Judge Jason Panella often tries to use Pittsburgh as a stand-in for 1950s Paris.
Barillard: "If you said that in front of my wife, I'd have knocked your face
Prolific Belgian author Georges Simenon wrote over 200 novels in his lifetime; that number climbs higher once you factor in short stories and novellas. Nearly half of these stories featured his most famous character, the French detective Jules Maigret. Maigret is a pretty normal fellow, in most regards. He's a stocky, middle-aged pipe smoker with a pithy wit. He loves his wife, has a good rapport with his co-workers, and doesn't mind ducking out to grab a drink at a nearby cafe. And he hates, hates taking the stairs, especially when there's an elevator handy. Maigret's work as a detective, though, is anything but normal. He's able to piece together cases with a combination of hard work, observation and logic, and his legendary patience keeps him focused in the long run.
Maigret has appeared on screen a number of times over the years, including turns by Rupert Davies, Bruno Cremer, and (least essentially) Richard Harris. Michael Gambon's two-season ITV's production of Maigret—from 1992 to 1993—proved to be one of the best, and now Acorn's collected all twelve episodes together in Maigret: Complete Collection.
• "The Patience of Maigret"
Maigret blurs the lines between cozy English mystery and hard-boiled detective fiction. The good guys are virtuous, there's always a mystery afoot, and justice prevails in the end. But the crimes always seem believable, like they happened as something other than just a way to provide a mystery. Maigret often ends up trying to figure out the "why" of a case instead of the "who," which often sends the story to some interesting places.
The cast is fantastic across the board. Gambon's (The Singing Detective) Maigret is confident, yet never obnoxious. He's funny—hilarious in spots even—without ever taking the series into broad comedy. He's also an incredible detective, but almost always has to work hard to close a case. Maigret's subordinates—Sgt. Lucas (Geoffrey Hutchings, Our Friends in the North) and Inspectors Janvier (Jack Galloway, Doctor Who) and LaPointe (James Larkin, EastEnders)—are all capable cops, and interesting to boot. On the home front, Maigret's wife (Ciaren Madden in the first season, Barbara Flynn in the second) steals almost every scene she's in. She's smart, funny, and provides invaluable feedback for her husband. It's also worth noting that the guest cast is a parade of of notable British film and television stars, many before they became famous: Michael Sheen (Midnight in Paris), Minnie Driver (Grosse Point Blank), John Cavanaugh (The Tudors) are just a handful.
Maigret was shot almost entirely in Budapest, which passes well for 1950s France. The show avoids showing tourist trap spots for establishing shots, instead relying on cafes, side streets and parks. The attempts at authenticity mostly pay off, but there's something jarring about the predominantly British cast saying French names and locations. And while the exterior shots generally look great, many of the interior scenes suffer from the "film look" used by so many British shows.
Acorn's four-disc collection is an update of the Koch Vision release from 2005. The newly restored full frame transfer is the biggest draw, as it is considerably better this time around. The same goes for the stereo Dolby Digital audio track, which delivers the dialogue and Nigel Hess's haunting score well. Acorn rarely seems to put many (or any) extras with its sets, but this one comes with a booklet of well-written essays that focus on the show and the novels upon which it was based.
Maigret: Complete Collection is a solid, finely nuanced mystery series given a pretty good re-release from Acorn. Don't expect an abundance of extras or you'll be disappointed. The quality of the show makes up for it, though.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
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