The new face of Maigret

It was announced quite a while ago that Rowan Atkinson, best known for playing Mr Bean and Blackadder, was the surprise choice to portray Jules Maigret in a new series of British feature-length TV episodes for ITV. Filming has now commenced on adaptations by Stewart Harcourt of Maigret Sets a Trap (a novel which I previously reviewed here) and Maigret’s Dead Man. And now there is the first press image released to promote the series. It offers nothing too surprising, but then it is just a teaser – what do we think? It certainly doesn’t stray too far from what one might have imagines here, sticking closely to the bare archetypal essentials of what we would associate with such series (pipe, waistcoat, fedora, our lead actor looking very serious).

uktv-maigret-rowan-atkinson
[Image: © ITV / John Rogers]

The new show seems to be following quite closely in the footsteps of the 1992-93 Maigret TV series previously produced by ITV that starred Michael Gambon as the pipe-puffing Parisian policeman. Like that previous version, the new show will be set in the 1950s and is being filmed in Hungary. And in fact Maigret Sets a Trap was also adapted for that show.

I always felt that the Gambon series, despite good intentions and a string cast, was a bit of an honourable failure, dull and plodding and never quite able to establish its own style or mood (it didn’t help either that they switched the actor playing Mrs Maigret between the two seasons either). It will be interesting to see if this fares any better – doubtless for most potential viewers the make or break factor will be Atkinson’s performance. Can he pull off such a serious role, playing one of the great icons of detective fiction? We’ll probably have to wait until 2016 to find out …

For the full press release, click here.

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This entry was posted in Georges Simenon, Maigret, Paris. Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to The new face of Maigret

  1. tracybham says:

    It should be interesting. It has been so long since I have read one of the Maigret books, I will have to read some now to refresh my memory.

  2. It will indeed be interesting, Sergio. It’s a shame the first TV series wasn’t more interesting, considering that the books really are. I’ll be keen to know what you think of the series when it airs.

  3. Donna says:

    Interesting since the Maigret novels are now being republished by Penguin. I’ve only read a few, but I generally enjoy them.

    • I think the new translations are pretty impressive so far – I’ve bought the first half dozen or so and have been very impressed as many of the early translations into English, most notably those by Geoffrey Sainsbury, were not always very faithful.

  4. Colin says:

    Only read one Maigret book so far and enjoyed it so must dip into some more. With my limited experience I can’t comment on whether i think Atkinson is capable of getting the character right, although I think the overall style of the show is where it will stand or fall.

    • A lot of people will initially tune in just for the stunt casting – after that it will sink or swim on its own virtues – I really hope they work on getting the atmosphere right because that, for me, is what makes the difference with any Simenon adaptation.

      • Colin says:

        As I said, I don’t think I’m qualified to comment too much on the effectiveness of Maigret adaptations but I don’t see why this couldn’t work fine so long as Atkinson understands the part, and the makers tap into the spirit of the writing.

  5. Patti Abbott says:

    I can’t imagine he can pull it off but I may not have seen terribly much of his work.

  6. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    Still not convinced – his comedy roles are so ingrained into the consciousness I think it will be an impossible task. Plus it’s being made by ITV…

    • Now let’s not be prejudiced Karen, with ITV there would be no Inspector Morse and no Endeavour and, er, well, I really like Doc Martin! 🙂

      • kaggsysbookishramblings says:

        🙂 and no McEwan Marple……

        • Well, I did like one of them a lot (By the Pricking of my Thumbs) but I yeah, didn;t really liek that show. On the other hand, the one-hour era of Poirot was fab! And what about The Prisoner? OK, had to go back to the 1960s, but 🙂

          • kaggsysbookishramblings says:

            The Prisoner was amazing, but made by ITC not ITV! As for Poirot – well, I’ll give them that! 🙂

          • Now that is too granular Karen – ITC was owned by ATV, which ran the midlands franchise as part of the ITV network – it’s all ITV (i.e. not BBC, not Channel 4, not Channel 5, not Sky …) 🙂

          • kaggsysbookishramblings says:

            It was, but we’re talking classic ITV as opposed to modern ITV – the channel produced some marvellous shows back in the 1960s and 1970s but their modern stuff I’m afraid leaves me cold! 🙂

          • Don’t you think it just seems that way? I think Vera, Scott & Bailey, Broadchurch, Doc Martin are all solid dramas and one-offs like Russel T Davies’ The Second Coming also stabd out from recent years. In the 70s we had the great Callan and Public Eye but we also had On the Buses, Love Thy Neighbout and (gulp) Mind Your Language!

