By OLINE H. COGDILL
Agatha Raisin is a blonde?
For some reason, it never occurred to me that the British public relations guru turned amateur sleuth would be a blonde.
I won’t say “new” series because Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death and the subsequent eight episodes were first aired in Britain in 2014. The series is just now being available for American audiences.
Based on the bestselling novels by M.C. Beaton, the TV series (and the books) revolve around Agatha Raisin, who sells her public relations firm in Mayfair and takes early retirement.
She moves to the charming, isolated village of Carsely in the Cotswolds for reasons that are clear only to her. She wants a home, a place she can fit in.
But that may be a fantasy as the prickly, assertive Agatha isn’t really adaptable to small-town living. She also is the best-dressed woman in the area and her purses...well, her purses are beautiful.
But she tries, oh boy, does she try.
For a public relations expert, she’s socially awkward. But like a good public relations agent, she will eventually win over the residents.
The first episode—Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death—portrays her attempts to fit in with her new community by entering a local quiche contest.
She doesn’t win. But the winner’s victory is short-lived.
The judge, Reg Cummings-Browne, had another slice of her quiche at home and died from poisoning.
To prove her innocence and to endear herself to her neighbors, Agatha plays amateur sleuth to find the poisoner.
To find the killer, she just kicks into damage control as she did in her business.
Oh, and by the way, she didn’t actually make that fatal quiche.
The TV series captures the acerbic wit and also loneliness of Agatha, who worked her way up from a terrible childhood and poverty to be a successful businesswoman.
Ashley Jensen is just delightful as Agatha who never gives up.
Jensen is an excellent character actress and is probably best known to American audiences for her stints as Maggie Jacobs on Extras and Christina McKinney on Ugly Betty.
Jensen is assisted by a top-notch supporting cast including Katy Wix as Gemma Simpson, Mathew Horne as Roy Silver, Jamie Glover as James Lacey, Jason Barnett as DI Wilkes, Matt McCooey as DC Bill Wong, and Lucy Liemann as Sarah.
Currently there are only eight episodes of Agatha Raisin, but Beaton has 27 novels in her series, and a few short stories, so there is no dearth of material.
Photos: Top and bottom, Ashley Jensen; center, Ashley Jensen and Jamie Glover. Photos courtesy Acorn
If you need a visual explanation on why the old-fashioned British mystery not only endures but thrives, just watch the ninth and final season of Inspector Lewis, now on PBS.
Inspector Lewis has become as beloved a series as was the original Morse, of which it is a spin-off.
For those who don’t know—or have forgotten—here’s a quick history.
Inspector Robert “Robbie” Lewis started his career as a sidekick, of sorts, to his boss, Endeavour Morse, who was so winningly portrayed by John Thaw. When the Morse series ended, Kevin Whately reprised his role as Lewis, who, as these things go, was promoted from Detective Sergeant to Inspector.
In 2012, viewers saw how Morse became the detective he was with the two-hour film Endeavour. The young Morse was portrayed by Shaun Evans. Set in 1965, the young detective was about to resign when he became involved in the case of a missing student. The fourth season of Endeavour is planned for 2017.
Meanwhile, we can enjoy the last of Inspector Lewis.
Inspector Lewis started with a solid fan base that has grown, and deepened, through the years.
Based on the novels by British author Colin Dexter, Inspector Lewis employs the same rich setting—Oxford, England—and a perceptive look at its sometimes complex society. Lewis’ compassion and frustration with murderers were a bonus that viewers relished.
In Inspector Lewis, the former assistant became the boss with his own sidekick, Detective Sgt. James Hathaway (Laurence Fox). But this final season finds Lewis himself on the way out.
The Oxford detective is now looking at involuntary retirement—a plan by a chief superintendent trying to cut costs. But Lewis will not spend his remaining time on the job sitting at a desk and doing nothing. He’s as keen, and even as insistent, as ever to solve murders.
As Lewis looks at the end of his career, Hathaway deals with the fact that his estranged father is dying.
The partnership of Lewis and Hathaway has been as intriguing as that of Morse and Lewis.
The intellectual snob Morse’s personality was balanced by Lewis’ working-class roots. Inspector Lewis finds the calm Lewis showing the sometimes hotheaded Hathaway a different way of looking at criminals.
As a bit of trivia, both Morse and Inspector Lewis ended after 33 episodes each. It’s now time for Hathaway to continue the circle for the legion of viewers who are fascinated by the British detectives.
Meanwhile, the Inspector Lewis and Endeavour series are available on Acorn. Alas, the Morse series is no longer on Acorn.
Inspector Lewis airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on PBS with encore showings. Check your local listings as airings may differ.
Photo: Laurence Fox, left, and Kevin Whately on Inspector Lewis. Photo courtesy PBS