Earlier this week, a co-worker of mine made the case for watching Whodunnit?, a fake-murder reality show that most closely resembles one of those mystery-in-a-box parties your costume-inclined friends always insist on having. The show is silly to the point of being absurd, which is to say: perfectly passable as summer television. But it bears little resemblance to anything found in an Agatha Christie novel, which is what I’d hoped for when I saw previews for the show. Yes, I’m an Agatha Christie nerd and, yes, expecting And Then There Were None–level entertainment from a prime-time game show was dreaming too big. Still, in the era of murder television and movie remakes to infinity, it isn’t crazy to think that a Hollywood executive might turn to a best-selling mystery novelist with over 60 books to her name. In fact, they really should consider doing that.
The timing could not be better. (WME apparently agrees, since it signed Christie’s estate back in April.) Sherlock is on a hot streak, everyone loves Downton Abbey, and, as this chart proves, death is big on television. Christie’s novels focus almost exclusively on upper-middle-class British characters from the first half of the twentieth century, and random Europeans are always running around to make the setting more “exotic.” The Downton glamour is already built-in — even if you’re dealing with a character like Miss Marple, who could easily be remade as a wise-cracking Dowager Countess wannabe or as a younger version of herself. (Same goes for Hercule Poirot.) Sherlock proves that we are perfectly willing to see our stodgy British detectives remade into something hipper, as long as hipper also translates to good television.
And this is the problem with the Miss Marple and Poirot shows I so regularly skip past on Masterpiece Mystery! (even the recent Marple, which featured the likes of Joanna Lumley, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Natalie Dormer in supporting roles) — they’re a little doddering. Unsexy. You’re reminded of Murder, She Wrote, and then you start singing the Murder, She Wrote theme song, and there goes the evening. If we want prim, we can just read the books. Give us an Agatha Christie adaptation — or a loose update, Sherlock-style — with an actual budget, with zingers, with a hit of the drugs and sex that are so primly suggested in the novels.
This applies to movie adaptations, too — with all due respect to classics like Murder on the Orient Express, Evil Under the Sun, and Death on the Nile. (Before I die, I will re-create that riding-on-horseback-to-the-pyramids scene.) Those films are all pretty old, and no one has made a proper Agatha Christie movie in almost twenty years. There are 66 books out there, waiting to be remade, and unlike board games, they actually have plots. You don’t have to spend half a year trying to figure out how to write an alien ship in (though if someone does, I will happily watch Agatha Christie’s They Do It With Lasers in the interest of the cause).
The source material is plentiful; the genre is on-trend. They’re already working on a biopic of Christie herself, so why not go for the tie-in? A three-movie Poirot deal! Marple: the HBO series! I will take anything (as long as it is not more Whodunnit?).