PBS used to do a show “The Bletchly Circle” about women who had worked as codebreakers during WWII. Loved it. I recently found out that there was a new version with some of the British characters but taking place in San Francisco. Unfortunately it is only available on BritBox, a 6.99 addition to Amazon…seriously- I don’t pay enough for Amazon already? But…they did have a 7 day trial…and my family was away for four days…

So I binge watched British murder mysteries for four days…

After I finished Bletchly, I tuned in to the Jane Hickson Miss Marple series from the 80’s. I am a huge fan of Marple. Those were the first Christie books that I had ever read, and I have an affinity towards the working of the Marple mind. I remember watching these adaptations when they first came out and thinking that Hickson might be the quintessential Marple. And after rewatching them, I know that she was.

I will watch any Agatha Christie show in any form- movie, mini series, PBS…I even recently saw an off Broadway production of “Death on the Nile”. If there were an all Agatha all the time channel I would watch it (as long as I didn’t need to pay 6.99 a month- I mean- I have my limits) By now, I have become a connoisseur of sorts. I know my Marple.

Since the Hickson series of the 80’s, PBS has had a few other actors play Marple. Geraldine McEwan in the early 2000’s, followed by Julia McKenzie. Both are wonderful actresses. I have no problem with either of them being cast as Marple. What I do have a problem with is the actual interpretation of the sleuth.

The beauty of the character Miss Marple was her brain- she had a great intellect for deducing things. Marple didn’t crawl along floors or hide behind curtains to solve crimes. She used her own brand of logic. Her particular specialty was her ability to draw comparisons. She was a great observer of people and their habits: she was able to figure out a person’s character rather quickly. Whenever she met someone knew she would come up with a comparison  with someone from her village- “Oh yes that Tom chap- he reminds me of the nephew of my neighbor, always seemed to be way too flattering of the neighbors flowers, turns out he was stealing from them” or something of that sort. Marple was able to see through to someone’s true nature and character. She was observant and a solver of puzzles. The Hickson interpretation showed this clearly. The other versions did not show this at all. The writers simply eliminated these personality traits from the series. There were no more references to crosswords, jigsaws or chess. No more folksy comparisons. I’m going to have to rewatch the other series to see exactly how Marple solved the crimes. (but not for 6.99 a month)

Why do writers eliminate parts of a character that actually make up the character? Why would you take out the essence of a character?

I realize that people want to modernize things. I know that things need to be brought up to date, and a screenwriter has the license to adapt something any way they please. But if they eliminate the main trait of a character, why bother doing the adaptation at all? Why not just adapt something else? Or start fresh?

So- have you ever watched a recurring character and see a screenwriter change the major parts of a character? Have you ever seen a character you loved in a book brought to screen and you just want to scream “No! That’s not how it’s supposed to be?”

37 thoughts on “It Reminds Me Of…

  1. One of the things I love about the mysteries written before the contemporary technology advances is the fact that the sleuthing was done with so much common sense and brain power. They truly had a gift to understand not just the physical environment, but the inside of the mind of the criminal by slowly and methodologically breaking down their scenes manually without the aid of technology.

    I realize even with forensics and technology today, this is still done by degrees, but it was just different, and the Marple and other stories by Christie are so captivating for me for that reason. I mean, Poirot too is so compelling to read…

    I think I have read many, if not most, of her books.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s what I like about old school mysteries too. It wasn’t all CSI, it was common sense and logic and a little intuition, like solving a puzzle. I find them very satisfying to read

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Your topic this week seems to illustrate, for me anyway, one of the main reasons why I typically stay away from viewing adaptations of books turned to TV or movies or most anything visual. I enjoy the ability to make the character a complete identity in my head. I don’t enjoy when someone else messes that up and creates something or someone I didn’t expect.
    I will say that I have a current exception to that rule and that comes with the Diana Gabaldon “Outlander” series. I so enjoyed her books, and I love the series. I watch and feel as if I’m reading all the best parts all over again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ally wrote about an adaptation recently, and it got me to thinking about all the good and bad book to movie adaptations I’ve seen. I think I prefer mini series because I think they do a better job of flushing out the story


  3. I can so relate to this blog. It’s like you read my mind!
    I actually decided to get Britbox for a period of time to binge watch all those shows. Loved both Bletchley series. I figured the cost of watching my favorite British shows was worth it. Having a salad out for lunch costs more, so , while I agree it’s unfair, I chose to treat myself to Brit ox AND Acorn TV. In retirement. Great British shows are often my favorite form entertainment these days. Yes, I am a nerd!

