by Kathleen Costa
With travel restricted and getting out and about raising concerns, for me finding a distraction is still as close as my iPad or iPhone. AcornTV adds weekly to their streaming library ample choices for any interest from dramas to comedies, private detectives to police procedurals, from mini series to movies, and of course, fascinating documentaries. I am enjoying repeats of Lovejoy and Midsomer Murders, new seasons for Vera and Murdoch Mysteries, exploring British humor with Goodnight, Sweatheart and After Henry, and stretching my interest with documentaries like Scotch: The Story of Whisky, Alexandria: The Greatest City, and Victoria Wood’s Nice Cup of Tea899*. And, hurrah, one of my favorite dramady detective shows has returned with three brilliant telemovies.
Welcome Back, Agatha Raisin!
Adapted from M.C. Beaton’s popular novels under the same name, fans are treated to the flashy fashion, clever theories, snarky humor, and always in trouble Agatha Raisin starring Ashley Jensen. Newbies and longtime fans can enjoy days of delightful entertainment since AcornTV has the first season (nine 45-minute episodes), second season (three 90-minute telemovies), and the first telemovie for season three Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House (reviewed HERE) available. This past February, the excitement rang throughout the internet, well, at least in my corner of it, with the return of a trio of new telemovies.
Do You Remember?
Agatha Raisin took an early retirement from her PR firm and relocated to Carsley in the Cotswolds, a favorite place from her childhood. There she tries to fit in with the quaint community by entering in their “best quiche” competition. However, a murder, seemingly related to her own entry, forces her to investigate and in the process she discovers she has the knack. And after she seems plagued with lots of mayhem and murder. Now, with several successful outcomes and murderers behind bars, she is an official private investigator, license and all. However, despite her credentials and previous successes, the local detectives still do not appreciate her “nosing” around. Her agency, decorated in over-the-top London chic, is housed in an old chapel, and her formal and informal team, bringing varying responsibilities and talents to the table, mostly act peripheral to Aggie’s “right in the middle of the trouble.”
James Lacy (Jamie Glover), her “living in sin” boyfriend, has his academic work on which to focus, but he seems disappointed and left out as he’s not much of an active member. He does find himself to be a witness, maybe a suspect, and due to his book tour, doesn’t play a roll in the third mystery. Roy Silver (Mathew Horne), continues to act as an assistant traveling to and from New York, but he is on the prowl at times, showing interest in many handsome guys, and winds up with too many hangovers to be an effective member. Close friend and vicar’s wife Sarah Bloxby (Lucy Liemann) is on her own since the vicar is on an extended mission, so she’s eager for any distraction, especially doing surveillance, checking alibis, and going undercover. Sir Charles Fraith (Jason Merrells) still has relationship challenges, and Agatha is taken aback by his touting active participation in HER agency; it seems his way to be involved…maybe with Agatha? DCI Wilkes (James Barnett) is frequently clueless, quirky with a capital “Q,” and not being an Agatha fan, often accuses her of interference or murder, but DC Bill Wong (Matt McCooey), who is trying to pass his sergeant’s exam, keeps law enforcement on track including using Agatha, I mean she really does have a knack! And the newest team member, with whom DC Wong is dancing around his feelings, has Agatha’s complete confidence. Toni Gilmour (Jodie Tyack), niece of Agatha’s friend Gemma, is a detective-in-training with her own special skills…don’t eat her cupcakes! Entertaining adaptations of Beaton’s clever murder mysteries, quirky, endearing characters, and marvelous British humor…I love it!
Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House (5/5 Ghostly Mysteries)
“3…2…1… We have liftoff!” The new Agatha Raisin Detective Agency is open for business, but despite all the PR, not much business arrives. James announces a solution: Haunting Horror in Hebberdon. If they can solve the mystery, it just might be the press they need to get the business going. But, their ghost hunting reveals eerie activities, an historical re-enactment group, legend of Lamont’s famous treasure, and a dead body…the usual roadblocks.
ICYMI: Although first aired in October to begin season three, this telemovie is still available. Do you recognize Robin Barley? It’s Clare Holman from Inspector Lewis. Don’t know about you, but jammy dodgers and pork scratching…yum!
