008, Agatha Raisin: Books vs TV Series
Hello, Book Lovers!
As you can tell from the title of this episode, I’m going to discuss the Agatha Raisin television show on Acorn TV versus the books in order to avoid spoilers, I’m going to focus on how Agatha is portrayed, not the events in the show and novels. Fingers crossed, I stick to my notes and this show remains as spoiler-free as possible. You get it. I’ve tried to not ruin things for you, but just be aware I could slip up and start talking plot before we get started.
I should also point out that I’ve watched season one and two, but not three because I couldn’t purchase it on Amazon prime video—it’s only available on the Acorn TV streaming service. Actually, this isn’t true anymore. I’ve caught up since I wrote this script and I’m rewatching season one, but currently, there are seasons one to four available. We have finished watching season four and Amazon Prime Video* recommended the Quiche of Death, again, which is the pilot episode—it’s not officially a part of season one. And I thought, “Ooh, maybe I wanna watch that.” Then, I got trapped into watching season one again—the things you do as a podcaster. But I’m glad I did this because it refreshed my memory and it reaffirmed the things that I’ve said in the script that I still hold to be true. On top of this, I’m also hoping to keep this as a short episode.
So without further ado, let’s get into the episode.
A Quick Disclaimer
All of the books in this haul were purchased with my own money and not gifted to me by publishers, publicists, or agents. And, all opinions are my own. The book descriptions read in this haul were sourced from Amazon by my virtual assistant.
What I Love About Agatha Raisin in the Novels
I’m going to start with the positive because no matter what, I enjoyed both the TV series and the books, I don’t think it’d be unfair to say I hated the TV series. What I love about Agatha Raisin in the novels, in the novels is she’s middle-aged and has this not-so-perfect body. Agatha is also a bit man, crazy, or man obsessed. Along with this, she has insecurities, which lead her to make cringe-worthy decisions. On top of this, Agatha has a not-so-glamorous smoking habit but back to being middle-aged and having a not-so-perfect body. Because Agatha is middle-aged, I would say she’s in her fifties, in the book, and she suffers from menopause. The character talks about her struggles with menopause as well as pimples. But, again, she’s a middle woman.
Usually, there aren’t too many female protagonists that are middle-aged and going through menopause–they’re seemingly perfect. And it’s irritating. What I love about Agatha Raisin in the book is she’s not perfect. But Agatha is a very successful person and used to going after something and getting it, and she’s realised that this doesn’t work the same in her love life because not everything falls into place.
Changes in the Television Show
Now let’s talk about the TV show. What is Agatha like in the TV show? There’s no nice way to say this, but Agatha has been Hollywood-ified. All of these things that made Agatha relatable in the books, for me at least, have been stripped away from the character.
The actress that portrays Agatha is Ashley Jensen. Ashley is perfect, blonde and appears to be in her forties and not fifties. Thus, there’s no mention of her struggles with menopause, pimples, or weight. What’s with the dramatic change to the main character? It’s like writers can’t handle women in their menopause, especially TV writers. So, in film and television, female characters are either ancient or young. There’s no middle age—no one wants to deal with a woman going through menopause or even talking about it.
The Elephant in the Room
If there are characters in a television series that are this age are over-simplified and glossed over. No one even mentions menopause. I don’t consider myself a feminist, but this bothers me that they’ve taken this away. Agatha also has blonde hair with a perfect body to match. In one episode, Agatha says, “I’m big-boned”, when people struggle to pick her up. But visually, it doesn’t make sense because Ashley Jensen has a tiny frame. The character in the TV series works out. So, she looks perfect and has a tiny waist; obviously, I’m jealous.
TV Agatha appears to be around my age—maybe she’s older and practically flaw-free. What I’m trying to allude to is these flaws make her a relatable character. At times irritating but nonetheless relatable. Agatha has struggles and doesn’t get everything right. And I liked that. Because she’s now flaw-free, naturally, she has no insecurities.
Middle-aged Adults in Insta-Love
And the biggest thing that bugs me, I’m going to have to break my rule about no plot, but she doesn’t seem to be too bothered by James’s feelings for her in the early stages. And “wants to say single.” This is what she says to James during one of the episodes in season one. And then the other thing, I guess, this isn’t related to Agatha Raisin, but it is to an extent; James proposes out of the blue. For a man who is supposedly a notorious bachelor, scared of settling down, James proposes to Agatha out of the blue, and it doesn’t make sense. They’ve literally kissed once, and that was all. I couldn’t help thinking that in the books, Agatha Raisin would’ve been alarmed by that. But, on second thought, maybe because she was so obsessed with James, Agatha would’ve just accepted it anyway.
