A slightly confusing Agatha Christie whodunit
New York — Agatha Christie is at it again. That is, TV is at Agatha Christie again. The second in the Mobil Showcase Network Christie series is a dramatization of another, of the older works by her: "Why Didn't They Ask Evans?' (Thursday, on more than 50 TV stations, 8-11 p.m., check local listings for stations and time).
Once again, the result is stylishy cutesy, filled with 1930s clothing and country houses with butlers and footmen. Produced by London Weekend Television, this naively voguish drama almost unknowingly reveals the snobbery beneath its own superficial surface. It is quick look at life among the upper classes -- the hero can masquerade as a chauffeur because "nobody ever looks at a chauffeur."
In the introduction by Peter Ustinov, still making like Alistair Cooke, it is announced that 1934 was a year when butlers were still in style, but it was a bad year for golfers. From there the show takes the viewer on several wild golfball chases by a sophisticated (for the times) lady named Frances Derwent (frightfully plucky Frankie), portrayed with aristocratic panache by Francesca Annis. The hero-golfer, aptly named Bobby Jones, is played with chin-up reserve by james Warwick. John Gielgud is once again wasted in a bit part. As always, the sets and locations are lush and lovely.
"Why Didn't They Ask Evans?" is rife, like much of Agatha Christie, with confussing clues. But at the proper moment everybody tells everything they know about the crime. Upperclass people evidently know when "the jig is up." It is fortunate they tell all, because the viewer might be a bit confused otherwise.
The ubiquitous Mobil commercials, featuring a simulated newscast from the "Mobil Information Center," complete with staged anchorman, are once again in evidence, although, thankfully, at decent intervals.
"Why Didn't They Ask Evans?" is a treat for Christie fans and 1930s buffs, but a slightly confusing whodunit for viewers who really care whodunit