‘The ABC Murders’ – BBC1

Spoiler warning: details about the murderer lie below!

Mustache-twirling Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is a beloved character in literature, in cinema and on TV. Recently he’s been re-imagined as a Hollywood action hero by Kenneth Branagh in a slightly strange but ultimately well-received version of Murder on the Orient Express. So now to the BBC’s Christmas drama schedules, a big part of which has been Agatha Christie adaptations by Sarah Phelps. Over the past few years she’s brought us Ordeal by Innocence, And Then There Were None and Witness for the Prosecution. Ginger and restrained adaptations are not Phelp’s style. How do you rip up the rule book but stay true to the source material?

It turns out all you need to do is wait. The passage of time makes characters different people, more fragile and sympathetic, more human. John Malkovich portrays the great detective as a weary yesterday’s man – the ying to David Suchet’s dapper and self-important yang. He’s dismissed as just another nosy parker by the young and very serious Inspector Crome (Rupert Grint). The world has moved on since Poirot’s celebrity heyday. This is all done in an extremely heavy-handed fashion as Poirot’s retired police pal Japp literally drops dead in front of him. Alright, alright, we get it – everyone is mortal. Poor old Poirot is lonely; in desperate need of a Scooby gang – despite first appearances he’s no good at coping with life alone and forgotten.

Enter the murderer who remembers Poirot at the height of his powers and wants to play a game. By letter he tells him he’s off to kill a series of people throughout the UK whose names start with each letter of the alphabet in turn and it’s up to Poirot to figure out the connection between the seemingly random victims stop him. What an effort from the murderous mastermind to troll Poirot pre-Twitter. Think of the expense in stamps alone!

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‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’

The Cuckoo’s Calling is a new drama series that the BBC must be very happy to have. It’s based on the novel of the same name by Robert Galbraith. Old Robbie here was discovered to be a pseudonym for JK Rowling in 2013. Now, that’s a name to conjure with. It’s an odd way to broadcast the series – two episodes in one Bank Holiday weekend and the last of this trilogy in a week’s time. Let’s see what it’s all about.

The plot seems to be a list of unlikely names designed by the Cluedo board game characters playing Mad Libs with a murder mystery running through it. It’s also a warning to office workers everywhere – be careful what temp jobs you sign up for. There’s a whole world of shit you have to put up with for just above the minimum wage and all the tea you can drink, as long as you remember to fetch the milk.

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‘Finding My Twin Stranger’

Well, the advert for this Channel 4 documentary made it look fascinating. I was sucked in. Much like the ‘twins’ depicted, this early opinion didn’t stand up to much scrutiny.

This series of experiments was based on the strange new function of social media. Now our photos are available fairly publicly online, and we have a lot more connections with all parts of the world, we are likely to see many more ‘twin strangers’. This show was inspired by that now-famous moment that went viral on Twitter – two ginger beardy guys on a flight to Galway delighted to have found their doppelgänger. Look how happy they are!

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‘Modus’

Modus is familiar even before it begins. It’s an eight part Swedish crime drama shown on BBC4 in the Saturday 9pm slot usually reserved for foreign langauge drama. The credits are familiar again – a nod to the skyline of The Bridge and the grizzly but striking black and white body parts of Trapped. It’s a new tradition that dramas especially must have stylish opening credits, extra points for slow motion and an air of chilly bleakness.

So this is Christmas, in a snow-covered pine forest. A delightful Christmas card scene but it’s cold, lonely and frightening. Euro horror merchants the Brothers Grimm taught us from an early age that monsters live in the forest and they were right. In this case, in a caravan.

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Ordinary Lies: Series 2, Ep 2 – On the Box

Ordinary Lies is a BBC drama now in its second series made up of interconnecting stories about colleagues in a workplace who all have dark secrets set to be revealed.  Series 1 starred Max Beesley in a car dealership in Warrington and series 2 is set in a Sports Direct style clothing company warehouse in Cardiff.

Episode 2 looked most interesting, as it deals with very topical issues of catfishing and editing your life to show they very best bits only on social media. It’s all an illusion because real life is so boring.

This is bright and funky drama, and feels very daytime like it should be in an early afternoon Doctors slot. Not a bad thing, just a sightly unusual tone for a drama broadcast at 9pm. Although I feel I must complain about one thing – the  unrealistic sunshine. This is not usually available in South Wales, even at the height of summer.

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The Power of Comedy – Viewpoint

I read a really inspiring blog post last week about the importance of tv comedy. Sarah at Gracefully Falling Upwards wrote about how comedy changed her life; how it helped her laugh and feel ok during a particularly dark and difficult time in her life. She says:

“Comedy was there for me when I didn’t have the words to tell anyone how I felt. Comedy was there to make me laugh on the days that I didn’t even want to get out of bed. Comedy made me feel like the world wasn’t always so dark and painful and that eventually it does get better.”

This really resonated with me. When I was little I was pretty awkward and quite lonely. I found solace in books, rather than tv. I still do. Along side trying to keep up to date with great tv shows, and finding the time to write about them for you folks, my challenge is to read 70 books this year! (You can follow my progress at GoodReads). Basically I’m going to spend so much time sitting this year I might develop DVT!

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