Wednesday, 19 June 2019


The second series of British mystery comedy-drama Agatha Raisin premiered on U.S. streaming service Acorn TV between Autumn 2018 and Winter 2019. It will start in France this sunday on pubcaster France 3.

Series 2, Episode 1: The Wizard of Evesham:

London PR queen turned amateur sleuth Agatha Raisin first appeared in a series of mystery novels written by M.C. Beaton (the pseudonym of Marion Chesney), who's also the author of the Hamish Macbeth books. Penelope Keith played the character for BBC Radio 4 from 2004 to 2006. In 2014, Ashley Jensen (Ugly Betty, Extras) starred in the title role of Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death, a fun, fast-paced and charming Christmas special aired on Sky 1. Following the success of The Quiche of Death, Sky commissioned a 8 X 60-minute series aired from June to July 2016.

Sky 1 chose not to commission a second series but streaming service Acorn TV ordered three 90-minute episodes, based on the novels The Wizard of Evesham, The Fairies of Fryham and The Case of the Curious Curate. Written by Julia Gilbert (Midsomer Murders) and directed by Roberto Bangura, The Wizard of Evesham premiered on November 19, 2018. In The Fairies of Fryfam, which was released on December 24. Agatha Raisin needs a retreat to write her first novel (a murder mystery, of course) so she rents a cottage in the remote village of Fryfam. The place, called Oberon Cottage, dates back to the 17th century and a local legend says fairies live around the village.

Soon after Agatha sees glowing little things dancing in the garden, she's hired by a woman named Lucy Trumpington-James to prove that her wealthy husband, Tolly, is having an affair. When Lucy is accused of his murder, Agatha Raisin investigates. She's joined by Sir Charles Fraith (Jason Merrells), Gemma Simpson (Katy Wix) and DC Bill Wong ( Matt McCooey). Compared to weird lights, a doll on her door, a dead rabbit and "a stunning harpy, mermaid, Mata Hari woman", the obtuse DCI Percy Hand (Andrew Brooke) is the lesser of Agatha's problems. James Lacey (Jamie Glover) returns to Carsely.

Midsomer Murders regular scribe Chris Murray brings Agatha on a territory quite similar to the villages in the famous fictional county of the venerable ITV detective drama. The legendary English actress Annette Badland, who plays Dr. Fleur Perkins in Midsomer Murders, guest stars as housekeeper Betty Jackson (a fan of detective novels). Guy Hescott produces both Series 2 of Agatha Raisin and Midsomer since its 20th series. Helmed by Matt Carter (1), The Fairies of Fryfam is very entertaining in spite of the noticeable absence of Roy Silver (Mathew Horne) and DCI Denzel Wilkes (Jason Barnett).

« So, let's see if Lord Grantham was having an affair with the bisexual curate. »

Also with Clare Lawrence Moody (Lizzie Findlay), Tommy Bastow (Barry Jackson), Milo Twomey (Paul Redfern), Maimie McCoy (Rosie Wilden), Phoebe Thomas (Amy Redfern), Lucy Liemann (Sarah Bloxby), Nicholas Agnew (Tolly), Elarica Johnson (Lucy) and Rebecca Bainbridge (Polly Dart). Penned by Chris Niel (Free Agents), The Curious Curate is directed by Audrey Cooke. Almost all the women of Carsely are crazy about the new curate, Tristan Delon. Not Sarah Bloxby, whose reverend husband is in Nigeria for missionary work. Delon tries to alleviate her resentment during a dinner until she finds a letter from the bishop.

The morning after, the young man is found murdered in Sarah Bloxby's house with one of her knives. DCI Wilkes and DC Wong interrogate Sarah, though Wilkes is more preoccupied by the election of the chairman of the parish council. Agatha teams up again with Sir Charles to clear the name of her friend. They find out Tristan Delon wasn't a saint (and he wasn't "Tristan Delon" either). An anonymous note draws their attention on software multi-millionaire Richard Binser. Bill has a new girlfriend who's scared of meeting his mother. Charles makes a surprising announcement and Roy seeks a new job.

The Curious Curate is the best episode of this second series. Most of the main cast is back for a festival of brilliant dialogues, excellent comedy, a very good plot with a couple of twists and nice performances by Olly Rix as Tristan and John Light (Richard Binser). The talented Jason Barnett brings DCI Wilkes, Carsely's Inspector Clouseau, to the pantheon of the great British TV comedy cops. Also starring Georgia Slowe (Ellen Partle), Pippa Haywood (Reverend Grace Lansing), Nicola Stephenson (Liz Jellop), Emma Cooke (Peggy Slither), Amy Beth Hayes (Charlotte Bellinge), etc. Produced by Free@Last TV and Company Pictures (an all3media company). 

