‘Ordeal by Innocence’ – BBC1

Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries are an international literary language; translated, loved and understood the world over. You know there’s going to be a big stately home, a cast of shifty upper-class characters, a few red herrings and a satisfyingly complicated conclusion. It’ll all hinge on the silver sugar tongs, a classified advert in the Times or the colour of the front door which you knew from the start but discounted as an inconsequential detail. It’s clever, gratifying and reassuring all in one shot. For a real-life example, please see me and Mr H on holiday in Turkey in 2014. We were, I’m ashamed to admit, battered out of our skulls on local raki and dealing with a day-long hangover in a hotel room easily as hot as the surface of the sun. What could be more soothing to the addled brain than finding Poirot dubbed into Turkish with English subtitles? In no small part thanks to Hercule we consoled the little grey cells that hadn’t been murdered by alcohol.

Ordeal by Innocence, the Easter Sunday BBC1 drama, is not your Turkish holiday Agatha Christie adaptation. There’s nothing soothing about this production. From the off it’s clear we’re in a nightmarish gothic horror. Producer and writer Sarah Phelps brings us a sharper, nastier, distilled version of And Then There Were None, her tremendous Christie adaptation from 2016. “Nine elaborate murders based on an extremely dodgy nursery rhyme that drive a young woman to suicide in a mansion on a deserted island is not really terrifying enough. Let’s kick it up a notch guys!”

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‘Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands’ – On the Box

Dear readers, I hope you know that I suffer so you don’t have to. I watch the shows that gets a lot of excited previews but leave you confused and disappointed. I’ll haul the coal, deal with the pressure and present to you the diamonds. As we all know, your telly time is limited and you don’t want to waste it on stinkers. Treat this blog as a (highly subjective) guide to avoiding the stench.

I was really looking forward to Beowulf Return to the Shield Lands (ITV) but what in the fuck was that all about? It didn’t help that I was watching it with a fan of the poem. Immediately Mr H was saying “nope” to all the characters and plot developments that weren’t true to the original. The first five minutes made him sound like a beatbox. From the get-go it was like a class of primary school children had decided to do scenes from Game of Thrones as their school play. Their teacher should be fired.

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‘And Then There Were None’ – On the Box

Oh my! How grizzly, how gruesome, how horrible!

I’m an Agatha Christie fan and I knew despite the veneer of respectability that she liked it dark. And bloody. And sinister. Even little old Miss Marple has a dark side. But in all that time I never realised Agatha Christie was a frustrated horror writer. This all became clear watching And Then There Were None (BBC1), a period murder mystery based on Christie’s novel of the same name. Even George R R Martin (aka the butcher of all your favourite characters) would have said “Come on now Agatha, don’t you think nine elaborate murders based on a racist nursery rhyme that drive a young woman to suicide in a mansion on a deserted island is a bit much? Death by dipping a guy in molten gold is one thing, but this is just nasty!”

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‘Fargo – Series 2’ – On the Box

A quick post about Fargo series 2 which started last week on Channel 4. I’d watched the film, but had no great love for it – no real recollection of it other than it was strange, ghoulish and looked bloody cold. This doesn’t paint me in the best light as a film fan, but was pretty useful when the Coen brother’s work was adapted for tv. I came to series 1 with fairly fresh eyes, not worried whether super-fan Noah Hawley could possibly write something that’d live up to the film like the real fans were.

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