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Author Topic: BritBox
Timothy-
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Post Re: BritBox
on: April 15, 2018, 18:07
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Well, my familiarity with Maigret is limited -- 2 stories and a novel (plus the one my friend told me about). And these could be better than the originals. The absence of leftism forced into it certainly is very desirable.

Brad-
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: BritBox
on: April 16, 2018, 08:31
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There's another Maigret series, this one ran for a couple seasons starting in 1992. I watched the first 10 minutes of the first episode via my free trial (now not so free, but I'll let it run at least a month) of BritBox just to get a taste of it. It looks to be very conventional compared to the Rowan Atkinson series.

There's also a French version with Bruno Cremer that ran from 1991 to 2005. From one review that mentions both, it sounds as if the Cremer (as well at the Atkinson) Maigret is more authentic:

Both have strong qualities, although in many ways they are completely opposite. Gambon's Maigret is affable, poetic, emotional, sympathetic, and works in close concert with his men; his Paris (Budapest) is sunny and bright. Cremer's Maigret is taciturn and intense, preferring to wait silently while people reveal themselves, riding his men hard at times, especially the often incompetent officers he encounters outside of Paris; and his Paris (Prague) is always gray or pitch black, dark wet streets, his pipe glowing. In many ways the visual look of the shows are opposite, with the British series relying more on the romance and nostalgia of Paris, while the French series is a showcase for the dark psychological mysteries of Simenon. The French series hews more closely to the original stories, and also has the advantage of the episodes being 30 minutes longer; it is also a more complete canon, with nearly 5 times as many stories. In the Gambon series, Gambon is more pleasant, his men work with him as a clever team, and we see much more of Mme. Maigret, who appears in nearly every episode, but the humor and the characterizations are typically British, which can be somewhat disconcerting. The Cremer Maigret varies in quality with the directors, but he is almost always brilliant, playing his hunches and guiding his investigations with a deep psychology that truly honors the original Simenon novels. And it goes almost without saying, the French version pulls no punches and has a much darker way of exploring aspects of the French character that the heart of Simenon; Cremer spends a lot of time listening to people and asks questions which seem strange but reveal hidden truths. Gambon's Maigret does more of the talking and seems to succeed more through luck and teamwork, which may be failings of the shorter format and the transition from French to English storytelling.

I certainly got the idea of “conventional British” from what little I saw of the 1992 series with Michael Gambon. I would prefer to check out the French version if I am to go any further with Maigret. Of course, my eye will be out for those other two Rowan Atkinson episodes when they become available.

The Cremer series is available on MHz Choice (I had never heard of them) which you can stream through your Amazon Prime account (if you have one) or, as with BritBox, you can sign up directly. The individual episodes, as you can see, are also available for $3.99 each, which is a little pricey. I could buy one, but what if I get hooked? You see the problem. And three streaming services (Netflix, although I’m thinking of dumping it, FilmStruck, and BritBox, if I keep it) are enough. Still, I wouldn’t mind checking out the French version of Maigrot. The British/Gambon version doesn’t look all that compelling at first glance.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: BritBox
on: April 16, 2018, 09:07
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Next up for the 1974 “Father Brown” series was The Man with Two Beards. Here’s the synopsis from IMDB:

Father Brown is staying with an old friend, a retired jewel thief who retired to a career of beekeeping in the country. Someone has been using his m.o. to commit a rash of local robberies, and when he is found shot, the local police inspector assumes he had returned to his former profession. Father Brown sets about clearing his name.

In the previous three or four episodes, presumably the conversion from PAL to NTSC caused some strange artifacts in the video. Or the cause could have been something else (such as the original video taping machinery itself). This episode has final transcended that and appears to be, by far, of the highest technical quality so far.

For this type of show, the plot (although overly condensed at the end) and characters are fine. Things keep moving on. Father Brown even has a chance to play Father Brown when he says:

What a wondrous place the universe is. God gve it to us. He even gave us his little creatures to tell us what a joyous place it is, but we never listen.