Co-produced by Acorn Media Enterprises (a division of RLJ Entertainment, Inc.). Barry Ryan and David A. Walton exec produce for Free@Last TV. Michele Buck exec produces for Company Pictures. Shane Murphy exec produces for Acorn Media Enterprises. Produced by Guy Hescott. Ian Strachan is the line producer. Music composed by Evan Jolly. Theme composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams. Cinematography by Al Beech. Distributed by all3media International, except for English-speaking territories, which are handled by Acorn Media International. Sky bought Series 2 for the U.K. and Ireland. Agatha Raisin will be back for a third series.

(1) Matt Carter directed 5 episodes of Midsomer Murders between 2016 and 2018.

Thursday, 6 June 2019


Il commissario Montalbano, the Italian detective drama launched 20 years ago and starring Luca Zingaretti as the character created by author Andrea Camilleri, returned in February on RAI 1 with two new 120-minute episodes: L'altro capo del filo and Un diaro del'43.

Series regulars Cesare Bocci (Mimi Augello), Peppino Mazzotta (Giuseppe Fazio), Angelo Russo (Catarella), Davide Lo Verde (Galluzzo), Giovanni Guardiano (Jacomuzzi) and Sonia Bergamasco (Livia) are back alongside Luca Zingaretti. Aglaia Mora plays pathologist Dr. Barresi. Written by Francesco Bruni, Andrea Camilleri, Salvatore De Mola and Leonardo Marini with Valentina Alferj, L'altro capo del filo is based on Camilleri's namesake novel published in 2016 (in English: The Other End of The Line). Salvo Montalbano and his team must assist the Guardia Costiera (the Italian Coast Guard) because of a massive arrival of refugees.

Montalbano is accompanied by Dr. Osman, who acts as translator. Later, Livia asks him to get a new suit for their presence at a friend's confirmation of her wedding vows. She wants him to see seamstress Elena Biasini but Montalbano is less than enthusiastic. Elena appears to be charming and competent but soon the young woman is found murdered. Agent Catarella is a sensitive person and good man. Dr. Pasquano is on holidays. Marcello Perracchio, who played the pathologist, died in July 2017. The excellent and moving L'altro capo del filo brings Salvo Montalbano in the heart of the tragedy of migrants.

Helmed as usual by Alberto Sironi, this episode has some visually impressive scenes off the coast with a helicopter of the Guardia Costiera and one of its ship, the patrol vessel Diciotti. Also starring Elena Radonicich (Elena), Ahmed Hafiene (Dr. Osman), Eurydice El-Etr (Meriam), Giorgia Salari (Anna Silch), Carlo Calderone (Franco Guida), Anna Ferruzzo (Teresa), David Cannavò (Lilo Scotto), Davide Dolores (Diego Trupia), Nour Zarafi ("Extracomunitario" young man), Safa Derguala (Leena), Hossein Taheri (Abdul Alkarim), etc.

Based on two short stories (Un diario del'43 and Being here) (1), Un diario del'43 was penned by Francesco Bruni, Andrea Camilleri, Salvatore De Mola and Leonardo Marini with Valentina Alferj. Montalbano meets an old American named John Zuck but born Giovanni Zuccotti in Vigàta. Zuccotti tells Salvo his story and how surprised he was to find his name on the town war memorial. Journalist Nicolò Zito visits the commissario at his office to leave him a diary from 1943 found in one of the two grain silos demolished by order of the mayor of Vigàta.

A nonagenarian is shot and Catarella has terrible news: the beloved Dr. Pasquano has died. Directed by Alberto Sironi, Un Diario del'43 is absolutely superb. The tribute to Pasquano and Marcello Perracchio is beautiful and elegant. The performance of American actor Dominic Chianese ("Uncle Junior" in The Sopranos) as John Zuck is award-worthy. Giulio Brogi, who plays Brother Carlo Colussi, died at the age of 83 the day after Rai 1 shown the episode. Roberto Nobile returns as Nicolò Zito.

Also starring Selene Caramazza (Alessandra De Rossi), Roberta Caronia (Rosalba), Marco Basile (Matteo Todaro), Aldo La Spina (Pepè Panarello), Rosa Giustolisi (Mrs Pasquano), Angelo Tosto (Don Giummarra), Sylvia La Monaca (Franca Puca), Franco Colaiemma, Nellina Laganà (Zina), Nino Bellomo (Angelino Todaro), Lorenzo Adorni (Young Carlo Colussi), Fabrizio Romano (Father Carmelo), etc. Il commissario Montalbano is produced by Palomar and RAI Fiction.

Produced by Carlo Degli Esposti, founder and president of Palomar, and Nora Barbieri with Max Gusberti. Marco Camilli is the producer for Palomar and Erica Pellegrini produces for RAI. Gianfranco Barbagallo exec produces. Chrystelle Robin is the production manager. Music composed and conducted by Franco Piersanti. Songs by Olivia Sellerio. Cinematography by Franco Lecca. Filmed with the support of Regione Siciliana and Sicilia Film Commission. This production is part of the Programma Sensi Contemporanei Cinema e Audiovisivo.

