Given his trademark pipe, fondness of fine alcohol and reliance on godlike intuition in solving cases, the character of Jules Maigret is frequently referred to as the Sherlock Holmes of France. Having first appeared in print in 1931, Maigret is the creation of Belgian author Georges Simenon who wrote 75 Maigret novels and is considered one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, selling around a billion books worldwide to date. Simenon’s Chief Inspector Maigret stories are not new to television audiences. As early as 1959, Jules Maigret hit the small screen in a major way with Rupert Davies starring as the fictional detective. The most recent and, perhaps, the more famous adaptation was the 1992-93 ITV series starring Michael Gambon which lasted 12 episodes and ran on PBS as part of the original Mystery! series.
With his iconic heavy coat and his trademark pipe, Maigret returns to the small screen premiering tonight at 9pCT on KERA in North Texas, this time with the brilliant Rowan Atkinson starring in the title role. Having had the opportunity earlier this year to screen the first episode at the BBC Showcase in Liverpool, I can honestly say the film is visually stunning and Atkinson is brilliant. Set in 1950’s Paris, “Maigret Sets A Trap” is adapted from the Simenon novel ‘Maigret tend un piège.’ The second film, ‘Maigret’s Dead Man’, is based on ‘Maigret et son mort.’ The third film will be an adaptation of Georges Simenon’s novel, ‘Night At The Crossroads’ while the fourth and final of the films will adapt ‘Maigret in Montmartre’ set, once again, against the beautiful backdrop of 1950’s Paris.
For those that only remember Atkinson from his comedic roles in Blackadder, Thin Blue Line and Mr. Bean, his periodic appearances for Comic Relief or for his more recent feature films as Johnny English, erase the notion from your mind palace that this isn’t going to work. It does and it’s brilliant. When Atkinson signed on for the title role as the insightful detective, he said: “I have been a devourer of the Maigret novels for many years and I’m very much looking forward to playing such an intriguing character, at work in Paris during a fascinating period in its history“.
Maigret begins tonight at 9pCT on KERA in North Texas with the first of four episodes, “Maigret Sets a Trap”. The remaining three episodes in the series will air each Sunday at 9p through September.