Rowan Atkinson
Rowan Atkinson

Hot on the heels of the return to print in the United States of Belgian writer George Simenon’s celebrated and multimillion-selling Inspector Maigret novels comes word that the UK television programmer ITV is about to produce two TV films featuring the character.

The 120-minute films will be set in 1950s Paris, and the first will begin production this September. The titles have been announced as “Maigret Sets a Trap” and “Maigret’s Dead Man.”

British television has featured the character before, most notably in a series produced in 1992 and 1993 starring Michael Gambon. This series will have a rather different lead performer: sixty-year-old actor Rowan Atkinson, best known for his broadly comic characters Edmund Blackadder (and his descendants), Mr. Bean, and Johnny English.

As I’ve noted before, it’s quite common for comic actors and actresses to become successful television detectives, suggesting that the choice of Atkinson is not quite as bizarre as one might initially think. Atkinson is enthusiastic about the character, as The Guardian reports:

However, Atkinson said he had been a fan of Maigret for a long time: “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.”

The Guardian also notes that recent successes of TV spin-offs of European mysteries contributed to the interest in producing a new Maigret series: the production was “spurred on by the popularity of European crime fighters such as Danish detective Sarah Lund in The Killing and Swedish sleuth Wallander, played by Kenneth Branagh in the British version.”

On the surface, those series are significantly more depressive than the Maigret books, but if they inspire a decent run of Maigret productions, they will have done some good beyond their undeniably high value as soporifics.