Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Larger detectives, smaller screens

I watched A&E's Nero Wolfe series late last year, and I was surprised at how much I liked it. The larger-than-life detective translated remarkably well to the screen: I felt that Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaikin did admirably as Archie and Nero, respectively, although I remain glad that I don't have the problem many people seem to have where watching filmed versions will supplant their imagined versions. (My Galadriel is way better.) (Er. Not in the Nero Wolfe series.)

So, heartened by this success, I watched the first set of the BBC's filmed versions of the Dalziel and Pascoe mysteries.


It's not that they were horrible. It's just that...the volume was too low, in general. Dalziel is a very ordinary man, not a force of nature. When he comes out with words like amanuensis, there is no shock to it; he never does anything particularly beyond what any other character would do. He is not surprisingly reasonable in a pinch--he's just...reasonable. And Wield is vastly insufficiently ugly. Vastly. Wield is supposed to be shatteringly ugly, just horrifically ugly, about as ugly as a person can be without visible deformities. And the actor who plays Wield (David Royle) is...not really Hollywood-handsome. And that's it.

I think part of what worked with the A&E productions of the Nero Wolfe stuff is that they committed to playing it over the top. The entire color palette was heightened, both in the sets and in the costuming. They were not attempting realism, and the Dalziel and Pascoe people apparently were, and so the places where each detective is larger than life contrasted sharply, because Nero Wolfe was, I mean to say, Nero Wolfe, and Andy Dalziel was...some guy.

And it's funny to me to have the contrast, because Dalziel and Pascoe are fairly explicitly trying to do something different than Wolfe and Goodwin--it's rather like a Hornblower vs. Aubrey/Maturin thing--but the contrasts can't be quite the way they are without the similarities. And in this case, trying to do it quietly just didn't work, whereas the mustard-colored suits did. Strange.
Tags: small screen

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