The plots seems a little rushed and not well set up, but this one is more of a reverse mystery as you see the murderer/thief committing his crimes and then trying to cover them up. With only 51 minutes of runtime, we basically more or less jump to the resolution of the mystery as the bad guy is heard to speed off in his car, seemingly aware via Father Brown’s questions that the game is up. Father Brown then gives a one or two minute explanation of what happened. This is where even an extra 15 minutes would have helped this, but it is what it is. And there’s no guarantee that the writers would have used the time wisely. Still, it was an entertaining episode in the overall.

Timothy-
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Post Re: BritBox
on: April 16, 2018, 10:22
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As I recall Columbo was a 90-minute show. It takes time to show the crime, and then the investigation, and finally the resolution. Flambeau as beekeeper -- I wonder if he ever met Holmes, perhaps at some sort of beekeepers' professional gathering. Or he might have met H. F. Heard's Mr. Mycroft from A Taste for Honey.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: BritBox
on: April 17, 2018, 08:38
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Just at random, the 1971 Columbo episodes, Laidy in Waiting, has a runtime of 75 minutes. The 1990 Agenda for Murder, with the recurring villain Patrick McGoohan, has a runtime of 90 minutes. 1972's Dagger of the Mind has a runtime of 98 minutes. Perhaps NBC (and, later, ABC) was flexible in the time allotted to this show. Perhaps that then allowed the length to better suit the material. I don't know.

A Hank Mancini moment.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: BritBox
on: April 18, 2018, 09:24
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I finished the first episode in the 1992 “Maigret” series that’s streaming on the BritBox service: The Patience of Maigret.

People may think I’m too critical but they should know all they need to know about this series when I say that I’ll watch the next one.

The Maigret in this British production (for better or for worse, they all are Brits with English accents even though they are all supposedly French, although this Paris is filmed in Budapest to some extent) is persistent and forceful like the Rowan Atkinson portrayal. But that’s about where the similarity ends. Instead of being minimalist in his expression to the point of being dour, this Maigret is rather easy-going and often has a kind word for people. In fact, he’s literally touchy-feely as he tends to politely pat people on the head or face as a kind gesture. Maybe that’s a French thing.

He’s also mildly witty and amusing. This Maigret has a definite personality. The Noir filming quality of the Atkinson series is far superior. They try to add some dramatic camera shots to this 1992 series. And it’s not bad compared to most. It just loses the opportunity to add some visual style and grit to the series to really help frame the personality of Maigret.

But maybe that aspect will get better. I’ll watch another episode and see how it goes. The first one is about a head of a jewel thief gang that Maigret has been trying to get for years. Events happen, and the case heats up again. The plot was understandable and contained within a comprehensible (rare for a crime drama series) scope. Maigret (and his men) interview every resident of a 4-story apartment building where the head of the gang lives (who is supposedly retired, but Maigret very much doubts this). It’s a cast of characters (but not too many) and you build a picture not only of possible suspects and accomplices but what typical life was in Paris at that time.

This wasn’t a particularly flashy episode, but in this case it is to its credit because “flashy” typically means all kinds of convoluted plot elements, twists, and gadgetry being thrown in spaghetti-fashion at the wall to see if something sticks.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: BritBox
on: April 21, 2018, 10:35
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I’ve watched a couple more episodes of the 1992-93 production of “Maigret.” In short, those who like the standard mystery format will possibly like “Maigret.” The plots are fairly conventional and the character of Maigret himself is adequate. However, the weakness is that there is no repeating cast of characters (besides him) of any note. And as charming as Maigret may be for a tough cop, it’s a bit much to expect him to carry the whole thing.

The second episode, Maigret and the Burglar’s Wife, is about a safecracker who, in the midst of burglarizing a house, comes across a dead woman sitting in a chair, apparently with a bullet wound in him. His wife is an old sort-of friend of Maigret and relates the story. This particular episode does have a pretty good cast of characters and a plot, although simple, that plays pretty well.

