Join Rhys Bowen and Tasha Alexander as they discuss their favorite (and least) crime televison series, casting decisions, and ponder the perfect actors to play their own leading characters!
Rhys Bowen: Tasha, do you watch many mysteries/crime shows on TV? I am not a huge TV viewer and I find that most of the shows I choose to watch are on PBS. And my favorites are the oldies: Poirot, Miss Marple, Inspector Morse. I enjoy some of the DCI Banks and the Dalziel and Pascoe but most of the newer ones seem to have too much violence, and their plots have gaping holes in them.
You'll notice that all the shows I've mentioned are British. Maybe it's just my nostalgia for my homeland, or maybe it's just that the BBC does better productions with more eye for detail (again nostalgia on my part as I used to be part of BBC drama and always loved the lengths we would go to get it right).
A current favorite is the one with retired policemen solving cold cases. (Is it called New Tricks?) Again I like it because the characters are likable and human, although some of the plots stretch my credibility a trifle! Oh, and I do like Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. (But then I love anything in the Twenties, especially the costumes.)
I'm wondering if I enjoy a TV show more or less if I've read the book. From this list it would appear to be more—although there have been some awful Miss Marples. I'm not too keen on the present one. They portray her as nosy, snooping and making bad decisions about going into dangerous situations. I LOVED Joan Hickson. She really got Miss Marple right, don't you think?
Tasha Alexander: Hickson was a terrific Miss Marple. For me, I have to make a conscious effort to separate books from film adaptations. It’s nearly impossible for a production to capture a story the way it fills a single reader’s imagination, let alone that of every reader. Furthermore, film is a completely different way of telling a story, so I do my best to try not to compare the two, but rather to evaluate the effectiveness of each on its own. That said, there are times when something jars me too much and I just can’t watch—I never could get into the BBC Inspector Lynley Mysteries. Nathaniel Parker is a talented actor, but he just didn’t look like the Lynley-descended-from-Vikings who resided in my own head. It’s a weakness on my own part not to have been able to get past that, but there it is.
RB: My only exception to preferring the oldies and goodies is the Benedict Cumberbatch version of Sherlock Holmes.
Although it's set in modern times, I feel the writer got the character right. Holmes was a young man. He clearly had Aspergers or similar. He would have been fascinated with modern technology, and I like the new twists on the original stories. How about you?
TA: Now is when I have to admit to not having watched any of the new incarnations of Holmes. However, you are not alone in singing the praises of the Cumberbatch version, and I may have to relent and give them a try. I would say that my favorite mystery adaptation is the Cadfael series starring Derek Jacobi.
I adored Ellis Peters’ books, and felt that ITV did an outstanding job with the show. Most of the changes they made worked—for example, I found that Brother Oswin taking on a larger role in the stories was a good choice.
RB: Tasha, if they make your series into TV, who should play Lady Emily? For Lady Georgie in my Royal Spyness books, I would really like Emma Watson. She has that upper class innocence. I'm not sure about Molly Murphy. Again, she's young. It would need some up and coming Irish actress. Any suggestions?
TA: Emma Watson would be a brilliant Lady Georgie! As for Molly Murphy, that’s tough. What about Saoirse Ronan? I know she was born in the States, but didn’t she grow up in Ireland? As for Lady Emily, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I make a point of not describing her in the novels because I want readers to form their own image of her, but a television series would change that. I think people would start picturing her as the actress; it would be unavoidable. The only thing harder than casting Emily would be casting Colin, although there never seems to be a shortage of dashing and handsome British actors. Thank goodness…
RB: I agree completely that if the TV character does not look and seem like my vision of the character, I can’t watch. That’s why I was so glad they finally got Poirot right with David Suchet. The previous Poirots were so wrong! And Cadfael—yes, perfect. But then Derek Jacobi could play anything!
If I had to choose between a TV show and a book, it would always be the latter.
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Rhys Bowen is the author of the Anthony and Agatha Award-winning Molly Murphy mysteries, the Edgar Award-nominated Evan Evans series, and the Royal Spyness series. Born in England, she lives in San Rafael, California.
Tasha Alexander is the author of the Lady Emily novels, a series of historical suspense, including Tears of Pearl and Dangerous to Know. She attended the University of Notre Dame, where she signed on as an English major in order to have a legitimate excuse for spending all her time reading. She and her husband, novelist Andrew Grant, divide their time between Chicago and the UK.