Hetty Wainthropp
Created by David Cook

HENRIETTA "HETTY" WAINTHROPP, a sixty-ish housewife in Lancashire, England, originally appeared in David Cook's 1986 novel Missing Persons as a one-shot amateur sleuth. However, when it came time to make Hetty into a regular television character ten years later, the producers at the BBC decided that she couldn't just stumble into a different crime every week on her own. Therefore, in the first episode of the series "Hetty Wainthropp Investigates", Hetty took out a P.I. license, so that crime could find *her*. (A pilot TV-movie made in 1990 was based on the original book, so Hetty was still an amateur at that point.)

Hetty is played by Patricia Routledge, probably best known as the dotty, social-climbing Hyacinth Bucket from the popular britcom Keeping Up Appearances (you know, the show with twittery English woman who insists her last name is pronounced "Bouquet".) Here, however, Routledge plays a character who is almost Hyacinth's total opposite, one with a great deal of common sense and very few pretensions... although she's still occasionally allowed to be a *little* dotty from time to time.

While the series is definitely aimed at fans of 'cozies' rather than hard-boiled fiction -- it's highly unlikely, for instance, that the non-violent, bus-pass-owning Hetty will ever get mixed up in a car chase, a shootout, or a wild fistfight -- Hetty has at least a few 'tough guy' qualities that make her more than just a eccentric P.I wannabe.

First and foremost, she's quite strong willed and plain-spoken, and her cases occasionally take her into some (relatively) rough locales that would make Miss Marple faint dead away.

Second, she's no armchair investigator; she's willing to do whatever legwork is required to break a case. (It should be mentioned here that Hetty is sometimes assisted in these endeavours by her husband Robert, along with a teenage sidekick named Geoffrey.)

Finally, Hetty has always been quite clear about why she works as a detective -- it's for the money, honey. Hetty and Robert live fairly precariously in a realistically bleak suburban English environment, so Hetty's no dilettante playing at detection merely for amusement. P.I. work is what pays the bills.

Overall, though Hetty Wainthropp is certainly not the toughest gumshoe going, she seems to suit the semi-mean streets of Lancashire quite nicely. And while fans of strictly hard-boiled fiction won't find much to hold their interest in "Hetty Wainthropp Investigates", it's still gratifying to see the writers of this show playing with some P.I. conventions to add a little bit of grit to the usual 'cozy' formula.

NOVEL

  • Missing Persons (1986)

TELEVISION

  • MISSING PERSONS
    (1990, BBC)
    Pilot
    2 hours
    Premiered: May 30, 1990
    Based on the novel by David Cook
    Starring Patricia Routledge as HENRIETTA "HETTY" WAINTHROPP
    and John Graham Davies as Det. Chief Insp. Adams
    .
  • HETTY WAINTHROPP INVESTIGATES
    (1996-1999, BBC1)
    Based on characters created by David Cook
    Developed for television by David Cook and John Bowen
    Writers: John Bowen, David Cook, Brian Finch, Peter Gibbs, Philip Martin, Jeremy Paul
    Directors: Roger Bamford, David Giles, John Glenister, Jim Goddard, Don Leaver, Robert Tronson, Mike Vard
    Starring Patricia Routledge as HENRIETTA "HETTY" WAINTHROPP
    with Derek Benfield as Robert Wainthropp
    Dominic Monaghan as Geoffrey Shawcross
    Suzanne Maddock as Janet Frazer (Series 3-4)
    and John Graham Davies as Det. Chief Insp. Adams
    Executive producers:
    Rebecca Eaton (WGBH), Michael Wearing (BBC), Mal Young
  • 1st series
  • "The Bearded Lady" (January 3, 1996; 75 min)
  • "Eye Witness" (January 10, 1996)
  • "Fingers" (January 17, 1996)
  • "Widdershins" (January 24, 1996)
  • "A High Profile" (January 31, 1996)
  • "Safe as Houses" (February 7, 1996)

  • 2nd Series
  • "Poison Pen" (November 29, 1996)
  • "Lost Vhords" (December 6, 1996)
  • "Runaways" (December 13, 1996)
  • "The Astral Plane" (December 20, 1996)
  • "A Rose by Any Other Name" (January 3, 1997)
  • "Woman of the Year" (January 10, 1997)

  • 3rd Series
  • "All Stitched Up" (November 28, 1997)
  • "Daughter of the Regiment" (December 5, 1997)
  • "Serving the Community" (December 12, 1997)
  • "Fisticuffs" (December 1997)
  • "Childsplay" (January 2, 1998)
  • "Pursuit by Proxy" (January 9, 1998)
  • "A Minor Operation" (January 16, 1998)
  • "Helping Hansi" (January 23, 1998)
  • "How Time Flies" (January 30, 1998)

  • 4th Series
  • "Something to Treasure" (July 24, 1998)
  • "Family Values" (July 31, 1998)
  • "Digging for Dirt" (August 7, 1998)
  • "Mind Over Muscle" (August 14, 1998)
  • "Blood Relations" (August 21, 1998)
  • "For Love Nor Money" (September 4, 1998)
  • HETTY WAINTHROPP
    (1999, BBC1)
    Special "Comic Relief "episode
    Airdate: March 12, 1999
    Based on characters created by David Cook
    Developed for television by David Cook and John Bowen
    Starring Patricia Routledge as HENRIETTA "HETTY" WAINTHROPP
    with Derek Benfield as Robert Wainthropp
    Dominic Monaghan as Geoffrey Shawcross
    Suzanne Maddock as Janet Frazer (Series 3-4)
    and John Graham Davies as Det. Chief Insp. Adams

Respectfully submitted by Rudyard Kennedy.


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