Sunday, August 30, 2015

Partners in Crime - Episode 6 Review - N or M?

My review of last week's episode

Rules of the game: if a character is suspicious, you should look elsewhere for whodunit. Since last week found us pointing the finger at the quirky psychologist couple, the sprightly Mrs. Sprot (who Tommy likes), and the cunning Carl Denim (who Tuppence likes), it seemed a fairly safe bet that one of our other suspects would be the culprit.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Partners in Crime - Episode 5 Review - N or M?

 My review of last week's episode

If Tommy and Tuppence Beresford are all that stand between England and an atomic blast, England had better start worrying. Last week left Tuppence facing down an angry Major Khan, whose room she had broken into. It only takes a few minutes and a gun for Tuppence to spill all: name, true identity, mission. Luckily, Major Khan is not N, and is confident enough that Tuppence is not N that he lets her go.

Lest we still suspect him, he's swiftly dispatched in a suspicious suicide at a party Tommy and Tuppence wheedled their way into attending. Meeting up with Carter and Albert, Tommy and Tuppence learn that matters are far more serious than they imagined, but for reasons unknown, Carter can still offer no concrete aid.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Partners in Crime - Episode 4 Review - N or M?

My review of last week's episode

N or M? finds our two heroes on their way to meet with Tommy’s eccentric uncle, spymaster Carter. Supposedly, it’s just to discuss a business investment (Tommy’s abandoned bees and moved on to wigs), but as it turns out, Carter has a mission for Tommy: he has to find a man named Harrison, take note of what he says, and convey that information to Carter. Carter is being watched, so the only person he can trust is, as he says, “a nobody.”

And there’s no one more nobody-ish in spy circles than the ordinary man who saved the American secretary of state from an evil communist plot!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Why You Should Listen to Cabin Pressure

I feel a little bereft today. It's like the moments after a huge party and the guests have left and the house seems all echoey. That word - echoey - makes me even sadder, because it sounds just like something Arthur Shappey would say, and Arthur Shappey is no more. He has ceased to be. He's expired and gone to meet his maker. He is an ex-Arthur.

Sort of.

Am I being melodramatic, considering Arthur Shappey is a character from a comedy radio show that I just finished yesterday? Well, probably. While he's not literally expired and gone to meet his maker (he and brilliant show writer John Finnemore are, in fact, one and the same), his absence in my daily listening leaves a huge hole. And it's not just him. Over the course of four seasons, all the cast have grown so familiar they feel like old friends. As for the show itself, I permanently keep all 26 episodes on my iPod, ready at hand should I desire to evangelize some prospective new fan or simply need a laugh to keep me going, because Cabin Pressure is invariably clever, funny, and intelligent, and definitely my favorite radio program of all-time.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Partners in Crime - Episode 3 Review - The Secret Adversary

 My review of last week's episode

Has there ever been a more British threat than a promise to imperil a boy's cricket skills? Obviously disconcerted by such grim portents, Tommy Beresford - left, last week, in the hands of the communists - caves to the wishes of his sleazy captors. Big villain Mr. Brown needs a file from MI6, so bumbling bee-man Tommy is obviously the man for the job (never mind that Mr. Brown could probably have gotten it himself, but more on that later.)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Partners in Crime - Episode 2 Review - The Secret Adversary

My review of the previous episode

The world's most inefficient spy couple return! Last week left both Tommy and Tuppence in a dicey situation - Tuppence on the verge of being recognized by an evil man (with an evil birthmark!), Tommy cornered in a sleazy house in Soho by another evil man (sans birthmark). Both cliffhangers quickly resolve - Tuppence slips back to her typing job and Tommy not so much slips as stumbles crashing into the false identity of "Drennan," a rich conspirator happily unknown to the others except by name.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Partners in Crime - Episode 1 Review - The Secret Adversary

For detective aficionados, the long summer is relatively bare. The beginning of the year saw Broadchurch and Foyle's War come and go, and all the other major dramas - Endeavour, Lewis, Sherlock - await a Winter release. Into this void drops the latest Agatha Christie adaptation, Partners in Crime, starring comedian David Walliams and Call the Midwife's Jessica Raine as gumshoe couple Tommy and Tuppence Beresford.

How does it do? Being familiar with the 80's version (starring Francesca Annis and James Warwick), I found it somewhat of a mixed bag. Partners in Crime certainly looks good - compared to the original's terrible video and sound quality, this is practically Hollywood. On the other hand, the cast never feels quite at home - only the eccentric spy handler, Carter (James Fleet), really seems to know what he's doing.

Married couple Tommy and Tuppence are returning from France when they encounter Jane Finn, a mysterious young woman who keeps glancing over her shoulder. While Tommy is occupied protecting his queen bee (beekeeping is the latest in a series of failed financial ventures), Tuppence notices Jane's agitation, and when the young woman disappears in the aftermath of a murder, Tuppence is determined to track her down. This determination leads her into a seedy gambling den. While Tommy is off trying to talk his uncle (who's involved in something "hush-hush") into giving him a job, Tuppence stupidly reveals her true colors, is threatened by a vicious gangster, and summarily thrown out on her ear.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Who is the Raven King? - Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell's Mysterious Monarch

For the last seven weeks, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, otherwise known as the best fantasy series since The Lord of the Rings, has been airing in the United States. The finale airs tonight, and will (spoiler if you haven't been paying attention) at last reveal the Raven King, John Uskglass, ancient ruler of both England and faerie.

Both the titular characters are inextricably bound to the Raven King, willing or no. Mr. Norrell is a hidebound conservative, and looks down on the Raven King's "unrespectable" magic, but he owes a debt to the earlier magician's efforts. On the other hand, at this point in the series, Norrell's erstwhile pupil Jonathan Strange desires to summon Uskglass in order to employ the sorcerer's power to rescue Arabella Strange.

And who is the Raven King, exactly? The closest literary parallel may be Watership Down's trickster hero El-ahrairah. Both characters loom mythically large, but they are political, not religious, heroes - incarnations of what a country or a people should be, not a soul. They are Robin Hood, or perhaps George Washington (don't tell me he hasn't become a bit mythical), rather than Jesus.

(Some spoilers, obviously.)