Partners in Crime, a new BBC series featuring Agatha Christie's Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, kicked off tonight with part one of The Secret Adversary, a thriller that was really quite a departure from her debut novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Christie gave the title Partners in Crime to a collection of short stories written during the Twenties in which the Beresfords ran a detective agency and amused themselves by aping the methods of famous fictional sleuths.
Back in the Eighties, the Partners in Crime series was televised, and although some of the short stories are a little thin, Francesca Annis and James Warwick did a very good job as Tuppence and Tommy. So in theory the first question to ask about the new show is: how well did Jessica Raine and David Walliams do playing the same characters?
I suppose the real answer is that they are barely the same characters. The BBC hired Zinnie Harris, an accomplished mainstream playwright, to write the script, and I get the impression that she set herself the challenge of writing something as different from the original as was possible. Not just updating the story thirty years to the Cold War era, but introducing a touch of raunchiness and a scene in which a bumbling Tommy finds himself visiting a peep-show while on the trail of some bad guys.
Agatha Christie it ain't - the mystery element is pretty thin so far, as well - but it made for light and undemanding Sunday evening viewing. Not bad, and at times quite amusing, but definitely not for the purists. I'm fairly open-minded about this sort of thing, as I remind myself that I was introduced to Christie as a child through my enjoyment of a Miss Marple film based on a book that actually featured Poirot. To this day,I'm a huge Christie fan, but I'll approach future episodes with the intention of trying to forget the source material for the time being. Comparisons are pointless.