CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: An arsenic murder in Paradise – Agatha Christie would be proud
Death In Paradise
Robson Green: Walking Coast To Coast
There is nothing more British, declared Ralf Little as DI Neville Parker, than settling down to watch a cookery show with a takeaway on your lap.
To underline his point, this week’s Death In Paradise (BBC1) included a contest to boil up the best crab callaloo or stew. DI Parker’s looked like the contents of a blocked drain, with a few half-submerged pincers.
The crime-busting hypochondriac was only half right. We do like a cookery programme, it’s true — yesterday’s schedules included the Hairy Bikers making a banana tart, schoolchildren on Junior Bake Off serving cakes shaped like animals, and the inevitable marathon of Come Dine With Me on C4.
DI Neville Parker, played by Ralf Little, cooked up a crab callaloo on Death In Paradise
Better still, though, we love a good murder investigation. BBC2’s absorbing Death In Bollywood ran for three nights this week, but I suspect most crime addicts haven’t even got round to watching it yet — we’ve all been glued to The Pembrokeshire Murders on ITV.
Keith Allen was outstanding as the ranting narcissist John Cooper, a serial killer finally trapped by his own callousness. Covered in blood after a double shooting, he took a pair of shorts from one of his victims and was spotted wearing them, days later.
The series, co-starring Luke Evans as a dogged policeman, has been ITV’s most popular drama for years, with a live audience of more than 6.5 million . . . more than tuned in to David Tennant’s star turn as psychopath Dennis Nilsen in Des last year (though millions more watched it later on catch-up).
To capitalise on this, the channel followed up the three-part reconstruction with a documentary subtitled Catching The Game Show Killer. It seems that even when we already know the minutiae of a case, our appetite for murder is unlimited.
Contraption of the night:
George Clarke and his mate Will Hardie were making a telescope out of curtain rods on Amazing Spaces (C4). The boys insisted that it worked. I reckon they’d have been better off putting 20p in a spy-glass on the end of the pier.
Death In Paradise belongs to an earlier genre, the sort that existed before podcasts and police procedurals. Agatha Christie would have approved of the murder method: arsenic smeared on the stem of a professor’s spectacles, which he tended to chew pensively.
At first DI Parker guessed the arsenic was concocted from 70-year-old rolls of flypaper. Later, he discovered it came from an abandoned copper mine.
The BBC might be missing a trick here: they could run a week of documentaries to explain the science behind a single episode of Death In Paradise.
Tahj Miles joined the cast as trainee officer Marlon Pryce, a local conman who is bound to drive his stiff-necked sergeant, J.P. Hooper (Tobi Bakare) to fits of frustration. Josephine Jobert, who returned last week as DS Florence Cassell, might never have been away. But it’s Don Warrington who could carry this show on his own, as Commissioner Selwyn Patterson, even if all the other characters were played by turtles. Or crabs, for that matter.
Robson Green had no intention of carrying the show on his own, as he ambled from Newcastle to the Irish Sea on Walking Coast To Coast (C5). At every step, he roped in fellow hikers to be his co-presenters.
On Hadrian’s Wall he met cyclists, soldiers on a training yomp, treasure hunters and dog walkers. Robson has a knack for chatting to anyone, though most of his conversation is about himself: he cheerfully informed one bloke about all the TV detectives he’d ever played.
But Robson’s no historian. He couldn’t understand why Hadrian wanted a wall, and thought the Roman emperor must have been a bit of a bighead. Imagine! As if any egomaniac would ever become obsessed with building a wall.