A street kid interrupts Nero Wolfe's dinner with his eyewitness account of a kidnapping. The next day, the boy is dead and his mother comes to the detective with her son's meager savings and dying wish to hire Wolfe to solve his murder.
Drawing on her love of theatre and art, New Zealand novelist Ngaio Marsh created elegant crime-puzzlers full of quirky characters with hidden agendas, all brought meticulously to life in this BBC series.
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Magnificent performances: Tough to fill Archie Goodwin's shoes, and even tougher to fill Nero Wolfe's, but Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin do it in these splendid, remarkably faithful adaptations of Rex Stout's addictive detective novels. Bill Smitrovich as Inspector Cramer, Colin Fox as Fritz; Conrad Dunn, Fulvio Cecere, and Trent McMullen as the 'Teers; and R.D. Reid as Sergeant Purley "I tawt you wuz already gone" Stebbins are also dead-on and delightful. Plus a tour-de-force for the non-recurring roles, in the best theater tradition but unique for television -- a talented repertory cast, led by Kari Matchett, Debra Monk, Francie Swift, James Tolkan, Nicki Guadagni and the late great George Plimpton.
Kudos especially to head writer Sharon Doyle for not only keeping the faith with Stout's marvelous language the dialog and Archie's first-person narrative (here as voice-over) but actually enhancing the stories with worthy-of-Stout inventions of her own. Some standouts: In "Disguise for Murder" and "Eeny Meeny Murder Mo" we get ringside seats at the card games which are unseen teasers in the books; in "Poison a la Carte" we share a beautifully poignant, wordless concluding scene that speaks volumes about the relationship between Wolfe and Fritz; in "Christmas Party" and "Door to Death" we get priceless gems from a jealous Lily Rowan;and joy of joys, in "Silent Speaker" we get the Nero Wolfe series' own "Mrs. Columbo" Mrs.Cramer, in person, joining forces with Archie for fun with Fergus.
The sets are stunning, especially the beloved Brownstone in all its glory.
This is the show that introduced millions of viewers to Wolfe and Archie and catapulted their creator, whose last book was published 30 years ago, to the top of the used book sales charts. Season One and Season Two Nero Wolfe on DVD are treasures for new and longtime fans alike. The absence of a Season Three on A&E and DVD is sad evidence of a once proud television network gone to the dogs.
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