Here it is. Our new favorite summer diversion. Acorn TV’s most recent original dramedy: the small-village, untrained, but good at crime solving diva, Agatha Raisin. But of course!
New episodes of this lighthearted whodunit, which premiered statewide in August, stream every week on Acorn’s Mystery Mondays. (Past shows available 24/7 for a non-stop catching up.) Tomorrow, two episodes, numbers 7 and 8, unveil for a rousing first season finale.
THE SETUP: Marine-eyed, platinumed Agatha—brightly played by Ashley Jensen (Catastrophe, Extras, Ugly Betty)—is the cherry on top of the crème when it comes to handling the lives, careers, and subsequent messes of her public relations’ celeb clientele. Her life has been their lives; evidenced by
- A lack of friends; she has none save the loyal Roy (Mathew Horne), her shrewd right-hand man on the job.
- Her food source; some of which was once living or at least that’s what the ingredients on the frozen food packaging would have one believe. And…
- She leaves little room for even the most basic personal upkeep… i.e. she barely makes time for a weekly shrink appointment… which is Skyped.
But she’s successful. So much so, she’s accomplished a long-held dream: She sells off her London based, high flying PR firm, buys a charming house in the small village of Carsely, and sets off to the Costwold English Midlands where she’ll retire while she’s still young enough to squeeze some freshness out of a life yet lived.
It’s easy-breezy, all downhill so far…
The rock in her plan pops up not long after being ensconced in her House and Garden interior-designed cottage. Along with our series heroine, we’re introduced to many of the town regulars, cloaked in quirky idiosyncrasies, small town habits and misguided affairs. In an effort to ingratiate herself within the bosom of the hard-to-get-to-know villagers, Agatha enters a quiche competition.
Not only does the contest fall short of expectations, but alas… a monstrous murder ensues. What’s a detective mystery series without one? When suspicion falls upon the newly arrived, slightly abrasive Londoner, Agatha has no choice. She must clear her name or the townsfolk will never accept her as one of their own. She’ll have to pack up and return to London. An investigation is soon afoot in the sleepy town!
So, being fully transparent, it’s evident TV mystery devotees love dank, brooding dramas peppered with angst-filled gals and guys who, quite often, come so close to skimming the surface of the dirty deep, it’s difficult to tell the good from the bad. Ultimately we forgive them their trespasses because we recognize a willingness to fight those demons and believe they inhabit an inner good that, although lost within the murk, remains constant.
However addictive these dramas are, they can be depressing and, it is oh-so-good to take a break in order to revel in the light of detective fare that knows how to find the funny in the human condition… even when it involves a murder in the library with the maid and a rope.
If we’re lucky we’ll be treated to many more seasons of Ms. Jensen’s comic perfection in the role of the former PR turned part-time country sleuth. (A second season is currently underway.) Novelist Marion Chesney, under the pseudonym M. C. Beaton, turned out 27 novels and several short stories, so there’s plenty of material in the detective tome. (NOTE: Under the same aka she authored the popular Hamish Macbeth novels, which spawned the mid-’90s, Robert Carlyle starrer of the same name.)
Director Geoffrey Sax helmed the pilot and several of the first season episodes. Exec Producer and Scripter Stewart Harcourt, aside from Agatha, is currently at work on a new Maigret series; another literary detective favorite of mine. (With creative force Harcourt exec-producing, it’s sure to be first at any winner’s gate. I can hardly contain myself during the wait. Stay tuned as more info on that front unfolds.)
Jensen’s comedic instincts seems to have found their true North in this role, revealing textures of Agatha’s personality with a skilled fluidity that’s a joy to watch. And though the lynchpin of the series, she’s not alone. Besides, Thorne—who, exudes a singular sense of wry humor—there’s her hot and cold crush interest: Jamie Glover; the smitten-eyed Detective Constable Bill Wong— Matt McCooey—who provides tips that usually work to help with her unsanctioned investigations. Katy Wix portrays Gemma, Raisin’s trusty maid who, with her precocious daughter Kyra (Maddie Monti), is always willing to help Agatha in her sleuthing tasks. And finally, although the township of Carsely is fictionalized, the region of the Cotswolds is interwoven within the structure of the show much like Cornwall is intrinsically a part of Doc Martin, making it a highly valuable asset.
The TVo Take: This is sunny, fun fare; just what the TV-gods had in mind for a Sunday afternoon of pleasurable viewing.
Here’s a tidbit:
Watch all episodes of Agatha Raisin on Acorn TV now.