Friday, August 29, 2008

Television: Great Sleuthing, Part 2

In 2001 and 2002, A&E conducted an experiment of sorts airing a series adapting Rex Stout’s mysteries. They followed the trend of other current literary adaptations of detective stories by staying slavishly close to the original material, and in that sense it is a joy to see beloved stories get a true representation. It is also a great series to introduce people to the works of Rex Stout who are not familiar with them. For one thing, it can make following the story easier, since Stout never bothered to baby his readers. On the other hand, the show doesn’t spoon feed the plot to the viewer either, so it might just drive people to read the books in hopes of making more sense of some of the more complicated plots. Purchases of the books since the series airing, confirms this deduction.

The other joy of seeing the books adapted to the screen is seeing the banter and dialogue played out. The way these characters talk and think is just cool. It makes you wish that people in real life could compose their dialogue and arguments as a writer does instead of living on the fly.

Perhaps the most interesting novelty of “A Nero Wolfe Mystery” is the repertory theater approach they took to casting the show. In addition to the regular repeating characters, they used a stable of actors over and over again for the supporting characters. So you see the same faces playing new and different characters from week to week. At times you even see the same actor playing more than one part in the same episode!

If you are familiar with Nero Wolfe’s cases, this series is a must see. If not it is still a show worth seeing. With all the disposable shows and programming being aired in today’s world of hundreds of channels, this product of a smaller cable channel is a little gem.

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