DVD Review– Agatha Raisin, Series 1
This series is based on the mystery novels of M.C. Beaton. Although I have not read any of her work, it is my understanding that some of these adaptations are very loose indeed, dramatically changing the character of Agatha and altering the identity of the killer in other stories. Therefore, purists and fans of the books should be forewarned.
Taken on its own merits, the Agatha Raisin series is generally light but jolly fun. The highlight of the series is Ashley Jensen, who brings an upbeat comic touch to Agatha’s role as a PR consultant who has decided to retire young, leaving London for a cottage in a supposedly quiet village. Jensen manages to keep exactly the right tone throughout the series, juggling her fish-out-of-water persona with a desire to make friends and influence people, topped off with a barely disguised desire to find love.
The supporting cast is not quite as memorable as Jensen, though Mathew Horne stands out as Roy, Agatha’s ex-assistant and confidant, and Matt McCooey is quite good as DC Bill Wong, an amiable young detective with a crush on Agatha. Jason Barnett plays DCI Wilkes, the senior detective who, in the tradition of Father Brown, has an unerring instinct for arresting the wrong person and a frustrating habit of telling Agatha to stay out of the investigation, despite the fact that she’s the only reason why his cases get closed. Barnett manages to remain likeable due to his comedic skills and dancing ability. Over the course of the series, Agatha develops an attraction to military historian James Lacey (Jamie Glover) and their will-they-won’t-they-should-they relationship develops over the course of the nine episodes.
The murder plots include a quiche competition where Agatha’s entry may be responsible for poisoning a judge, a gardening contest gone horribly wrong, a supposedly haunted castle, and a mineral water company that may be up to no good. At times, the adaptations leave plot threads dangling, and sometimes the identity of the killer comes out of nowhere with insufficient evidence leading up to the big reveal—perhaps these are instances where Beaton’s original ending has been swapped out with a new solution.
Throughout the first series, the real draw is Jensen’s buoyant performance. Sometimes the show tries too hard to be funny, often at the expense of general quality. Overall, Agatha Raisin could use a little more heart and a little less froth, but it’s an entertaining series that succeeds almost entirely due to its leading lady.
Agatha Raisin, Series 1