One of my late night ways of winding down after writing, or anything else, is to watch TV crime series; these days when we have catch-up we can not only see things we missed being broadcast, but re-view programmes and series from the past, and also programmes from other countries. This really became popular when Forbrydelsen – The Killing was first shown, the first of the Scandi-Noir thrillers. It was followed by several other real quality series, including Bron/Broen/The Bridge and Borgen.
I’ve been watching foreign cop shows for a while now, most enjoyable, some better than others, some amusing (not necessarily intentionally so) some so good you can’t wait for the next series. I enjoyed Inspector Borowski, Beck, Wallender (of course), Dicte, Rejseholdet (Unit One), Those Who Kill… and Trapped, from Iceland (can’t wait to see the next series) – and more…
So when I heard there was a new quirky detective series from Belgium, I was quite excited, very excited as I thought it sounded interesting; it wasn’t just about a police team but also an eccentric professor – supposedly in the Sherlock Holmes mould, the cerebral, intellectual, unemotional expert, called in to solve the most puzzling of crimes.
It is ‘Professor T‘, and the main characters and actors who portray them are
- Professor Jasper Teerlinck, known as Professor T. – Koen De Bouw
- Inspector Annelies Donckers – Ella Leyers
- Inspector Daan De Winter – Bart Hollanders
- Chief Inspector Paul Rabet – Herwig Ilegems
I realised that this series was supposed to be quirky, the characters weren’t necessarily supposed to be truly believable, and I also realised that there would be cultural differences because of the Belgian police force would be very different from the UK police service portrayed on our TV shows. I also realised that with any new series, the first few episodes might seem a little clunking, or stiff as the actors get into their roles and the dynamic has to evolve, and that as the shows progress, the writers too begin to get into their stride and things all begin to flow.
Now I do have to also say that I have watched all the episodes in series one, and am half-way through series two, so it isn’t so terrible that I’ve given up watching, but there are aspects to it which are certainly not my sort of thing.
- for example, the background music seems to be part of the action in a more obvious way than usual. The choice of music is eccentric, and doesn’t always seem to match the action – or dialogue. Sometimes it is portentous, sometimes it drowns out the characters conversation, sometimes it is from past eras as if to hark back to a different genre of the past. I find it a bit irritating, but that is just a matte of taste.
- in some scenes the point of view is from within a character’s mind, so a secretary working behind her desk might suddenly fling herself across it and pull off her clothes seductively – which is all imagined by the character. Quirky again, and it’s not an uncommon device (I remember Reginald Perrin always seeing his mother-in-law as a hippopotamus)
- there are what might be described as dream sequences… in my opinion these are so poorly done they just do not work at all and are a distraction
- some of the characters are truly eccentric – not just the eccentric Professor T – but it’s as if the director can’t quite make up his/her mind whether the whole thing is a farce, has comedic aspects (I don’t find it amusing, but I’m not Belgian)
- characters burst into song – or mime to a song playing to a record player (yes, records, not CD’s etc)
These are just some examples of the eccentric nature of the series. However there are some really unbelievable things which are done by the police team – to be fair, my only knowledge of police procedures is watching TV shows, but there are basic protocol followed which I would have thought these days are universal. Contaminating crime scenes, unprofessional interviewing techniques, lack of forensic investigation, insubordination… the crimes being investigated are serious and sometimes brutal, so the drama seems undermined by the way the police are investigating. The ‘expert’ Professor T. is called in, but he never seems to do anything very exceptional, nothing that any of the other characters couldn’t have done. The actors are good, but I wonder if sometimes they feel they have wandered into a school drama class?
The latest thing which had me grinding my teeth, was a couple of policeman going into a deserted warehouse at night, where they thought their suspect for some horrible and sadistic and very clever murders was hiding; instead of waiting for backup which was literally a few minutes away they went into the building. No-one was in danger so they didn’t have to rush in to save someone, it was a huge warehouse with different stores, it was all in the dark apart from their torches, they got separated… It was just so unbelievable. Yes the whole thing is unbelievable, but films/TV series/books all rest on a suspension of disbelief by the audience/viewer/reader and once it goes beyond that, then the audience is failed.
What annoys me more, is that there have been various story-lines which have been excellent, and written and played with great subtlety; for example the Chief Inspector is in mourning for the loss of his daughter and child, killed in a car accident – he “copes” by drinking. The actual situation of the man is very well written and acted – but he is allowed to continue working in a totally unbelievable way, drunk on duty, attacking people, compromising evidence… The one really excellent side story is one of the gradual mental decline of the female detective’s father through dementia. This has been a thread throughout the two series and is so well written and acted – and in the most recent episode has impacted on the story in a very realistic way.
If I haven’t put you off you can catch up with it :
Here is a review of the programme: