It’s a Gallic shrug for Rowan Atkinson’s return as the Parisian detective
★★½ ITV, Christmas Day, 9pm
‘TIS THE SEASON to enjoy cosy costume crime. Nothing too bloody or realistic. So while the Beeb is giving us Agatha Christie’s The Witness for the Prosecution, ITV has another helping of Rowan Atkinson’s Maigret.
This take on Georges Simenon’s creation hardly caused a ripple when it was unveiled to us with Maigret Sets a Trap last Easter. In fact, as I write this, Maigret is currently in last place in our poll of favourite 2016 crime series (see below). However, ITV seem desperate to make this work having finally run out of Poirot’s to make.There are 76 Maigret novels and 28 short stories to plunder. That would keep us up to our trilbies in Parisian sleuthing for decades.
Shaun Dingwall, Lucy Cohu and Aiden McCardle
So does Maigret’s Dead Man finally ignite into a must-see drama? It is handsomely produced and the cast features good performers, such as Shaun Dingwall, Lucy Cohu and Aiden McCardle.And the dual tale – of a farmhouse slaughter in Picardy and the kidnap and killing of a man in Paris – are pretty juicy.
However, despite the money and expertise lavished on the production, it is plodding and unconvincing. Anyone who has got into Nordic noir in recent years or top French series such as Spiral over on BBC4, have got over the language hangup and enjoy the foreignness of it all.
While it’s nice seeing British TV embracing Europe despite our Brexit tendencies, this feels awkward. It jars seeing Brits posing as French characters and trampling the language – ‘Take us to the George Sank.’ It’s like those old war films in which the Germans speak perfect English.Personally, I’d rather see a gritty French version of these stories. And ITV may describe Rowan Atkinson as a ‘globally renowned actor’, but to most he’s a globally renowned funnyman. As if to overcome this, he’s so understated here he’s about as convincing as a croissant from Greggs.
The BBC often wins the Christmas ratings battle and it’s hard to see Maigret getting the better of The Witness for the Prosecution this time round.