Agatha Christie's Poirot is a British television drama that aired on ITV from 8 January 1989 to 13 November 2013. David Suchet stars as the eponymous detective, Agatha Christie's fictional Hercule Poirot. Initially produced by LWT, the series was later produced by ITV Studios. In the United States, PBS and A&E have aired it as Poirot.
At the program's conclusion, which finished with Curtain, based on the final Poirot novel, every major literary work by Christie that featured the title character had been adapted.
Suchet was recommended for the part by Christie's family, who had seen him appear as Blott in the TV adaptation of Tom Sharpe's Blott on the Landscape. Suchet said that he prepared for the part by reading all the Poirot novels and every short story, and copying out every piece of description about the character. Suchet told Strand Magazine: "What I did was, I had my file on one side of me and a pile of stories on the other side and day after day, week after week, I ploughed through most of Agatha Christie's novels about Hercule Poirot and wrote down characteristics until I had a file full of documentation of the character. And then it was my business not only to know what he was like, but to gradually become him. I had to become him before we started shooting." During the filming of the first series, Suchet almost left the production during an argument with a director, insisting that Poirot's odd mannerisms (in this case, putting a handkerchief down before sitting on a park bench) be featured.
According to many critics and enthusiasts, Suchet's characterization is considered to be the most accurate interpretation of all the actors who have played Poirot, and the closest to the character in the books. In 2013, Suchet revealed that Christie's daughter Rosalind Hicks had told him she was sure Christie would have approved of his performance.
Clive Exton in partnership with producer Brian Eastman adapted the pilot. Together, they wrote and produced the first eight series. Exton and Eastman left Poirot after 2001, when they began work on Rosemary & Thyme. Michele Buck and Damien Timmer, who both went on to form Mammoth Screen, were behind the revamping of the series. The episodes aired from 2003 featured a radical shift in tone from the previous series. The humor of the earlier series was downplayed with each episode being presented as serious drama, and an undercurrent of postmodernism saw the introduction of gritty elements not present in the Christie stories being adapted. Recurrent motifs in the additions included drug use, sex, abortion, homosexuality, and a tendency toward more visceral imagery. Story changes were often made to present female characters in a more sympathetic or heroic light, at odds with Christie's characteristic gender neutrality. The visual style of later episodes was correspondingly different: particularly, an overall darker tone; and austere modernist or Art Deco locations and decor, widely used earlier in the series, being largely dropped in favour of more lavish settings (epitomized by the re-imagining of Poirot's home as a larger, more lavish apartment). The series logo was redesigned (the full opening title sequence had not been used since series 6 in 1996), and the main theme motif, though used often, was usually featured subtly and in sombre arrangements; this has been described as a consequence of the novels adapted being darker and more psychologically driven. However, a more upbeat string arrangement of the theme music is used for the end credits of Hallowe'en Party, The Clocks and Dead Man's Folly.
Series 9–12 lack Hugh Fraser, Phillip Jackson and Pauline Moran, who had appeared in the previous series (excepting series 4, where Moran is absent). Series 10 (2006) introduced Zoë Wanamaker as the eccentric crime novelist Ariadne Oliver and David Yelland as Poirot's dependable valet, George — a character that had been introduced in the early Poirot novels, but was left out of the early adaptations in order to develop the character of Miss Lemon. The introduction of Wanamaker and Yelland's characters and the absence of the other characters is generally consistent with the stories on which the scripts were based. Hugh Fraser and David Yelland returned for two episodes of the final series: (The Big Four and Curtain), with Phillip Jackson and Pauline Moran returning for the adaptation of The Big Four. Zoe Wanamaker also returned for the adaptations of Elephants Can Remember and Dead Man's Folly.
Clive Exton adapted seven novels and fourteen short stories for the series, including The ABC Murders and, more controversially, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which received mixed reviews from critics. Anthony Horowitz was another prolific writer for the series, adapting three novels and nine short stories, while Nick Dear adapted six novels. Comedian and novelist Mark Gatiss has written three episodes and also guest-starred in the series, as have Peter Flannery and Kevin Elyot. Ian Hallard, who co-wrote the screenplay for The Big Four with his partner Mark Gatiss, appears in the episode and also Hallowe'en Party, which was scripted by Mark Gatiss alone.
In 2007, Suchet spoke of his desire to film the remaining stories in the canon and hoped to achieve this before his 65th birthday in May 2011. Despite speculation of cancellation early in 2011, it was announced on 14 November 2011 that the remaining books would be adapted into a thirteenth series to be filmed in 2012. The remaining books were finally adapted in 2013 into 5 episodes, from which, Curtain, was aired last in 13 November 2013. A 2013 television special, "Being Poirot", centered on Suchet's characterization and his emotional final episode.
Two Academy Award nominees have appeared in the series: Sarah Miles and Barbara Hershey. Additionally, Jessica Chastain received her first Academy Award nomination the year after her performance in Poirot; Michael Fassbender received his first nomination approximately eight years after appearing on the show. Several members of British thespian families appeared in episodes throughout the course of the series. James Fox appeared as Colonel Race in Death on the Nile, and his older brother Edward Fox appeared as Gudgeon in The Hollow. Three of the Cusack sisters each appeared in an episode: Niamh Cusack in The King of Clubs, Sorcha Cusack in Jewel Robbery at The Grand Metropolitan, and Sinéad Cusack in Dead Man's Folly. David Yelland appeared as Laverton West in Murder in the Mews and as George for the remainder of the series from Series 10 onward, and his daughter Hannah Yelland appeared as Geraldine Marsh in Lord Edgware Dies.