There is a new entry in the Emmys race with streaming service Acorn TV making its bow with two strong contenders for Best TV Movie: "Agatha Christie's Poirot: Curtain, Poirot's Last Case" and "Foyle's War: Elise, The Final Mystery." Both of these telefilms mark the end of long-running franchises. Each of these Brit hits is finally eligible for the Emmys because of the participation of an American producer. Acorn TV, which specializes in programming from across the pond, stepped in to co-produce for the first time to ensure these final episodes reached US audiences.
In the case of "Curtain," it was the culmination of a series that dates back more than a quarter century. David Suchet first played Agatha Christie's classic character of Hercule Poirot in hour-long adaptations of short stories that aired in 1989. There were four seasons of these, with production of the first three of the feature-length versions of her novels coming before the last of these.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, almost all of the other 33 novels were brought to life. But following the broadcast of "The Clocks" in 2011, American fans were left waiting until Acorn stepped in and ensure the final three whodunits would be available stateside.
Over the years, Suchet, a classically trained actor, made the part his own. For his Herculean efforts, he was feted with a lifetime achievement award from the Royal Television Society. While "Curtain" represents his final performance as Poirot, his indelible portrait of this unlikely detective will be one for the ages. Indeed, all 13 seasons of the show are available for streaming on Acorn.
From the outset, the creative team has been dedicated to recreating first the Art Deco era of the 1930s, then WWII London and post-war Britain. The production values have been first-rate throughout with atmospheric sets and colorful costumes.
"Curtain" raises with the welcome return of Poirot's pal Captain Arthur Hastings (Hugh Fraser) and brings them back to Styles, the country manor at which they solved their first crime. This time around, Poirot must confront his own desires to bring a killer to justice no matter what the cost. To watch that final scene as Suchet says farewell to the role after 25 years is heartbreaking.
"Foyle's War" sprung from the fertile imagination of Anthony Horowitz, the wordsmith responsible for a shelf full of young adult fiction including the "Alex Rider" series as well as new Sherlock Holmes and James Bond tales.
The first six seasons of "Foyle's War" were set in a seaside town during WWII and followed a police detective (Michael Kitchen) and his assistant, Samantha "Sam" Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks), as they solved crimes. The final two seasons took the pair to post-war London where they become ensnared in the mysterious world of espionage.
Foyle made an unlikely spy and spent as much time navigating the labyrinth that is MI-5 as he did righting wrongs. And while Sam found herself a fellow, rising politican Adam Wainwright, and got hitched, she continued to keep her hand in the game.
The final installment, "Elise," marked the last of an impressive 28 telefilms. Horowitz wrote this one solo as he had 21 of the others (he also co-wrote two more). The story shifts between 1946 and the darkest days of the war. Foyle must find those responsible for gunning down his boss Hilda Pierce (Ellie Haddington). He discovers her wartime duties including recruiting young women who would be sent into German-occupied France to work with the resistance. However, there was a traitor in their midst and many of them, including the title character, were killed.
Horowitz was inspired by a real-life incident, as he had been for many of the most compelling stories in the series. As always, his attention to detail is matched by that of the production staff who do a crackerjack job recreating these two pivotal points in British history.
Watching the interplay between Kitchen and Weeks is a delight, with many small moments magnified by the strength of their performances. With an expectant Sam knowing that she will soon have to give up her job, there is a an extra layer of poignancy to their last moments together. And seeing Kitchen for the final time as Foyle, forever low-key but saying so much in his stillness, is to watch a master actor at work.
Acorn boasts a slew of acquistion titles, including the best of British TV as well as that from other Commonwealth countries like Canada and Australia. While it delivers a range of new fare, such as the popular "Doc Martin" and "Midsomer Murders," it also offers an extensive back catalogue that includes such Emmy darlings as "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Prime Suspect."
Now, with "Poirot" and "Foyle's War," it could have a couple of Emmy winners of its own. To that end, Acorn is making the two telefilms available to all TV academy voters via a website. It offers a hassle-free way (no ID, no password required) to watch these two top-notch telefilms.
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