    Anyhow, you are so correct. Joan Hickson was without a doubt the most perfect Miss Marple ever. Like Jeremy Brett was the best Sherlock Holmes ever. (Until Cumberbatch’s modern interpretation. BUT his is only perfect because he captured the essence of the character to perfection. ) whether modern or. Victorian,, it’s all about the character.
    I think perhaps editors and producers don’t always have the same literary soul as writers, and the authenticity of certain character is indeed often missed when changed. I too enjoyed the updated Marple series but also found both female protagonists lacking in Marple’s brilliant and charming deductive reasoning skills. Although the second actress was a bit closer. In that production The director focused more on the authenticity of costumes (which were period perfect) than on their main character. It’s like few actors can top David Suchet as Poirot. Most recently John Malcovitz (spelling?)who was the worst Poirot ever!
    And to answer your question about does it bother me….YES! I’m a Sherlock Holmes purest. The tv show elementary really bothered me a lot! Not because Watson was female. Lucy Lue was excellent. But the actor playing Sherlock did his own version of Holmes and that annoyed me. Sherlock has extreme highs and lows. Sherlock is an addict who needs Cocain when not solving a mystery. His drug of choice is a case. So He is on a high when solving a mystery. That actor never showed the character as anything but depressive. One of the reasons Cumberbatch is so good, even as modern character, is because he, like Jeremy Brett, used the same hand gestures as the character, which is precisely described in all the stories, and his manic personality of highs and lows is evident at all times. Along with other quirks. For literary lovers of a character, producers need to understand that we want to see the character we adored in our books come to life on screen. Not an aborted version . That ruins it for us. You hit the nail on the head.
    If you want to see a good new series watch a Discovery of Witches. It’s from a trilogy written by professor Deborah Harkness. It’s on Amazon for money but now on BBC America and AMC. It is quite good.
    I recently listened to a podcast from the Folger’s Shakespeare Library where they interviewed her. I will have to see if I still have the link.
    That series captures the characters perfectly.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for the tip on the show!! Agree with you completely on all your descriptions of the various sleuths. And don’t get me started on the recent Malkovich Poirot! I wrote about that today! I still can’t wash the taste of that mini series out of my brain!! What were they thinking! I didn’t mind Elementary because I have a thing for Jonny lee Miller (just saw him on Broadway) and much of the show was filmed around where I live, so that was fun for me, but I agree about the interpretation of Sherlock. I like seeing the deductive reasoning skills come to life!


  4. I am a huge Agatha Christie fan! I love to read and watch movie/TV series based on her writing but I find that I much prefer the books over the movies/series. It seems as if they take too much liberties and change character’s personalities, etc..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. OMG Yes! Agatha Christie is my number one fave. (I have a page dedicated to her in my Sketchbook along with Sherlock Holmes). I loved Joan Hickson as Miss Marple and David Suchet as Poirot. They totally brought the characters to life. I agree with Leslie about Benedict Cumberbatch and his Sherlock. While they definitely have modernized the sleuthing, the way he does it and his personality is totally believable. Wish they were doing more of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are just exceptional actors. They totally brought those characters depth and meaning and dimension. That was a well done series

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I just heard about Britbox not too long ago in reference to a show called Upstart Crow? Shakespeare living as himself..but with the trials of modern day…hard to explain but I was intrigued to say the least!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I watched “Shakespeare has trouble working from home” on Youtube and was hooked. The schtick gets beat to death but…can’t say you didn’t get what you expected!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. One of my all-time favorite TV sleuths was Peter Falk as Columbo.

    As for the experience you asked about, I couldn’t think of an example. However, I loved the Little House on the Prairie series as a kid. Recently read the books and realized just how different the show was. They were good, but not the same people depicted in the books at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The adaptation that irritated me the most was the TV series based on Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley books. I loved those books and looked forward to watching the adaptation. The actors chosen to portray the main characters were just dead wrong. I couldn’t watch any of it. Let’s hear it for books!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never read the Lynley books, just saw the series. I thought it was fine, but I had no pre conceived notions. But when someone is miscast….


      1. It’s interesting how things work fine in TV series and movies when the viewer hasn’t read the book on which it’s based. Just as you said in your blog!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. There are so few television adaptations of books that are faithful to the original. Sometimes, when I want a little bit of light reading, I’ll read M.C. Beaton’s Hamish MacBeth series. So I was thrilled when I saw there were actually television shows based on the book. Until I tried to watch one….I think I lasted ten minutes. They changed everything about the character that made him unique and likable!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I loved Hickson’s Miss Marple but just couldn’t see the others as her. And don’t get me started on Hercule Poroit. Did you see that ridiculous movie Murder on the Orient Express with Kenneth Branagh as Hercule?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know!! And they’re doing another Kenneth Branagh one. I don’t get it! I just saw a promo for an interesting documentary about Margaret Rutherford though….would be interested because I thought she was fun as marple, but very different than my image


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