Wednesday, June 11, 2008

When life disappoints
Two of my favorite bloggers have recently written great posts about being disappointed. Husband writes of his dissatisfaction with the Discovery channel's documentary about the space race, When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions.

Meanwhile, the ever-hilarious Finny details her long-anticipated visit to Sunset Magazine's open house.

For me, my most recent disappointment was PBS's Mystery, usually one of my favorite TV shows. But this past season they redid some of Agatha Christie's wonderful Miss Marple stories to star the delightful Geraldine McEwan. She was, as usual, great. The adaptations, however, were dreadful.

Mind you, they had a lot to live up to. The definitive Miss Marple stories have already been done, in my opinion, in the series starring Joan Hickson, pitch-perfect as the spinster sleuth. Those productions were stylish, fabulously acted and directed, and faithful to the novels. The latest round of stories, however, featured plot devices that would have made Christie blush.

One cannot help but wonder why they would take a character as beloved and well known as Miss Jane Marple and then screw big time with the books. Not only is this guaranteed to piss off diehard Christie fans (such as I) but it's hardly likely to draw new fans. If this was one's first introduction to Agatha Christie, you'd get the impression that she couldn't write a decent plot to save her life. They were awful. Plus they stupidly redid some of the ones that were done previously with Hickson. I have all the Joan Hickson Marples on DVD and can happily watch them repeatedly. The new ones I could barely sit through once.

There were characters that never appeared in the original novels. In fact one threw in two additional Christie characters, the charming Tommy and Tuppence. The problem was that T&T weren't in that particular novel and instead of the stylish and playful couple of the 20s and 30s, they were old, tired, 50-ish, and Tuppance was an alcoholic. What a way to ruin the unwritten future of some beloved characters!

Some of the changes were just baffling. Why change the name of one character from "Charles" to "James?" Is there an embargo against the name Charles? Why take a very-much-in-love newlywed couple (in the book and the Hickson verson) and change it to an engaged woman, her never-to-appear-on-screen fiance, and a guy who's just a pal but ends up getting the girl in the end? What exactly does that add to the story?

I think part of the charm of Christie is the coziness of the stories. Sure each one is about a murder....but it's a tidy murder. In a tidy society. But the latest versions decided that the one thing lacking from Christie is a sense of grittiness. (And Christie is SO the anti-gritty!) So they added suicidal main characters, closeted homosexuals, and even a horrid back story which gave Miss Marple a married lover in WWI.

OK, so Husband's dissatisfaction has the benediction of scientific superiority. And Finny at least got out in the world. Me? I'm just bitchy because my mystery wasn't cozy enough.

Sigh...even my rants are lame.

No comments: