Netflix UK TV review: Maigret Sets a Trap
James R | On 03, Apr 2016
Rowan Atkinson is one of our country’s greatest performers. He’s a comic genius, a devilish wit, a man capable of getting a laugh out of merely saying the name “Bob”. What he is absolutely, unequivocally not, though, is French. Which isn’t really a problem – apart from when he’s pretending to be Maigret, a French detective.
Georges Simenon’s novels have been adapted for the small screen several times before and with over 70 of them, it’s little wonder that ITV has picked them for their new attempt at building a detective franchise. But with no Gallic actors on hand, they do the whole thing with English people speaking in English. The result feels about as French as a Tesco Value croissant.
In an age where foreign-language TV is so readily available, and so popular (hello to BBC Four and All 4’s Walter Presents), the idea of seeing a bunch of Brits pretending to be French is already outdated, but Maigret Sets a Trap doesn’t have the class to make it convincing, or the tension to stop you from noticing.
Part of the problem is that Maigret is such a non-character to begin with: his defining characteristic is that he’s a pretty good detective. Even his trademark pipe is borrowed from Sherlock Holmes. That leaves Atkinson little to do other than appear calm, clever and generally quiet – an impressively restrained performance from a man famous for putting pencils up his nose and saying “wibble”, but hardly good television. When he gets home from a hard day’s work, he turns to his wife and holds up a paper bag. “I bought some apples,” he announces. It’s the most exciting thing to happen in the whole first hour.
You certainly feel those minutes ticking by – if this were condensed into a sharp 60 minutes, the mystery of a man killing women in 1950s Paris might be more gripping – and no matter how stylish the noir-tinged visuals get, there’s little to turn off that internal clock. Instead, the turgid script, with its clangingly dull cliff-hangers, relies on the show’s location to generate any sort of interest or sense of uniqueness. People say the word “Montmartre” every five minutes, just in case we’ve forgotten we’re in France. By the time someone walks into the police station with a basket full of baguettes, it’s just laughable. ITV, though, hasn’t stopped just yet: there’s a second Maigret film to be broadcst later this year. Sacre bleu, indeed.
Maigret Sets a Trap is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.