mon 15/08/2022

Maigret, ITV | reviews, news & interviews

Maigret, ITV

Maigret, ITV

Soporific reinvention of Georges Simenon's veteran detective

Rowan Atkinson as Jules Maigret, trying to think of a cunning plan

If you were expecting Rowan Atkinson to say "bibble" or make those Mr Bean gurgling noises, you came to the wrong classic detective drama. To play George Simenon's timeless French detective in a story subtitled "Maigret Sets a Trap", a melancholy, interiorised Atkinson spent most of his time sitting and thinking. Despite the mumsy ministrations of Mme Maigret (alias Lucy Cohu), he relied mostly on his pipe for company as he struggled to unmask a serial killer of women in Montmartre.

It was a determined effort by the star to set aside all his familiar comic tricks and tics, and this was a performance that owed nothing to either M Hulot or Inspector Clouseau. Unfortunately, it was difficult to see if it owed anything to anyone at all, since Atkinson (and Stewart Harcourt's script) merely left us to invent our own theories about how he might have become such a reticent and hangdog character. If he hadn't taken a peek at Michael Lonsdale's detective Claude Lebel in Fred Zinnemann's 1973 Day of the Jackal movie, another lugubrious French sleuth who relied on doggedness and attention to detail to get results, he should have done. (M & Mme Maigret pictured below)

Evidently having decided that dynamic action scenes and lurid shootouts (or even murders) would not be gratuitously shoehorned into the narrative, the production team had their work cut out to fill a two-hour slot. Frustratingly, the opening credits, with their images of Parisian landmarks, gendarmes, pavement cafes and metro stations evoking the 1955 setting, were the most atmospheric part of the whole production. As soon as the real action began, we were in the living room of Dennis and Georgette Lecoin and their young children. The actors were speaking routine colloquial TV-drama English, and it felt as if we'd been dropped into the set of Call the Midwife by mistake.

Such authentic Frenchness as there was came via newspaper headlines, announcing the murders or complaining that Maigret still hadn't arrested anybody, with an English translation being typed across the screen. It was entirely illogical that the characters should read newspapers in French yet speak to each in English, but ITV aren't about to contemplate getting their British stars to speak French dialogue with English subtitles in a prime 9pm slot, despite all the useful practice viewers have gained from watching Scandi noir or French thrillers Spin and Spiral.

The result was that the piece, with its period cars, clothes and furnishings, was perfectly agreeable to look at (even though the supposedly Parisian locations were actually in Budapest), but though David Dawson gave us a respectably weird and screwed-up perp, the viewer was constantly left waiting for more stuff to happen. The murders of the unfortunate women were reported rather than enacted, Maigret's cerebral and hands-off approach to detective work meant that he was the very opposite of a whirlwind of activity, and while there was a bit of a twist in the tale, the plotting felt badly starved of invention compared to shows like Foyle's War or even Poirot. When the impatient interior minister ordered Maigret to be taken off the case, it was difficult not to see his point. ITV have another one of these Maigrets in the can. Better luck next time? 

Though David Dawson gave us a respectably weird and screwed-up perp, the viewer was constantly left waiting for more stuff to happen


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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I wanted to be proved wrong about my inbuilt antagonism to most of Rowan Atkinson's creations, but after 30 minutes I was irritated and bored of the moody pipe-sucking and derivative production. Stuck it out to the end, shaking my head at the rather juvenile plot & production, and came away not giving a hoot about Maigret's presumed internal struggles or the paper-thin characters. 3 out of 10 from me.

I agree with your comments but I also thought the villain was unconvincing. He didn't have the evil charisma to keep both of those women obsessed with him. He just looked like a Helpdesk reject when his wife was as glamorous as a supermodel! 

Had looked forward to this new rendition although still cannot get Rupert Davies out of my mind. Even the new titled sequence was a repetition of the full face of the detective.  Far, far better had it been reduced to a 60 minute film  and I do recall Rupert was able to solve his cases in about 45 minutes. The cast were quite wooden in every respect and a very thin plot line with the suspect character totally unchilling throughout. I may decide to give the next episode a miss given this rather disappointing attempt to revive Maigret. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Maigret. It was very well acted, beautifully filmed to give the real Parisian period feel and a delight because every word was audible and considered. I was fully involved for the whole 2 hours. I have never commented before but good drama is so scarce that I wanted everyone involved to know they were appreciated. Thank you.

As for me and my wife, Rowan did a great job and was much better than we expected. We are already looking forward to the next instalment!

I thought this was a beautifully filmed, well-acted rendition of Maigret and I am looking forward to the next one. But I can't understand the strange (and wrong) way the Brits pronounce French names and words. Why do they put the stress on the first syllable in Maigret (so that it sounds like May Day)? They are right next door to France and they must hear French from time to time in their lives. Is it an antagonistic act to purposely mispronounce the language? I notice that they do the same think with Greek words in Cyprus. 



very simply it's the way we pronounce our words in English. And the French have a different accent when they speak. I don't live anywhere near to France and do not hear the French language. We really need to get away from thinking the British have other motives. A brilliant portrayal of Maigret, looking forward to the next one however they speak. 

Spin and Spiral are not Scandi, they are French!! 

Quite right, Anon. Looking at my original text, I see it was mysteriously "improved" on the page by an unknown hand. Now corrected!

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