The BBC's labours of Hercule really intrigue - Brexit references, John Malkovich and all

The little grey cells have been working overtime trying to work out what some BBC viewers might have to complain about when watching The ABC Murders (BBC1, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, 9pm).

Friday, 28th December 2018, 2:01 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th January 2019, 10:02 pm
John Malkovich stars as Agatha Christie's Belgian detective Hercule Poirot in The ABC Murders, a new adaptation showing this week

An adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novel, the first bone of contention seems to have been the casting of John Malkovich – an American, of all things! – as Poirot, Christie’s “quaint dandified little man”.While Malkovich is hardly quaint, his Poirot is still beautifully dressed, in starched collars and a perfect Homburg hat.And he doesn’t have the waxed moustache of David Suchet, but he has the same fastidious, precise air.What this Poirot has however, is a world-weariness, a feeling he is weighed down by the accumulated blood of the murders he has solved.

He is also confronted by the rise of fascism, with everyone from his neighbour to a railway ticket inspector sporting the lightning bolt symbol of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists, and his foreign status is a convenient stick to beat him with.You could draw parallels with populism and the increased division around immigration after Brexit – a parallel which has also annoyed viewers of a certain political persuasion – but this story is set in 1933, as Hitler took control in Germany, and shortly before the Daily Mail’s Hurrah for the Blackshirts editorial in support of Mosley.Sarah Phelps, who also attracted flak for previous Christie adaptations, has done a marvellous job. There’s no ‘drawing room window’ feel to it, and the adaptation seems modern.And I would love to see Malkovich back – Hickory Dickory Dock might be right up Phelps’ street.

Torvill and Dean (ITV, Tuesday, 9.15pm) was a little like the Olympic champions themselves, bland. But this time there was no ice dancing on show to lift them above us mere mortals.

A new sitcom started this week, King Gary (BBC1, Sunday, 9.30pm). Influenced by The Simpsons, in that Gary (Tom Davis) is an overbearing idiot who loves his wife andkids deeply, is showing promise.