Not all detectives have to be brooding, whiskey-swilling clouds of gloom. Not all of them even have to be real detectives. The delightful Agatha Raisin is the latest proof.
She’s the title character of a new British show that launched on the Acorn streaming service on Monday, and she’s straight out of the Miss Marple & Jessica Fletcher School of Crime Solving. She can’t leave a dead body alone. While the police are content to draw obvious (and incorrect) conclusions, she has to poke around until she reveals that the death was suspicious and identifies the unlikely perpetrator.
Amateur detectives have been writers, like Jessica in “Murder, She Wrote,” or spinsters like Jane Marple, but “Agatha Raisin” grounds its hero in the public relations field. Agatha (the engaging Ashley Jensen of “Ugly Betty”) is a hard-charging publicist in London who, in a movie-length pilot Acorn streamed last week, follows her long-standing dream of retiring to the British countryside.
Agatha is full of contradictions. In her professional life, she expertly helped clients navigate the treacherous waters of fame, but at the personal level she’s awkward and something of a dingbat, desperate to fit into her adopted community.
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“You could give me a few hints on how to do the things that people do when they do things around here,” she suggests to a fellow resident she has just met.
In the pilot, when Agatha’s entry in a quiche-baking contest kills the judge, she has to do for herself the kind of damage control she routinely did for clients. She eventually cracks the case, though, which helps considerably in her efforts to be accepted by her new neighbors.
Her little town, like Jessica Fletcher’s Cabot Cove, soon has a disconcerting number of homicides. Agatha solves them with the help of her housekeeper, Gemma (Katy Wix, who plays off Jensen beautifully), and sometimes the young constable (Matt McCooey), who is sweet on Agatha in a cougar-hunting sort of way.
It’s all served with a light touch that recalls shows like “Columbo” and “Monk,” and although Agatha has a back story, it’s not so weighty that you feel as if you have to lug it from one episode to the next. This is an old-school series – consume as much or as little as you like. It’s a pleasant meal any way you devour it.
“Agatha Raisin” is streaming now on Acorn TV. Learn more at support.acorn.tv.