4 October 2019 | kmoh-1
Neither Paul Temple, nor very good
Having read the other surprisingly positive reviews, I feel someone ought to put the contrary position. I remember the show from its original broadcasts, and was intrigued to discover whether it stood the test of time. It didn't.
In the first place, the resemblance to the Paul Temple world is minimal to say the least. The long-running radio series, usually starring Peter Coke as Paul and the incomparable Marjorie Westbury as his wife Steve, was a brilliantly manufactured set of whodunnits over as many as 8 episodes, where the plot twisted and turned and corpses piled up. Paul and Steve were perfectly at home in a (vanishing) world of martinis and Soho clubs, and weekends away at Maidenhead. Great play was made of Paul and Steve's domestic arrangements - we would hear them discussing the case over breakfast, passing the marmalade while theorising, and much was made of Steve's shopping trips. This trademark Durbridge vibe was often transferred to television, for example in Melissa or The Doll.
This TV series - whose production, incidentally, was the direct cause of the cancellation of the radio show - takes Paul and Steve out of that world, into the world of colour supplement 70s glamour. The whodunnit element is played down, and the 50 minute format makes devious plot twists impossible. The end result is more Alistair MacLean than Francis Durbridge (Durbridge had no input into the scripts).
The ever-reliable Francis Matthews makes a decent stab at Paul, but Steve is turned into a typical dolly bird of the time, clearly 15-20 years younger. This was miscasting of epic proportions - the radio Steve was at least as mature as Paul, and impossibly glamorous (think Audrey Hepburn, or Myrna Loy in the Thin Man films). The relationship worked as one of equals, rather than here where the whiff of sugar daddy is amplified by the fact that Steve gets little to say and less to do, other than marvel at Paul's genius. Poor Ms Drinkwater was somewhat out of her depth, as can be seen by a scan of her previous career, and, at least according to imdb, after this failure never worked in the business again (she moved into photojournalism).
This of course might have worked, despite the failure to transfer the Temples' characters to television, had the programmes been any good. But they weren't. Meagre plotting, dull characters, and (later on), incomprehensible accents from foreign actors managed to make most episodes fall flat. Paul Temple was a major brand for the BBC, and they made a lot of efforts to keep the series going, but it thrived in a different world, and the attempt to give it a 1970s update bombed, and to my knowledge Paul Temple never appeared again in a new English-language production set in the present day; the BBC did produce new versions of the missing Coke/Westbury radio serials in 2006, but these were based on original scripts, using the original scores and sound effects, and set in the 1950s.
Paul Temple wasn't murdered, but his disappearance was down to manslaughter, and this series was largely responsible.