It's a rather interesting, but utterly inconsequential coincidence that Michael Gambon replacing the late Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore in the "Harry Potter" series was not the first time the former actor followed in the footsteps of the latter in terms of playing the same character. The 1992 series "Maigret" based on the writings of Georges Simenon had been adapted numerous times throughout the years, but prior to Gambon's portrayal of the Belgian police detective (one must wonder if the criminology instructors in Belgium are the world's best secret, with Poirot and Maigret both coming from the same country), the late Richard Harris portrayed the prior most incarnation of the character. Although he died in 1989, Simeon had made it clear (at least to the actor himself), that Rupert Davies was his preferred actor for the role, one can't help but wonder where Gambon's performance would rate in the author's book/
Running two, six-episode seasons, "Maigret" covered an individual Maigret book in roughly an hour time (save for the debut, episode, that closes in on 90-minutes). The most apparent factor that takes one out of the series is despite the Parisian setting and the character's intended Belgian heritage, Gambon, despite being a fabulous actor in general and here specifically, comes off more as a refined detective with an underlying, gruff, hard-boiled English detective waiting to get out when the time calls. While I'll admit to not even having heard of the character until viewing the series, I can say my expectation was for something akin to Agatha Christie's Poirot, easily the world's most famous Belgian detective, but ultimately, Gambon's portrayal was initially unexpected but quickly comforting and enjoyable. He possess an obvious air of dignity, humanity and intelligence in solving murder after murder with the inevitable twist or hard to crack trail of clues. In the debut episode, "The Patience of Maigret," that very quality is put to the test as Maigret is led into an underworld of gangsters and when Gambon gets to lay on the role of a still, very refined heavy, it's a delightful treat. On a whole, the performance is familiar in the sense he's a period detective solving a relatively formulaic narrative, but Gambon's screen presence is tremendous, despite often being subtle in execution.
The show's driving fault is the brief runtime, with latter episodes feeling rushed and the formula of the stories feeling even more apparent as a thin device to watch Maigret in action. Yes, this is really the single purpose of this series, but the secondary nature of any great detective series is to let the viewer try to come to his or her own conclusion; in "Maigret" our protagonist is often on a new trail before our layperson's mind is even able to ponder any possible outcomes. A few episodes enter territory of Maigret investigating not just a few individuals but having to deal with a larger societal viewpoint, in terms of attitudes towards the crimes committed, and these narrative additions are greatly appreciated, but ultimately downplayed due to the brief nature of each episode.
With only 12-episodes to offer viewers, "Maigret" definitely provides a well-written character for the small screen. I can't speak as to how accurate these adaptations are, but the quality on a whole is enough to earn the series notable praise, especially for fans of Gambon. "Maigret" doesn't redefine the detective genre, nor should it; in fairness to author Simenon, his novels were coming out during a heyday of the genre in written form and I'd wager a safe bet, could be considered influential or examples of the genre at it's best at the very least. Although generally short in length, each episode of "Maigret" is guaranteed to entertain in one way or another.
The 1.33:1 original aspect ratio transfers are very rough in quality; possibly transfers form video, there is a lot of digital noise/grain and for a 1992 production, the color levels have a simultaneously saturated and faded feeling. Fine detail is relatively non-existent, and compression artifacts are noticeable, albeit on the milder side of the spectrum. I'd easily wager, like so many older BBC productions, the budget for the series wasn't tremendously high and the original source material was not treated that well.
The English stereo audio track is a whole other story, with expected mild hiss nowhere to be found. Dialogue might sound a bit hollow at times, but generally it's a rich, simple mix, with the very pleasant theme song powerfully coming across. English SDH subtitles are included.
The lone extra is an eight page printed booklet on the character and author.
Although the technical presentation might be a big turnoff to some, "Maigret: The Complete Collection" is a very solid entry in the small-screen detective genre. Like so many offerings, you're not coming into the series for airtight writing or edge of your seat mysteries; it's all about the protagonist and specifically, the performance of the lead actor. Michael Gambon delivers in spades, in terms of screen presence and subtle character moments. Recommended.