TV series review: Professor T. (Één, 2015-2018)
tl;dr: Excellent Belgian comedy crime drama.
Set in and around the university of Antwerp/Antwerpen in Belgium we meet the sharp but chaotic police inspector Annelies Donckers (Ella Leyers) and her puppydog partner Daan De Winter (Bart Hollanders). Their latest case happens at the university, so Annelies asks advice from one of her former lecturers, professor of criminology Jasper Teerlinck (Koen De Bouw). As this is meant to talk about the whole show and not just the first episode, suffice it to say the professor helps them solve the case, and after that becomes a regular police consultant.
That doesn’t sound particularly interesting, perhaps, but add in the mix that professor Teerlinck is an Italian crooner-loving germophobe who doesn’t do well with people in general. He’s blunt to the point of being rude, obsessive, seemingly emotionless (but never actually uncaring) and, of course, utterly brilliant. It’s fascinating how much De Bouw can convey by facial expressions and body language alone. The Professor also has a tendency to fantasise (hallucinate?) absurd situations and it’s often quite funny. It’s such a fantastic show the Germans went and did a remake, setting it in Cologne/Köln, but I haven’t seen it so don’t know how it compares to the Flemish original.
In the first season we also get introduced to chief inspector Paul Rabet (Herwig Ilegems), Annelies’s and Daan’s superior officer, a man with a good heart but plenty of inner demons as it turns out; Christina Flamant (Tanja Oostvogels), the police commissioner (or something like that), who somehow was the Professor’s girlfriend back in the day, and still has a fondness for him; Walter De Paepe (Carry Goossens), or “Dekan”, the university dean and personal friend of the Professor and his mother; Ingrid Sneyers (Goele Derick), the Professor’s hard-nosed university secretary who is AMAZING; and Adelinde Van Marcke (Viviane de Muynck), the Professor’s concerned but slightly overbearing mother.
The first season has a side plot of Annelies dealing with her aging father (Gene Bervoets). Relationships is one of the things this show does so well. It’s not all lovey-dovey or plain sailing, but complicated in so many ways. The most complicated of all is that between Adelinde and her son, which is pretty much what s3 is all about. It deals with relationships between parents and their children (and grandchildren), between colleagues, between superiors and subordinates, between former and present lovers, between friends, and so on. It’s messy, and it’s allowed to be.
Season two adds Dr Gijselbrecht (Barbara Sarafian, a.k.a. the oldest sister from The Out-Laws, yay!), a psychologist. This goes pretty much as expected with regards to her stubborn patient. This is also the season where inspector John Van Humbeeck (Steve Geerts) is introduced, reasons for which I will not disclose, but they are … frustrating. He grew on me, though.
Season three left an Annelies-sized hole in it, and as it had been such a long while since I saw s2, I was really confused as to why she was missing, as no one mentioned it on-screen to remind the audience. The only real acknowledgement of her being gone was the Professor saying “so you’re the new Annelies” to her replacement, the rather spiky Saskia Vogels (Leen Roels). I had to go back and re-watch bits of the last few episodes of s2 to remember what happened to her. On the other hand, doing that also made me realise that the criminals in s3 were actually a part of the plot of s2.
Another recurring character in s3 is Johan Vermarcke (Michael Vergauwen), who was the culprit in one of the other seasons, but I don’t remember exactly which episode. He’s a nice addition, considering a lot of s3 is a difficult watch in many ways. (If you’ve started watching it and despair at the circumstances – please don’t stop watching, it gets better!)
The dynamic between all the characters is very enjoyable, and all is well that ends well. It’s just a shame it only has three seasons, but how would a s4 work with how s3 ended? It wouldn’t be the same. Besides, the finale was a fitting and satisfying end to the whole show.
Gahhhh. There is so much I would love to say about this show, but I can’t because it would be so full of spoilers. Just watch it, if you can. (If you’re in the UK, head over to the treasure-trove of international drama that is Walter Presents.)
Professor T. is a roller-coaster ride. On the one hand it’s a murder-of-the week crime drama, and on the other a very quirky comedy. There are unavoidable similarities with other shows: Monk, of course, with the germophobic mystery-solver, but perhaps a more apt comparison is the cancelled-too-soon Perception, in which Eric McCormack played a neuropsychiatrist university professor with schizophrenia, helping the FBI with solving tricky murders … and he’s roped in by one of his former prodigies who used to have a crush on him back in uni. One is not a remake of the other, though, they are very different shows even if the premise “plucky female cop turns to brilliant but mentally troubled professor for help solving a crime” is the same.
The Belgians have definitely done it again, crafted a great show with great characters played by great actors. I’m happy that it’s not a miniseries, so you get a whole lot more episodes, but I’m also sad that it’s still over too soon. On the plus side, it’s still available on All 4 here in the UK, so I can simply re-watch it at my leisure. Which I probably will, because it really is that good. I probably won’t buy Cuberdons next time we’re in Belgium, though. They were fun to try, but I didn’t really like them – even if they weren’t poisoned. 😉
5 out of 5 handkerchiefs.