Rex Stout's novels and novellas have finally sprung to life, and here are eight of the finest for us to enjoy, perfectly cast, acted, and directed.
Nero Wolfe (Maury Chaykin) has often been called the American Sherlock Holmes, though he actually takes after Sherlock's older brother, Mycroft. Wolfe is an enormous sedentary genius with a penchant for fine food, orchids, and books (in that order), and a distaste for work. He loves his routine, and never leaves his Manhattan townhouse on business if he can help it. To help with the food, he employs a Swiss gourmet chef, Fritz Brenner (Colin Fox). To help with the business, he employs Archie Goodwin (Timothy Hutton).
Archie, the narrator of both Stout's books and the series, is Wolfe's complement and factotum. A licensed private detective himself, he not only does all the legwork (often assisted by freelance operatives Saul Panzer (Conrad Dunn), Fred Durkin (Fulvio Cecere), and Orrie Cather (Trent McMullen)), but also badgers Wolfe into doing his "genius" part. Suave, cute, witty, charming, ebullient, confident, and very attractive, Archie takes more after Sherlock: He loves to work. (Though of course, he also knows how to play.)
This series is truly a delight. Each episode stands on its own as an entertaining, exquisite work of art. The attention to detail is remarkable. Each frame is a painting; each line is music to my ears (and many are quotable). The actual music (ranging from Jazz to Classical) always fits the setting, and is expertly recorded under the direction of Michael Small.
The actors above (and Bill Smitrovich as Inspector Cramer and R.D. Reid as Sgt. Purley Stebbins both of Manhattan Homicide) fit their characters the way Jeremy Brett fit Sherlock Holmes. It's a pleasure to spend time with them.
The world of "Nero Wolfe" is wonderful, and well worth revisiting time and again. And these DVDs are just the way to do it. If you can afford them, you're in for a treat. If you can't, beg, borrow, or steal. They're that good.