Episode 3 is Maigret Goes to School. In a small village, a despicable woman dies and a school teacher is blamed. Everyone hated the woman but they hate the school-teacher even more for reasons that are petty and, frankly, not particularly well articulate in this program. But you take it as a give that outsider may easily be hated. This is a so-so episode. The characters are somewhat bland and Maigret is forced to carry it all single-handed. That he can pretty much do so is to his credit. But the show needs more spice.

The saving grace is that the show is not stupid.

Timothy-
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Post Re: BritBox
on: April 21, 2018, 11:25
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I decided to check on wikipedia. The first 9 episodes in the series (including the ones you've seen, of course) are all based on novels with very short articles about them. In looking over the list of novels and stories, I found the novel I read (though there was no separate article on it) as well as (i think) both of the short stories. Neither of them has a separate article either.

From what I can tell, the Maigret works are basically police procedurals. Simenon became a friend and admirer of a French inspector, and after the first few books increasingly used him as a basis for Maigret's character. In one of the stories I read, though, he spends his time harassing the culprit, even after he flees to Belgium (where Simenon was born). Eventually Maigret provokes the killer into trying to kill him (good thing Columbo's targets never seem to have thought of that), the idea being that Belgium didn't have the death penalty and France did. Oddly, the guy who knew such details knew nothing about double jeopardy (he had already been acquitted for the crime).

Brad-
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: BritBox
on: April 23, 2018, 09:11
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From what I can tell, the Maigret works are basically police procedurals. Simenon became a friend and admirer of a French inspector, and after the first few books increased used him as a basis for Maigret's character.

That’s interesting background. The 1992-93 Maigret (as a character) is not on par with Poirot or Marple as a personality, although this Maigret indeed has an interesting personality, and a very congenial one. As with Poirot and Marple, he’s very polite at all times (although Poirot has been known to hand out a scolding or two).

The plots (so far) are certainly not straight out of Agatha Christie. They are more straightforward (for better or for worse…whatever one’s preference is). The show gets high marks for not being stupid or insulting, which is a major threshold these days to pass. But it’s slightly lukewarm entertainment. Real fans of detectives and crime stories will likely enjoy this. But I don’t think there would be much appeal beyond that.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: BritBox
on: May 24, 2018, 09:48
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I don’t remember exactly where we were talking about the series, “Grantchester.” I’m into the 4th or 5th episode of season two.

The show is basically unwatchable in the moments where they do the unhappy-Amanda/pining-Vicar schtick. That plot element is a fresh as an old pair of socks after playing three sets of tennis on a landfill. James Norton, as Sidney Chambers, is increasingly over his head in this role. The sermons he gives are completely dull. The believability of his character in regards to his romantic relationships lacks depth. The only element that carries the show is his friendship with the cop, Geordie Keating. And even his rationale for being in cahoots with the detective are increasingly thin.

I’m pretty sure these plot points are there just to annoy me. And they do a good job of it. To some extent, parts of this show are “bad enough to be good.” That is, it can be fun to mock the insipid Amanda and idiotic Vicar as poorly played by Norton. Increasingly, one of the better characters on the show is the homosexual curate, Leonard Finch. Whether one likes or dislikes this show’s self-conscious attempt to mainstream homosexuality and show it in a positive light, Al Weaver is excellent in the role. It would be a far better show if they ditched James Norton (who I couldn’t care the least about at this point as Vicar Chambers) and make the show about a struggling closet homo trying to keep to the straight and narrow in a small conservative village as their vicar.

Tessa Peake-Jones is also good as Chambers’ housemaid and cook, Mr. Maguire. She is old-fashioned and despite every chance she gets basically bitch-slapping Chambers in regards to pining over a married woman, Chambers marches on into the irrelevancy of “we just don’t care anymore.” In fact, one of the best moments in season two was when Amanda’s husband actually did physically belt the vicar because of his over-familiarity with his wife. I now really like this guy and hope Detective Keating will soon be investigating the suspicious death of Sidney Chambers. One can always hope.

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