Television Review: The Mrs Bradley Mysteries
Tuesday 01 September 1998
Half the inhabitants had recently been buried in some corner of a foreign field that is forever England, so no one batted an eyelid when the other half started dropping like flies. They are used to death in these parts, and treat it like the loss of a piece of monogrammed crockery. In an inventory list I checked at the end of this opening episode, I counted two corpses, a broken plate and one crushed wine goblet. The scullery-maid was rather upset about the plate, but otherwise life continued as normal. Two characters announced their engagement at the wake for a third, and the funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage table. Jolly tasty tea, though.
Into this world stepped the incongruous figure of Mrs Bradley, divorcee, friend of Mrs Pankhurst, disciple of Dr Freud, and owner of a motor car. She wouldn't ordinarily be seen dead with the cardboard inhabitants of the Bing household, but, for the sake of the plot, they had to be seen dead with her. She's one of those people, a bit like Hercule Poirot or Lord Peter Wimsey, who can't enter a house without somebody getting murdered in the next room. It's probably some perfectly ordinary form of 1920s etiquette, like getting in a case of Sir Algernon's favourite burgundy, or making sure the Hon Laetitia is given a south-facing suite. When a sleuth comes to stay, the hosts lay on a corpse.
Since they enjoyed some sort of pre-war heyday, Gladys Mitchell's crime novels have sunk without trace, and you can see why. The BBC has resurrected them as a vehicle for Diana Rigg, and the first crime she had to solve was the drowning in the bath of a chap who turned out to be a couple of sprouts short of a Sunday luncheon. "Do you seriously expect us to believe," exclaimed Garde Bing, "that Everard Mountjoy was really a woman? I can't begin to comprehend how Everard thought he'd get away with this charade." I don't expect to hear a better speech on television this or any other year.
Mrs Bradley is played with immense suaveness by Dame Diana in a tight bob. She does knowing, told-you-so bits to camera like Francis Urquhart and confides in her chauffeur, George, who has an entertaining habit of learning a polysyllable a day. The rest of the characters bring to the proceedings the psychological depth of the Cluedo board. References to the Somme and Passchendaele are a tacky way to buy them some roundness they don't deserve. When young Miss Bing is revealed as the murderer, she tells her father that she has confined herself to a wheelchair since a motoring accident three years previously in order to get his attention. It was the very plausibility of her explanation that made it implausible.
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
Poldark, series 1 finale, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 3, review: Sansa and manhood-lopping torturer Ramsay Bolton - really?
The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding