We like period drama – people in hats and stiff collars committing and solving crime – and there’s plenty of it about this week. Just for a change, we’re going to start with some radio, because that’s the way we roll around here.
GF Newman is an incredibly prolific writer, who has written for TV – the serial Law And Order, Judge John Deed and New Street Law, among them – as well as novels, and radio and theatre plays and serials.
His latest drama series, The Corrupted, for BBC Radio 4 is based on the characters from his epic crime novel, Crime And Punishment, about the rise of a London crime family in post-war Britain.
In the first episode, the year is 1951 and, as London celebrates The Festival of Britain, a young boy witnesses a murder that will scar him for life and have lasting consequences that affect his whole family.
The Corrupted is broadcast from Monday to Friday for the next two weeks at 2.15pm on BBC Radio 4, and stars Toby Jones – we like him – and features Ross ‘Grant’ Kemp as the narrator. That’s the cast in that picture. They’re not dressed up in period costume because it’s, like, radio.
Can you adam and eve it, the first episodes of ITV’s adaptions of Agatha Christie’s Poirot stories and novels were broadcast way back in 1989. That’s, er, that’s, er – bear with me – that’s 24 years ago now!
This week ITV transmits the first of the final four adaptions, culminating in Christie’s controversial finale, Curtain, early next year. With the completion of the 66-episodes early next year, every literary work by Christie featuring Hercule Poirot will have been adapted. Along the way, David Suchet has made the part of the irrepressible little Belgian absolutely his own for all eternity. Yes, that long.
Set against the backdrop of the impending World War II, the first film, The Big Four, plunges Poirot into the world of global espionage.
Exercise your little grey cells on this blurb:
In an effort to demonstrate international unity, the Peace Party hosts a grand reception, which re-unites Poirot with his good friend Japp, now Assistant Commissioner of the Met. The illustrious crowd also includes English diplomat Stephen Paynter, and the French scientist and Peace Party stalwart, Madame Olivier. The American tycoon, and hearty backer of the Party, Abe Ryland, fronts the event, which climaxes in an exciting game of chess, where he takes on the reclusive Russian Grandmaster, Dr Ivan Savaranoff Poirot and Japp decide to pool resources following a series of murders.
Poirot realises that each of these crimes is so dramatic and expertly stage-managed as to be almost theatrical… and the murderer must indeed be a master of disguise in order to pull off such varied and ingenious plans. Through a scrapbook found at Whalley’s house, he tracks down failing actress Flossie Monro, whom he believes may unwittingly be at the root of all this bloodshed. However, before he can pursue his theories, Poirot himself is also killed! Or is he?
The Big Four is on ITV on Wednesday night at 8pm.
We’ve discussed, have we not, Hercule before? Here’s some information about Christie and her somewhat vexing relationship with the little man, in order to get you in the mood.
A more gritty evocation of life between the wars is Boardwalk Empire, which begins its fourth series on Sky Atlantic on Saturday night.
The show took a season or two to find its feet, I’d say, but it’s motoring along now. It’s a sumptuous evocation of the Prohibition era in Atlantic City with some terrific gangster characters, both real and imagined.
Atlantic City, February 1924: After barely surviving an overthrow by gangster Gyp Rossetti, Nucky Thompson is laying low at the end of the Boardwalk. But the calm will be short-lived, as Nucky faces new challenges, including a clash with the mayor, a battle with his brother Eli over Eli’s college-age son, and the irresistible lure of lucrative and perilous opportunities in Florida.
Nucky makes a peace offering to Joe Masseria while working the odds with Arnold Rothstein. While Chalky is busy running the Onyx Club on the Boardwalk, the impulsive Dunn Purnsley clashes with a booking agent. Gillian seeks custody of her grandson while trying to find a ‘good’ man to keep the Artemis Club afloat. Al Capone enlists his brothers to help him expand his business in the Chicago suburb of Cicero, while Richard Harrow returns to his violent ways.
The series is based on a real-life racketeer called Enock ‘Nucky’ Johnson, who controlled Atlantic City, and who lived till 1968. But creator Terence Winters – another of those talented writers who cut their teeth on The Sopranos – admits that the character, played by Steve Buscemi, is very much a fictionalized version.
If you haven’t seen it, you really should. It can be occasionally slow, carefully building character, but any series with Buscemi, Michael Shannon, Michael Kenneth Williams, Kelly McDonald and Stephen Graham – as Al Capone, no less – needs to be watched. It’s a classy box-set splurge of a show, so it is.
Now go forth and program your devices.