Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)


You might have noticed from other posts on here that a pet peeve of mine is the film or TV remake.

Sometimes this is because the new version is a reboot of an existing one in the same medium, eg. 2003's unwise remake of the 1969 film The Italian Job. I mean why do that? Why use the same character names and setting to attract fans of the original, only to ignore the very universe that they value so highly, and then act all surprised when they're not interested? It's hardly as if the actors are too old to drive any more.

It's kind of different if you're adapting a storyline from another medium though, eg. LWT's successful TV series based upon Agatha Christie's famous book series about one 'ercule Poirot. Of course you change the order. Of course you change the era they're set in. Of course you change some of the plots, right down to in some instances which character turns out to be the murderer. You do all these things because... yes actually ITV, why have you spent the last 25 years doing all of the above? I suppose it has at least kept the original audience guessing...

Back in its heyday I remember that Poirot was pretty much considered the benchmark for high quality TV drama. They spent insane amounts of money transporting entire streets back to another period, only to then use a few closeups, and go and edit the whole thing on mere 625-line videotape. Sorry about that overseas viewers, and anyone watching a repeat on a high-definition television...

This documentary Being Poirot is not about those shortcomings though. While it does try to touch on a few production matters, it's far more a celebration of the character's popularity, and just what a fine performance lead actor David Suchet has been turning in as Poirot for the past couple of decades. Since I have not read any of the original books (barring the start of Curtain a while back) I cannot possibly judge how well he has succeeded, however plenty about the man himself still impresses me in this doco.

For a start, he actually pulls off presenting and narrating a show that hangs on what a great actor he is. Surely there can be few celebrities who can wield the necessary humility to get away with this, yet Suchet does it! That it is so hard to reconcile the actor and the character as being the same person, only serves to further his success.

Even here though, it skips any mention of his first association with the canon, playing Inspector Japp in the 1985 movie of Thirteen At Dinner. I wouldn't mind but when so much time is instead invested in far more trivial footage of him doing things like meeting the real-life Belgian chief of police, you have to wonder just what makes that so much more worthy of inclusion. Perhaps again a case of showing off a budget at the expense of doing things better?

Original series producer Brian Eastman admits that he chose to reset it almost entirely in the wrong year but, in this edit at least, offers no explanation for why.

Nitpicks about a series that I didn't really follow aside, having at least dropped in and out of the show since it began in the 1980s, I have to admit that I too am one of those sorry to see the little man in the hat go. No longer will I find myself watching him for 20 minutes while I'm eating, before leaving him to continue his sleuthing while I go to another room to get on with doing something else. While I have never been able to get my head around whodunits, this show has always remained consistently watchable.

Having this year broken that pattern by actually following the whole of his final series (if not its plots), I must admit that as usual there is a part of me that thinks it might be worth sitting down and watching them all, in order, from the start.

And yet, no there isn't. Despite this programme's claim that they have adapted every Poirot story ever published, they still skipped the stage play Black Coffee. Oh well, maybe now that they all have a bit of time on their hands, that will come, and / or a series chronicling the cases of nearby Parker Pyne.

For this omission, and all the reasons I mentioned at the start, no matter how definitive Suchet's portrayal may be, the fact remains that the world is still waiting for a film/TV version of Poirot that is similarly definitive. Faithful, rather than merely inspired by.

Why do they make TV adaptations like this? I don't know.

Maybe even Poirot's own little grey cells might growl in protest that it is a mystery unsolvable.

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At 10:48 am, Blogger Dr Purva Pius said...

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