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MIKE HUGHES

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NOEL HOLSTON

 
 
 
 
 
'Van der Valk,' the 2020 Version, Arrives on PBS
September 13, 2020  | By Mike Hughes  | 1 comment
 


Piet Van der Valk is sort of your standard TV (or movie) detective.

He’s handsome and brooding; he’s single and lives on a boat. Handsome detectives often brood; they also live in odd places like boats or bars or backrooms or such.

But there are two things that are unusual about him.

First of all, he's on PBS, in a smart and deeply layered show. You could call Masterpiece's Van der Valk (9 p.m. Sundays, check local listings) the first scripted show of the broadcast TV season; it’s a good one, and a huge jump over this summer’s disappointing Endeavour.

Secondly, he's working in Amsterdam. That offers intriguing backdrops for these three, movie-length stories.

Almost everything about Van der Valk is British. That includes the original novelist (the late Nicolas Freeling), the producers, and the stars.

But the Amsterdam setting adds something extra. When was the last time you saw a series open with a high-speed bicycle chase?

The backdrops are attractive and varied. The second week spends a lot of time in gorgeous old buildings; the third concludes in a high-rise restaurant with a coldly industrial design.

Marc Warren (top), fresh from playing the treacherous Captain Parker in Beecham House, stars as Piet, a police detective. He solves crimes and attracts women, but rarely seems happy; we don’t know why until the final minutes of the third week.

A previous Van der Valk was on British TV for three seasons in the 1970s and two in the ’90s, but this one changes most of the supporting characters.

Now Piet’s key colleague is Lucienne Hassell (Maimie McCoy, top). Like him, she’s great in a fight; like him, she’s had wobbly romances with women.

He respects her, but has doubts about the guys he works with. One keeps spouting research, another keeps flirting with any nearby woman, the third is a wizened medical examiner.

Each of those seems, at first, like an over-the-top cliché. By the end of the third story, most have added surprising depth.

The first film is particularly good. It starts with action, adds some humor as a newcomer joins the staff, then digs into a complicated tale.

The second tries too hard, wading into a tangle of identities and illusions. The third sort of does a cheat – having two unrelated stories peak at the same time.

We might grumble about that except that it ends with strong moments for virtually every character. By the end, we definitely hope Van der Valk will be back; for Endeavour and Beecham House, we weren’t so sure.

 
 
 
 
 
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1 Comments
 
 
Zeke
Admittedly, I watch shows shown on various Countries platforms, but a distressing part that is happening with more frequency...Series labeled as "New" -- are not so very "New" - This Series was shown before. Apologies that I cannot recall where or when, but not just last week. The dates on ImDb show September, so they agree with you.. yet. I just wish they'd use a "copyright" or single dating system, so as not to confuse. Indeed, I just found it listed as April on Brit tv.
Sep 14, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
 
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