When Britain’s Sky 1 canceled its cozy mystery series “Agatha Raisin” after just nine episodes, Acorn TV -- the American Brit-centered SVOD service acquired by AMC Networks early this month -- came to the rescue.
Now touted as Acorn’s first solely commissioned series, the show's second season starts today with the first of three monthly, movie-length episodes. Not much has changed.
Like every other episode, this one -- titled “Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham” -- is adapted from a work by prolific Scottish mystery writer M.C. Beaton.
Scottish actress Ashley Jensen (“Extras,” “Ugly Betty”) plays the unmarried, late-40ish Agatha. She has left her life as a high-powered London public relations executive to start a relaxing retirement in the Cotswold town of Carseley, but instead finds herself playing amateur detective once the formerly peaceful locale begins experiencing murder after murder after she arrives.
No, a serial killer is not loose. Instead, in the tradition of such classic series as Angela Lansbury’s “Murder, She Wrote,” each episode stands on its own -- with a murder or two getting solved by show’s end.
Now, cross the astronomical homicide rate of Cabot Cove of “Murder, She Wrote" with the goofy customs of "Gilmore Girls"' Stars Hollow.
The first season of “Agatha Raisin” found the townsfolk participating in such pastimes as a quiche-making contest, a charity film contest (they show “The Ladykillers,” wink-wink), a cheese and cider tasting, and a barn dance. The new season starts off with the town’s annual concert, which Agatha's PR savvy converts into a burlesque show.
“Agatha Raisin” is also funny, in a Brit sort of way. In “Wizard of Evesham,” Agatha scales a wall and lands in a garbage can. At other times, a neighbor’s dog repeatedly pees on her feet.
On the less funny side, there’s the horniest hetero hairdresser since Warren Beatty in “Shampoo.” (Spoiler alert: both the neighbor and the hairdresser end up… guess what).
Once again, Agatha snoops around where she shouldn’t be snooping. Once again, Agatha runs around in heels when she should be wearing flats. Once again, in a nod to Agatha Christie, someone accuses her of playing Miss Marple. Once again, someone starts a fire. Once again, Agatha is saved from death at the last second.
Agatha is still, as one of the characters said last season, “completely impossible -- an infuriating, brilliant, frustrating, magical nightmare of a woman.”
And once again, I know who the murderer is way before Agatha figures it out.
But no, there’s a twist I don’t see coming! What’s even more surprising, one of the show’s two cops -- who last season were the most inept I’ve seen on any show since the cop on Acorn’s “Doc Martin,” who luckily are never confronted with any murders -- actually helps solve the case, thanks to a recently completed training course.
Like the very first episode, which also ran 90 minutes instead of an hour, “Agatha Christie and the Wizard of Evesham” would have benefited from some trimming down.
Maybe four normal episodes for the same price as three over-stuffed ones would have made sense?
It’s not as if the series is going to run out of story ideas any time soon. Beaton has written at least 28 Agatha Raisin novels, plus short stories. So, you can expect Acorn to keep these cozy Cotswold crime capers coming.
But first things first. Have plans for Christmas Eve? That’s when episode two of season two will debut. It’s called “Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam.” As with the original Grimm fairy tales, expect a murder or two with your eggnog.