And by the way, this Hollywood-ified effect that I’m talking about with Agatha also extends to the cast of the main characters. Except for the elderly villagers who play minor roles, many of the characters are younger than their book counterparts.
Super Cozy But at a Price
They’ve made it so cozy mystery. It’s ridiculous. As I alluded to, the television show is fun in a lighthearted way. It’s almost a cozy mystery, whereas the books are more of an amateur sleuth turned private investigator mystery because what triggers her is she puts the Quiche in the show. Agatha is blamed for someone’s murder, and she’s forced to figure out whodunnit so that she can cast the blame off her and onto the rightful person. This is why she starts investigating murders. And the same thing happens too, but it’s definitely cozy.
I think this makes the TV series still enjoyable, but they’ve taken away what makes the characters memorable and replaced it with something easier on the eyes. It bothers me to a certain extent that all the characters are sweet and practically perfect in every way, with the exception of the people that commit the crimes. This is a hallmark of the cozy mystery genre. Perhaps the reason why they’re doing that is cozy mysteries. It’s quite a hot genre, and many people like it because it’s an easy read. There’s no gore, blood, sex, or swearing.
Whereas an amateur sleuth mystery, you can have a bit of blood, gore, sex, and profanity. My protagonist, James Lalonde, uses profanity, but he does it in French instead of English. Some of the characters swear because if you were to meet these people in real life, they would behave this way.
The Books are Not Cozy for a Reason
Part of the reason why MC Beaton doesn’t market her books or, more appropriately, the publisher didn’t market her books as a cozy mystery is because of Agatha Raisin as a character. Even though I like Agatha Raisin in the books, she’s not perfect. And Agatha makes cringe-worthy decisions that cause you to shake your head and think, “Why are you doing this to yourself? Why didn’t you learn from the last time? Why are you chasing after this person who doesn’t deserve you?” At times, we do this in real life.
This is what makes Agatha special. These changes are made to increase the size of the TV audience. In saying that, they have not made the TV series for the fans. The writers, producers and production companies are going for the biggest size audience that’s available.
The Characters have Paid the Price
These decisions are being made to the detriment of the characters. As I look back on the TV series, Agatha Raisin does stand out, but that’s because she’s in every scene. However, the other characters do not they almost blend into the background. Maybe, Bill Wong stands out, but only because he’s completely different. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’m going to stop here because I’m verging into spoiler territory again.
My biggest issue with this series is that it’s so cozy. I’ve become one of those people that love the books more than the show. I enjoy the series and don’t hate-watch it, but maybe I’m hate-watching it a little bit. But, no, I think that’s a bit extreme. Actually, I’m not hate watching—I’m watching, but it’s driving me spare.
I know, technically, I just panned the adaptation, but I do get some enjoyment out of it. And I think it’s important to point that out. I’m not saying it’s utterly unwatchable because it’s definitely watchable. The scenery is beautiful. It’s interesting to see the adaptation, and it’s enjoyable. I’m just cheesed off that what made the MC Beaton’s Agatha Raisin world fascinating has been removed.
And, I do get excited when I see an adaptation advertised. Eagerly, I go to the cinema or I open Netflix, and I dive into the bookish adaptation and I do this with the same attitude. I want to enjoy the adaptation, but at the same time, because I read the books, I have a strong opinion of the characters. And I’m aware that I’m probably not going to get that. So it’s a double-edged sword.
As Always I have a few important questions to ask you. Do you like book-to-film or book-to-television content? And do you have a favourite book-to-film or book-to-television show?
I want to hear from you.
Let me know by sharing your thoughts in the comments section below or under the post over in The Book Nerd Reader Club Facebook Group.
Thank you for listening and happy reading, everybody.
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I’m Amelia. I write mystery and thriller novels under the pen name A. D. Hay and I’m the author of Missing the first book in the James Lalonde series. I’m the host of the Book Nerd Podcast and The Authorpreneur Podcast. Right now, I’m editing my soon to be published mystery novels, The Candidate, Duplicity, 24 Hours, and Immunity. When I’m not writing, hosting my podcasts or coaching aspiring authors, I love to travel around Europe with my Husband Roland, drink tea, and eat pizza.