Series: A Nero Wolfe Mystery
A series of TV adaptations of the Nero Wolfe
mystery novels and short stories written by Rex Stout, broadcast on A&E between 2001-2002 and starring Maury Chaykin as Wolfe and Timothy Hutton as his legman Archie Goodwin.
The series is incredibly faithful to the original stories, remaining firmly set in the amorphous mid-40's-to-60's of the books while lifting large portions of Archie's narration directly from the text. The show was notable for its approach to guest casting — aside from Chaykin, Hutton and a handful of other recurring characters, one-shot characters would often be played by the same core group of actors, much like a repertory theater, so that the murder victim one episode might be the murderer the next.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Archie will occasionally break away from the action to address the reader directly. In the A&E series this usually takes the form of his narration, but in "Too Many Clients" he gleefully looks directly at the camera and announces "Ladies and Gentlemen, client number four!"
- Comic-Book Time: A rare TV example. The episodes are set in roughly the same period as the novels and stories they were based on were published with, as in the original stories, the characters always remaining the same age., This meant that the series might be set in the early 1960s one week and in the 1940s the next, with Wolfe, Archie and the other recurring characters never ageing. This is often quite subtle, with an eagle-eyed viewer only able to tell through the fashions, cars and music roughly when it's set.
- Diplomatic Impunity: The crux of the episode "Immune to Murder".
- Establishing Character Moment: In the pilot, based on The Golden Spiders, we are first introduced to Nero Wolfe as he and Archie are sitting down to dinner. Wolfe reacts to Archie's news that he's overdrawn at the bank with barely a flicker of interest. A minor change to preparation of his favourite meal, however, sets Wolfe raging.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Any time Wolfe and Inspector Cramer start bellowing at each other. Which is often.
- Insistent Terminology: Nero Wolfe has a wide vocabulary in general and a wide vocabulary of insults in particular. However, he only calls someone a "dunce" when he is revealing that person to be the murderer.
- Large Ham:
- Narrowed It Down To The Guy I Recognise: Neatly played with. You will recognise most of the cast from something or other... however, the repertory nature of the cast means that the actor who played the murderer last week might be the victim this week and then might just be some schlub who turns up for a few minutes the next week, so it's not quite that easy to determine who did it based on this. Furthermore, when a notable outside guest star did appear, they were usually cast as the victim.
- Politically Correct History:
- The adaptation of Too Many Clients has this to a degree. The original novel has Archie seemingly approve of a man who, after he learns his wife has been cheating on him, beats her in response (although it can be argued that there's some ambiguity). When presented with the same situation in the TV adaptation, Archie is visibly angered and disgusted at the man and concerned for the wife.
- A more subtle example occurs in "Over My Dead Body". In the novel, the janitor of the fencing / dance studio which is central to the plot briefly appears in a scene where he's questioned by Archie. In this scene, he is depicted pretty much as a stereotypical lazy "Steppin Fetchit" African American stereotype. In the TV episode, the janitor is still African American, but the scene where he interacts with Archie doesn't take place.
- Short Runner: Was cancelled after two seasons.
- Unlimited Wardrobe: Archie in the A&E series. Not only does he have more fabulously tailored suits and hats than many women have dresses, but he's also able to obtain any disguise he might need at a moment's notice.
- The Unseen: Theodore Horstmann, Wolfe's botanist, doesn't show up, although he is mentioned a few times.