Last night I belatedly watched the latest adaptation of the Maigret books by Georges Simenon, this time starring Rowan Atkinson as the eponymous French detective. Simenon wrote seventy-five novels and nearly thirty short stories about Maigret, and there have been many, many versions of the stories on the radio, TV and in film. As a child I remember seeing some of the British TV series, starring Rupert Davies, and I’ve read some of the books, some of them in French.
When it was announced that Rowan Atkinson was going to play the part, there was a terrific fuss in the press as he is known as a comic actor; he’s known mainly for the Blackadder TV series, the comedy ‘The Thin Blue Line’ and of course ‘Mr Bean’… I enjoyed Blackadder, loved Thin Blue Line and couldn’t abide the type of slapstick of Mr Bean – pulling faces and falling over doesn’t amuse me… However, it was the Mr Bean character which seemed to be most commented on in relation to how Atkinson would play Maigret.
It was first shown a week ago, and the reviews have been mixed, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I eventually watched it. As with many story-lines in this genre, it was fairly simplistic compared to the convoluted and complicated modern police procedural TV series (the original novel was written in 1955, ‘Maigret tend un piège’), but 1950’s Paris was beautifully played by Budapest, the costumes were wonderful, and the supporting cast included Fiona Shaw… however, I’m sure most people had their eyes on Atkinson, judging him on his performance and maybe thinking all the time of the other characters he has played… It seemed to me the production was very conscious of this too, and did all it could to make him seem ordinary, cerebral, almost dull… To me he seemed too restrained, too restricted by the writing and by the direction…
However, I did enjoy it – and yes the plot was slim, but I will watch the next episode and hope the whole thing will gel and come together as often happens after the first episode of a new series.