Agatha Raisin and the Deadly Dance (5/5 Argentinian Tangos)
“Super Sleuth or PR Stunt!” is the headline. Sounds like a challenge Agatha is forced to take up since her business is struggling for legitimacy. The case: a missing dog named “Redrum” may not be the “big case” they need to improve their image, but death threats to the daughter of a wealthy friend of Charles’s just might fit the bill. At the daughter’s engagement party awkward issues arise of unsuitable family, lookalikes to dead wives, and…a gun! Shots ring out, but who’s the intended target, and why is there a deadman in Agatha’s kitchen?
Agatha Raisin and the Love From Hell (5/5 Creepy Porcelain Dolls)
“The things we do for love.” James is preparing for an extended book tour that could make him a temporary part of Agatha’s life for a year. Worse, yet. At a jazz-filled evening, “Bad Jamesy” is seen manhandling a beautiful, but pushy writer friend, who tries to force him to tell Agatha “something” important. Then he goes missing leaving behind a trail of blood here and there, and…a dead body. As unlikely partners, Agatha and James’s sister argue and snipe at each other while trying to locate James. Secrets, auctions, and another victim puts James in the hot seat.
ICYMI: Mrs. “B” Boggle (Marcia Warren) is a favorite character actress from several iconic detective cozies including PBS’s comedy, Vicious. James’s sister Shiela (Caroline Langrishe) is from one of my favorite shows, Lovejoy. And the quintessential pub Fox and Ferret…I love it!
Agatha Raisin: As the Pig Turns (5/5 Spicy Sausages)
“That’s not a pig, it’s a human torso!” [Insert scream] An overzealous cop winds up dead, and his wife needs answers. Agatha and the team are enjoying some downtime at a Viking-inspired gathering, but instead get embroiled in another murder. Seeing mysteries and suspects everywhere, suspicions lead to kidnappings, noisy trucks in the night, and possible smuggling.
ICYMI: Recognize Mr. and Mrs. Richards? Mrs. is Nancy Carroll (Lady Felicia from Father Brown) and Mr. is John Hopkins (Sgt. Dan Scott of Midsomer Murders season 6-7). And the village? I so wish to move to the Cotswolds.
“I’m looking to the future,” Sarah sighs. Agatha smiles, “You know what, so am I.” Life in Carsely seems to have come full circle with Agatha and James still trying to navigate their lives together, and Roy, her loyal friend, still looking for love. Relationships move forward between now Detective Sergeant Wong and budding P.I. Toni Gilmour, Sarah has a revelation about her future, Sir Charles knows good friends are what he needs most, and DCI Wilkes is still keeping a close eye on Agatha, yet too often he gets distracted. BFF Gemma Simpson (Katy Wix) is still out of the picture, but hopefully one day she’ll return. The series has so much more to present to fans, so a season four is possible, but not yet confirmed. However, one can always turn to AcornTV to get a bit of Agatha everyday.
Agatha Raisin Facebook Live with Ashley Jensen & Matt McCooey A fun Q&A interview with Agatha Raisin and DS Bill Wong had been presented live prior to February’s premiere. Ashley Jensen and Matt McCooey give fans some delicious insights into the production with its humor, close friendships, and four-inch heels, but also a little peek into the themselves. The hanging “egg-shaped” chair? I want one, too!
RIP, M.C. Beaton! (Marion Chesney 1936-2019)
It was very sad to learn the world has lost a marvelous author; I am and always will be a fan of her thirty-six-book Hamish Macbeth and thirty-one book Agatha Raisin mysteries. Introduced to both series through their television adaptations, both on AcornTV, I’ve discovered the television versions are different from the books in its depth, additional side stories, and the personalities of the main and “just visiting” characters. It’s fascinating that since the series was first written in the 1990s, Agatha wore fur, smoked, and used landlines to keep in touch. So, it has been very enjoyable, and not at all repetitive, to read the books. I have just started listening to and am thrilled with the audio versions of her four-book Edwardian Murder Mystery (2003-2006), written under her name Marion Chesney. I am currently listening to Snobbery with Violence narrated by the very talented Davina Porter. Highly enjoyable and a great idea for a new series! Marion Chesney (M.C. Beaton) will be missed, but for me, she will live forever in her books!
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