          • kaggsysbookishramblings says:

            True, but I found all the modern shows you mention unwatchable – I tried a Vera recently and nearly died of boredom! But we all have different tastes!

          • Not even Scott & Bailey, really? What a shame …

          • kaggsysbookishramblings says:

            My OH and Youngest Child are big fans of S&B!

          • Clearly people of taste and refinement 🙂

  7. TomCat says:

    I’ve never seen any of the previous, small screen incarnations of Maigret and only read a handful of the books, but I’m also skeptical about Atkinson pulling off such a serious role. But if it works, I hope they’ll adapt A Crime in Holland for one of the episodes.

  8. MarinaSofia says:

    Sorry, am completely biased and like the French version of Maigret TV adaptations better. Bruno Cremer is my favourite there – he’s a bit like David Suchet and Poirot, really making the part his own.

    • I quite like that series, though I find the changes they often make to the novels a bit hard to understand and the time period seems to be extremely wobbly at times – his fashions in particular never seem to match the right period – weird really, but I do like him. My favourite, because it’s the one I was brought up on, may be Gino Cervi on Italian TV – Simenon said it was his favourite too apparently 🙂

  9. vicky blake says:

    At first i thought you were joking! But then I thought about it a bit. He was really good in Blackadder. I know that was pretty broad comedy but I think he might surprise us all. Has he actually ever been cast in straight drama as opposed to comedy? I can’t think of anything.

    • Thanks for that Vicky – and no, I can’t really think of nyhting substantial that wasn’t basically comedic. There probably is, but the fact that it doesn’t immediately leap to mind is probably significant!

  10. Terry says:

    Long-time reader of Maigret both in French and translated to English, here, though I’m not erudite enough to distinguish amongst translators. I was disappointed in the Gambon series, too. Couldn’t figure out how, with such an outstanding Maigret, they could have leached all of the interest out of them.

    Atikinson’s comedy has never appealed to me, so I am a bit puzzled as to why I suspect he’s going to make a great Maigret. Maybe because I’ve always felt that comedians are actually tragedians, underneath. I hope I can find somewhere online to watch them, as I don’t have cable TV any more. Thanks for the update and photo!

  11. Sergio, I still haven’t read the Maigret books, but I’d certainly like to watch Atkinson as Jules Maigret. He seems to look the part. Atkinson is a fine actor, entirely wasted in MR. BEAN, and then stereotyped as such in most of his other films. I liked him in BLACKADDER as well as in his earlier television appearances like NOT THE NINE O’CLOCK NEWS. He can be a very good stand-up comedian. I’d have loved to see him in a TV series like YES MINISTER. Of course, he didn’t get any part.

  12. John says:

    I hope we will all be pleasantly surprised. Remember that some of the most absurd comedians have done some of the finest work in drama from Charlie Chaplin to Robin Williams. Even Jim Carrey did very impressive work in ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. Hmm… Did I say all this before? I feel I have…somewhere.

  13. Jeff Flugel says:

    As only a passing fan of the Maigret books, I’m all right with this casting. I’m one of those that thought Atkinson would have made an ideal Doctor (if he played it straight) after seeing his Comic Relief parody THE CURSE OF THE FATAL DEATH. I definitely think Atkinson has the skills to do a decent job…it all depends on how the producers approach the material. Fun news, Sergio – thanks for the heads up!

    BTW, what did you make of the recent PARTNERS IN CRIME adaptation? Myself, I thought it was pretty poor. Hope the Beeb do better with the upcoming AND THEN THERE WERE NONE.

    • Thanks Jeff (and very good to have you back chum). I watched a bit of Partners in Crime and gave up very quickly, feeling very disappointed. And Then There Were is I think more plastic as a model so can, I think, withstanding a certain amiunt of ‘interpretatuon’ as long as they get the tone right. I would prefer the original nihilistic ending but am happy to accept to revised ‘happy’ ending from the play if needs be …

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