use of CG in recent ‘heritage’ tv has tended to be pretty unconvincing I’ve found but it’s bound to improve, as you say.

  9. Yvette says:

    I love Annis and Warwick in the previous Tommy and Tuppence series – one can actually imagine them having a fun marriage full of adventures and, dare I say it? Sex.

    I don’t like this new casting much. Don’t like the 50’s update. The 50’s were NOT a fun era. I know, I was there. This actor looks too well-fed to play Tommy freshly demobbed as he was in the original stories. But we’ll have to wait and see.

    Hunting Soviet spies doesn’t leave much room for fun, I’d say.

    Thanks for this update, Sergio. 🙂

    • Well, maybe Britain in the 1950s was a bit more fun after the end of rationing … 🙂 and really Yvette, you’re saying Soviet Spies are less fun than their Nazi equivalent? Even Indiana Jones had to egt updated eventually …

  10. TracyK says:

    Thanks for the reminder, Sergio. I haven’t seen the original series yet… that is I did watch that version of the Secret Adversary and enjoyed it, but haven’t gotten to the other episodes. And I have the set. I am glad to hear that Yvette liked that version, because I want to like it, and I have heard negative comments on it.

  11. Jeff Flugel says:

    Interesting post and discussion, Sergio! I too am fond of the Annis/Warwick originals, but to me the new casting is less problematic than my general distrust of the BBC (or ITV, for that matter) to handle period detective shows right. After the hash job they made of the new FATHER BROWN series, plus all the unnecessary re-jiggering of classic Christie plots in several of the later POIROT telefilms (CARDS ON THE TABLE being a particularly egregious example), I’m a bit leery of new projects like this. I will certainly give it a go, though, as I’m always up for a good vintage crime series, if done properly. Thanks for the preview!

    • Thanks Jeff – I am coming to this with the same degree of caution and scepticism – let’s hope it’s fun at least (as I don’t have a lot invested in the fictional characters so am happy to take it as it is and not worry too much about its canonical fidelity)

  12. robert says:

    It’s probably difficult for Walliams to make people forget he was half of “Little Britain” 🙂 I don’t know if it’s true but once Walliams was introduced to the Queen (I saw the tv documentary,he was svanding on a line, along with other people who were meriting.) He had just swum around the Channel to raise quite a lot of money for charity, and was quite famous already. then the Duke of Edinburgh asked who this man was, and when told, asked if indeed he was the nut who had swam the channel 🙂

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