Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Ms (not Miss) Marple revisited.

Boys and girls, I’m hooked. Addicted to a mystery series on the idiot box, I mean to say. For the wrong (or, maybe, just the right} reasons. The show I’m referring to is Midsomer Murders on Hallmark. Aka ‘Midsomer Murders’ on ITV after the Midsomer County where it is supposed to be happening under the tolerant, near somnolent gaze of Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby and Sergeant Troy (until he’s kicked upwards). When I’m watching it, though, I find myself not much bothered about the plot. What I’m looking for is Miss Marple’s – what’s the word I want? – bucolic (?), idyllic (?), tranquil-on-the-surface (?) St. Mary Mead with its well-trimmed hedges, perfectly manicured gardens, long walks in the woods, village fetes, cricket on the green, croquet on the lawn and tea at the Vicarage. It’s its old England feel and atmosphere I’m totally fascinated by: the civilized (sanitized?) murder mystery Agatha Christie introduced me to with its strangely comforting cocoon. For me, Midsomer Murders literally metamorphoses Miss Marple, c 1927, into Ms Marple, c 2007, with the microcosm of the village, its gossip and wily machinations intact. "There is a great deal of wickedness in village life.", remember? It all lives up to the Miss Marple myth in my mind and that’s why I keep watching it every chance I get, never mind the storyline and the characterization. What amuses me is the way American viewers weaned on a diet of violent crime thrillers react to the underplayed British whodunit. To them, the chief protagonist is wooden and the others are emotionless. One of the viewers shrewdly dubs it “a fairly cynical ripoff (sic!) of Miss Marple”, though.