PBS Import Van der Valk Avoids Its Network's Stuffy Trappings

No drawing room mysteries to see in this off-beat, hard-boiled cop show.


Van der Valk. PBS. Sunday, September 13, 9 p.m.

When the opening moments of PBS' set-in-Amsterdam cop series Van der Valk opened with a dramatic chase, bicycles careening around canals at a terrifying 12 miles an hour or less, I dropped my face into my hands. How many hours and brain cells of my life were to be lost to precious scenes of Dutch vegan dog-petting and tulip-sniffing?

The surprising answer is none at all. Perhaps the bike chase was just shot as a disguise to get the show past the PBS Dullard and Blandness Review Board before the real mayhem began, but Van der Valk is a pure, hard-boiled throwback to the days of Mickey Spillane and Jim Thompson.

Bullets fly and corpses leak. Beautiful dames wander in for a roll in the hay with cops of either sex and then beat it, unless they get arrested first. Weirdness abounds. One detective, investigating a murder in the religious erotica community (that is not a typo), frowningly inquires of an art librarian: "I'm not imagining this am I? A nun picking penises off a tree?"

Even Van der Valk's own parentage is a bit on the weird side. It's based on a 1960s series of homicide-squad mysteries by the British novelist Nicolas Freeling. After 10 books, Freeling so heartily detested his creation Piet van der Valk that he literally killed him off and made van der Valk's wife Arlette the lead character.

The British viewing public must have disagreed. The novels featuring Piet inspired one Brit TV series in the 1970s and another in the 1990s.  The newest version, which PBS is screening under its "Masterpiece Mystery" brand, aired in Europe earlier this year.

That "Masterpiece Mystery" label is another bit of disinformation. Van der Valk will never be mistaken for the work of Agatha Christie or any of the other British drawing-room mystery novelists.

Van der Valk (played by the ruggedly handsome Marc Warren, who had a recurring role in a season of The Good Wife a few years back) and his squadmates are a surly, hard-drinking lot. (Scrambled eggs and beer are not unknown for breakfast.) They treat everybodysuspects, witnesses, even victimswith brutal disdain. That assuredly includes one another.

When his scruffy, skirt-chasing sergeant Brad de Vries (British TV regular Luke Allen-Gale) muses that he's never heard of a library where one suspect is said to be a regular, van der Valk barks: "That's because it's full of books!"

Van der Valk is more tolerant with his bisexual second-in-command Lucienne Hassell (Mamie McCoy, Wallander), which makes the rest of the squad wonder if they've slept together. It seems unlikely. Though Van de Valk occasionally falls into a hookuphis antennae immediately go up when he hears a female bartender declare that "All politicians should be shot!"his taste in women pointedly excludes anything as normal as conversation. When he tries to kamikaze a blind date by declaring his profession as quantum physics, he's horrified when the delighted woman squeals: "I'm completely obsessed with string theory!! Are you?"

The squad's cases are as odd as they are, involving everything from renegade Transylvanian alchemists to "ethical fashion" designers whose aversion to killing animals pointedly does not cover one another. No show where a witness might casually declare that "I have one of my son's fingers in the freezer" ought to be missed.

NEXT: Court Thwarts Trump’s Attempt To Exclude Undocumented Immigrants From Census

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Having watched the first season of this show (if you can call 3 episodes a “season”), I can say I thought it was pretty good. It’s a little unusual, being a British show set in Amsterdam and all the actors are Brits playing Dutch characters. Anyone who watched The Musketeers will recognize the 2 lead actors but, the performances are pretty strong from all the cast. It’s worth a look if you’d like something different.

    1. ●US Dollar Rain Earns upto $550 to $750 per day by google fantastic job oppertunity provide for our community pepoles who,s already using facebook to earn money 85000$ every month and more through facebook and google new project to create money at home withen few hours.Everybody can get this job now and start earning online by just open this link and then go through instructions to get started. Click For Full Detail.

    2. My com-laborer’s sister-in-law makes USD/83 every Hour on the web . She has been jobless for a half year however a month ago her salary was USD/13726 simply taking a shot at the web for a couple of hours. have a check here.this interface !~!~!~!.GOOD LUCK ? …………………………HERE► USA Online For Girls Jobs

      1. I make up to $90 an hour on-line from my home. My story is that I give up operating at walmart to paintings on-line and with a bit strive I with out problem supply in spherical $40h to $86h… someone turned into top to me by way of manner of sharing this hyperlink with me, so now i’m hoping i ought to help a person else accessible through sharing this hyperlink… strive it, you HERE? Read More

    3. ●▬▬▬▬PART TIME JOBS▬▬▬▬▬●
      I am making $165 an hour working from home. i was greatly surprised at the same time as my neighbour advised me she changed into averaging $ninety five however I see the way it works now. I experience masses frenedom now that i’m my non-public boss. that is what I do……
      ↓↓↓↓COPY THIS SITE↓↓↓↓

      HERE► Richfly2

  2. Beautiful dames

    Uhh, I’ve been to Amsterdam…

    1. ★ I quit working at shoprite and now I make $65-85 per/h. How? I’m working online! My work didn’t exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new…HRd after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier.

      Here’s what I do……….► CashApp

  3. I am making $125 per hour working online on my laptop among my family. I continue doing work in my room talking to them. Its too easy to complete it no experience or skill required. You just need internet connection and PC/Laptop. For more information visit……..Read More

  4. I make up to $90 an hour on-line from my home. My story is that I give up operating at walmart to paintings on-line and with a bit strive I with out problem supply in spherical $40h to $86h… someone turned into top to me by way of manner of sharing this hyperlink with me, so now i’m hoping i ought to help a person else accessible through sharing this hyperlink… strive it, you HERE? learn More

  5. Start making cash online work easily from home.i have received a paycheck of $24K in this month by working online from home.i am a student and i just doing this job in my spare!!!! CLICK HERE FOR FULL DETAIL

  6. I am now making extra $19k or more every single 1 month from home by doing very simple and easy job online. You can join without any investment and start making extra cash online by follow instruction on this website……… Read More   

  7. I am making a good pay from home 1900 Buckets/week, that is brilliant, beneath a year agone i used to be unemployed amid a monstrous economy. I pass on God consistently i used to be invested these bearings, and at present, I should pay it forward and impart it to everyone…………….. CLICK HERE FOR FULL DETAIL

  8. Reason site is great site but…READ MORE

  9. Wow. Just one legitimate comment, the rest from bots.

    There’s libertarian lack of interest in controlling the free speech of readers… and then there’s laziness.

    Anyway, saw the show first episode. Good so far.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.