Distributed by Rai Com. Il commissario Montalbano is aired in the UK by BBC Four as Inspector Montalbano and in France on France 3 as Commissaire Montalbano. In the United States, the series is available on MHZ Choice under the title Detective Montalbano. The SVOD service will premiere both episodes (The Other End of the Line and A diary from 1943) this month.

(1) Both from Un mese con Montalbano (1998). (The blog of Carlo Degli Esposti) 

Monday, 3 June 2019


Tom Delormes, who owns the Camping Paradis, travels back in time to the year 1976.

The bottom line: Tom, ange gardien.

Launched in 2006, Camping Paradis was created by Michel Alexandre, Ludovic Pion-Dumas & Anne Badel. Produced by JLA Productions with TF1, this comedy series is centered on the everyday life and problems of Tom Delormes, a campsite owner, and his team. Regular cast members since the beginning are Laurent Ournac (Tom), Thierry Heckendorn (André Durieux) and Patrick Guérineau (Xavier Proteau). Humorist Candiie plays Audrey Dukor since season 8. Patrick Paroux (Around the world in 80 days, Amelie) recurs as Christian Parizot, the most faithful client of the Camping Paradis. 

In 2017, Camping paradis celebrated its 50th episode and left the 90-minute format for the same 2 x 52-minute as TF1's long-running comedy/drama Joséphine, ange gardien. The characters of the two hits of the channel met last year in an episode of each series. Cette année-là is the second episode of Camping Paradis directed by Laurent Ournac. It was penned by Laurent Mondy (Le prix de la loyauté, Commissaire Magellan), who wrote several other episodes of Camping Paradis and co-wrote its side of the crossover. 

Tom Delormes considers selling the campsite, which André doesn't approve. He's about to meet the buyers when he accidentally bumps his head and faints. When Tom awakes, the Camping Paradis looks a bit different: France is struck by a heat wave, Jacques Chirac is Prime Minister (not for long) and Claude François sings Cette année-là. Delormes tries to use his cell phone but he can't because he's now in July 1976! The camping is called Chez Patrick ("C'est magnifique!") and it belongs to Patrick Delormes, Tom's father.

Patrick wants to sell his property to banker Aymeric Flambrin but the latter needs Marie Tourvel, his accountant, to audit Chez Patrick before the transaction. Marie happens to be the future mother of Tom Delormes. Tom tries to tell a much younger André Durieux what happened to him but the only one who believes him is Monsieur Parizot. Not Christian but his father Jacques Parizot (Patrick Paroux), a physics teacher from Colmar and a kind of zany inventor. Tom thinks that his "mission" is to prevent the sale in order that Marie falls in love with Patrick.

Tom Delormes meets the other members of Patrick's team: Javier, the womanizing bartender (Patrick Guérineau), and Odile (Candiie). Serge Lefebvre, a miner from the North of France, his wife Françoise and their son Danny arrive for the holidays. Their presence is an opportunity for Tom to teach his father the spirit of empathy that will become the trademark of the place. Marie is baffled by Patrick's bad management. Tom must queue up in front of a phone booth and Parizot wants to electrocute him to send him back in 2019.

Usually reminiscent of The Love Boat, Camping Paradis goes full Joséphine, ange gardien in the quite enjoyable and often funny Cette année-là. Patrick Paroux is fabulous as a Parizotesque version of Doc from Back to the future. There are no huge special effects but an artistic work made to give the episode a 1970s flavour. Starting from a very special title sequence (Camping Paradis 1976) which nods to the three-way split screen of Dallas (1). The 1980s aren't forgotten with the Tom Selleck/Magnum, P.I. look of "Javier".

Starring Mathias Van Khache (Patrick), Dounia Coesens (Marie), Mathieu Barbet (Aymeric), Benjamin Alazraki (Serge), Catherine Lefroid (Françoise) and Ange Toussaint Panicali (Danny). Produced by Jean-Luc Azoulay and Richard Berkowitz. Bernard Paccalet exec produces. Alain Bucaille is the production manager. Produced with the participation of RTL-TVI and RTS Radio Télévision Suisse. Music by Frédéric Porte. Main title song composed by Sébastien Lipszyc, Emmanuel Lipszyc and Franck Lascombes.

Cinematography by Olivier Guarguir. François Salisch is the production designer. Costumes by Nathalie de Belleval. Sandrine Diot is the artistic coordinator. Main title sequence by Cinespi. Distributed by TF1 Studio.

(1) The car of Aymeric is another nod to Dallas. (Camping Paradis: Un ange gardien au camping) (Joséphine, ange gardien: Trois campeurs et un mariage)