THE INSPECTOR ALLEYN MYSTERIES — BBC — 1990–2012
These crime stories are interesting because they are quaint like hell, or heaven if you prefer. The crimes are situated after the second world war around 1948. They all happen in some areas that involve the upper classes of England, the aristocracy and nobility. Many sirs, lords and ladies. The main policeman is of course from Scotland Yard and he is a chief inspector very well introduced in the higher spheres of the government and in these very aristocratic upper classes, which gives him the privilege, and mind you that is a privilege that no one could have, to question and even slightly shake up and around these noble and/or rich people to get the truth out of them who consider their private business has nothing to do with Scotland Yard.
It is quaint by the language. It is quaint by the way they dress and behave. It is quaint by the way they address other people or even the way they get angry. Everything in them is quaint in some families that go back to before the Norman Conquest, if that may mean something. It is quaint because of the old rotary dial telephone and of course no portable or cell phones, not even, or is it of course not any, smart phones. It is quaint by the old cars of that old period with their front doors opening backward. Quaint because of The Times that has no pictures on the front page, if any even inside. This quaint atmosphere makes you nostalgic of a time you have vaguely known in the past, at least fifty-five years ago, even before the Beatles. You should see the old 78 rpm vinyl records and their record players, the old turn tables that you have to wind up with a side-hand-crank and the enormous sound horn that looked like a giant morning glory or ipomoea bloom shedding music in the air.
They even make tea the old way: warm up the teapot with some hot water, then one spoonful per cup plus one extra spoonful for the pot and hot water poured onto it and don’t forget the cozy on the teapot for five minutes. It is true there are so many servants that you can only see Troy doing that, troy a famous painter who is supposedly in love with Chief Inspector Alleyn.
The series is very well built by a BBC that already knew — and apparently they still know — how to create suspense and really keep the identity of the culprit for the very last minute. It is real art to prevent the audience from guessing too early, or even at all. That enables the series to be nicely social and critical of the rather blind lack of empathy and sympathy, not to mention compassion, among these aristocrats who only think of their reputation, their money, their prestige, their fame even, and who are ready to run over and of course kill those who maybe in their way, and those are always from the very same social class. The rich kill the rich and in this series no poor kill no poor. There might be now and then one exception to this ruthless truth. There is also some criticism of some practices in this society that try by all means to control simple people and keep them under control in all possible ways, particularly the cultivation of superstitions, religious or not, to achieve that point.
The rhythm is rather low and of course the various accents are realistic enough to let us believe when we move out of London and go to Scotland, for example, though not strong enough to make comprehension as impossible as a roaring truck next to you.
It is thus interesting because it keeps you alert and it develops a critical approach of life that unluckily has a tendency to disappear in our news-overfed world that cultivates one-sided arguments in all of us and good old fight between sectarian if not bigot defenders more than advocates of only one-sided ideas with only two camps that start throwing mental stones as soon as they open their mouths. And that must be true since we have been able to see every day for now two months the President of an important nation accusing everyone of plotting against him, including his predecessor. And we would like our students and children to learn how to construct balanced discussion on any subject even the most inflammatory and fieriest ones, like travel bans.
Take a break from that bipolar political fundamentalism and let yourself glide into this quaint fluidity that will of course and luckily never come back.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU