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Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Authors: Don’t expect the BBC to film your book

Here we go again. Paucity of original thought.

The BBC is spending licence payers’ money on filming Agatha Christie novels that have been filmed just a few times already. Last year’s And Then There Were None was very successful (altering the storyline in the process). Next up, The ABC Murders – which features Hercule Poirot and was done very well with David Suchet in 1992. They’re also going to film Ordeal by Innocence, memorably starring Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple in 2007, though admittedly the story did not feature her character; still it was also a major feature film in 1985. And then there’s Witness for the Prosecution, a two-parter that will feature the always watchable Toby Jones – though there was a feature film in 1957 (and another expected big screen version in the next year or so).  All of the foregoing can be obtained on DVD.

Following the lead of And Then There Were None, it is said that these latest versions are ‘a new way of interpreting Christie for a modern audience’.

A similar excuse is offered when yet another version is released for an Austen, Bronte, or Dickens book: ‘It’s for a new generation.’

And the BBC boss Charlotte Moore says this run of Christie dramas would ‘continue BBC1’s special relationship as the home of Agatha Christie in the UK.’(sic)  Where was she when Marple and Poirot were being aired on ITV: Marple 2004-2013/Poirot 1989-2013. Clearly, at some expense the BBC has acquired the Agatha Christie rights. Spendthrifts. Shame on them.

In truth it’s laziness, mining seams that have already been explored. Far easier to work on old mines  than discover new workings.

Don’t these dramatists, producers and directors read?

Go to a bookshop, or if there aren’t any of those in the town, go to the general library (though there may not be many of those around either); all right, go online, key in ‘books/murder mystery/’ and you’ll be spoilt for choice.

I’m sure thousands of licence payers would happily recommend some of their favourite books to be filmed for the first time.  

One response could be: Well, Hollywood has been doing it for years, so why not the BBC? The difference is, Hollywood gambles their own money, not licence-payers’ fees. The BBC airs enough repeats anyway, and to all intents and purposes these remakes are not far removed from that!

And while the new Poldark series is hugely popular, it is a remake. The author Winston Graham is one of my many favourites. If they want to film a period piece, I’d recommend his Cordelia, a superb novel. There are other historical novels from his pen worthy of transfer to the small screen too. And countless other authors, alive and dead. Sigh. Sadly, that takes imagination… Yes, Hilary Mantel has done well, and Philippa Gregory, so it’s not all bad, granted. Yet there are so many more on those library shelves!


Cathie Dunn said...

Excellent argument, Nik. And you're absolutely right. I'm sure the producers read a wide range of books. I wonder if it's about rights and the option to change storylines to suit them.

I've read many that I could visualise on the screen, though I still can't bring myself to watch Outlander (not the BBC, of course) as I had such clear visualisation that doesn't match the interpretation. That's the other side of the coin.

Perhaps the BBC isn't as 'daring' as producers want you to believe...

Nik Morton said...

Thanks for the comment, Cathie. I suspect the producers don't read genre fiction, the source of most popular TV fiction. I suspect getting back the rights of Christie is a little bit of hubris...!

Jane Risdon said...

I agree with it all.And Poldark (New) is just awful. I have read all the Poldark books and cannot stand this new series.

Nik Morton said...

Thanks for the response, Jane. Yes, I've enjoyed the Poldark novels and recently re-watched the Robin Ellis DVDs, and have no wish to bother with the new series. Winston Graham is one of my many favourite authors - he was comfortable with historical (Cordelia), mystery (Marnie) and psychological suspense (Angel, Pearl and Little God), among others.