Thursday, 30 April 2020


[Favourite of the Month] A classic British TV detective is back. And he's Dutch.

Created by English novelist Nicolas Freeling (1927-2003), Simon "Piet" Van der Valk is a cynical and intuitive Amsterdam police commissioner. Married to a French woman named Arlette, the Commissaris appeared in 11 books from 1962 to 1989. Freeling, who spent most of his life in continental Europe, was an admirer of Belgian author Georges Simenon. Called the "Dutch Maigret", Piet Van der Valk was first portrayed on-screen by German actor Wolfgang Kieling in the British film Amsterdam Affair (1968). Frank Finlay starred in three German/French TV movies between 1972 and 1975 (1). Bryan Marshall played the role in Because of the Cats/Niet voor de poezen, a Dutch-Belgian film released in 1973.

The best remembered version is the Thames Television series Van der Valk (1972-1973, 1977, 1991-1992), with Barry FosterEye Level, its theme music, is remembered too. Composed by Jack Trombey (2) and played by the Simon Park Orchestra, it became #1 in the UK charts in 1973. Some novels were adapted in the 1990s by BBC Radio 4. Now the character returns in Van der Valk, a 3 x 90-minute series produced by Company Pictures (Agatha Raisin) for ITV. Filmed entirely in Amsterdam last year, it stars Marc Warren (Beecham House, Hustle) as Piet Van der Valk. Dutch company NL Film (Penoza), Germany's ARD Degeto, Masterpiece (United States) and All3Media International co-produce. Scriptwriter Chris Murray (Agatha Raisin, Midsomer Murders), who exec produces with Michele Buck, brings back the detective for a modern and international audience.

"The original series was gritty, with stories of sex and drugs, and reflected the Amsterdam of its time. We wanted to develop stories about contemporary Amsterdam," explained Chris Murray to French journalist and TV series expert Alain Carrazé at MIPCOM 2019. "The city has always been this amazing cultural melting pot, with a tolerance for different religions.  We wanted to reflect that in a character who is non-judgmental and tolerant. He's interested in art but he also works in the streets. We certainly want to honour the "brand" of Van der Valk but we move it forward. The novels were quite existential and the stories wouldn't work for the TV audience today. So it was more appropriate to start afresh."

One of the notable changes is the absence of Arlette Van der Valk. Piet Van der Valk lives on a sailing barge and his briefing room is a tad unusual. He leads a team  composed of Inspector Lucienne Hassell (played by Maimie McCoy), his second-in-command and close friend, and the laid-back Sergeant Brad de Vries (Luke Allen-Gale). They are joined by the young Lieutenant Job Cloovers (Elliot Barnes-Worrell), who's eager to impress and likes stats. Their boss is the Chief Commissaris Julia Dahlman (Emma Fielding). Hendrik Davie (Darrell D'Silva) is the hard-drinking, full-mouthed pathologist. In Love in Amsterdam (3), the first episode, politics and art are linked when two seemingly unrelated men are found murdered on the same day and a young left-wing activist is missing.

The fresh approach of Chris Murray, who wrote the three episodes, works brilliantly. It doesn't exclude a bit of humour. Marc Warren is great as the moody detective. The excellent Maimie McCoy and him succeed in making the relationship between Van der Valk and Lucienne interesting. The rest of the regular cast is very good. With Frances Grey (Claudia Oosterhuis), Daniel Lapaine (Paul Oosterhuis), Stephanie Léonidas (Eva Meisner), Vineeta Rishi (Therese Remecker), Frieda Barnhard (Agatha Vos), Kees Boot (Bartel Peters), Reinout Bussemeker (Ed de Klerk), Mike Libanon (Cliff Palache), Peter Van Heerigen (Frank), etc. Director Colin Teague and Tibor Dingelstad, the Director of photography, know how to take advantage of the locations, especially the canals and the Rijksmuseum.

The talented Dutch composer Matthijs Kieboom (Master Spy) did a perfect job with the soundtrack. His superb theme intro, entitled Dutch Detective, nods to Eye Level. Produced by Keith Thompson. David Swetman and Louise Pedersen exec produce for All3Media International. Ronald Versteeg, Kaja Wolffers and Sabine Brian co-produce for NL Film.  Alexander Blaauw is the line producer. Ian Strachan is the head of production. Edited by Sándor Soeteman. Jaap Hoek is the art director. Production designed by Alfred Schaaf. The beautiful main title sequence was designed by Planet X Title Design. Production supported by the NL Film Incentive. Distributed by All3Media International, Van der Valk will be shown in Germany next month on Das Erste as Kommissar Van der Valk.

(1) Van der Valk und das Mädchen, Van der Valk und die Reichen and Le bouc émissaire, aired in France as episodes of Pas de frontières pour l'inspecteur.
(2) A pseudonym of Dutch composer Jan Stoeckart (1927-2017).
(3) Love in Amsterdam is also the title of the first Van der Valk novel.

Special thanks to Alain Carrazé (8 Art Global).
[Update - October 6, 2020]  Aired by pubcaster France 3 as Les enquêtes du commissaire Van der Valk, this contemporary adaptation of the character created by English author Nicolas Freeling is available here on DVD from this week thanks to L'Atelier d'images (

See also: (Alain Carrazé's podcast about TV series)

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