Maverick cops have been around as long as the mystery genre itself. Eccentric investigators have been around an equally long time – Sherlock Holmes, anyone? – but are more in vogue in these days. Our archives are full of TV shows that explore both types of characters. A couple of recent television series illustrate the difficulty of moving beyond these cliched elements, particularly when working within the confines of network TV.
Cardinal TV series on Hulu
John Cardinal (Billy Campbell) is a cop in Algonquin Bay, Canada. It’s a remote, wintery place, almost as isolated as Cardinal himself. He follows his own instincts. That leads straight into trouble as he begins investigating the death of a young First Nations girl whose frozen body is discovered. She was missing for some time and Cardinal was lead in that case. Many believe he botched the search, blaming him for not finding the girl or her killer.
Cardinal is paired with a female cop, Lisa Delorme (Karine Vanasse), newly transferred from financial crimes. Cardinal doesn’t appreciate newbies, but Delorme is bright and slowly earns his respect.
We soon find out Delorme is involved in a parallel, secret investigation. This makes the Cardinal TV series more interesting, a little more than standard cop fare. Delorme, in some ways, is the more intiguing character. We’ve seen many versions of Cardinal-like cops in the past. Campbell, while perfectly fine in the role, does not bring a lot of depth to Cardinal.
Though there’s a slick, high-budget look to Cardinal, the show has a network TV vibe. (It was made for CTV in Canada where it first aired early in 2017.) Surprisingly, there is a level of gruesomeness that arises after Cardinal discovers a serial killer is at work. Teenage boys are the new victims. If they were female, the level of brutality shown would not be acceptable to many viewers. Some will find these scenes disturbing.
Cardinal is based on Forty Words for Sorrow, a book by Giles Blunt. There are more books in the series, and a second and third season of Cardinal have been approved for production. All six episodes of Cardinal season 1, 45 minutes each, are on Hulu. It’s good for a quick spin over the course of a weekend or a few days.
Are you interested in a Belgian TV network drama about a brilliant, obsessive-compulsive professor, perhaps on the spectrum, brought in to help the local police solve crimes? Professor T is that show. Professor Teerlinck (Koen De Bouw) teaches criminology to aspiring police in Antwerp. He’s quirky, putting on surgical gloves before handling almost everything, and acts oblivious to the concerns and cares of others. However, he has a hard time resisting perplexing crimes and cases.
Annelies Donckers (Ella Leyers) of the Antwerp Police is one of Professor T’s former students. One of his better ones as it turns out, but he won’t admit that to her. She entices Teerlinck to assist on a troubling rape case and before we know it, the good professor is serving as an adjunct cop.
Donckers’ sidekick on the force, Daan De Winter (Bert Hollanders), drools in her presence, bringing some (unsuccessful) TV-style sexual tension to the show. The other cops are more interesting. Donckers’ boss, Commissioner Flamant (Tanja Oostvogels), had a relationship with T at one point and a bit of that attraction remains. Police chief Rabet lost his daughter recently and has developed a not-so-secret drinking problem. He sees Teerlinck as a threat.
All of this is in a light, network TV style that wouldn’t be out of place on US television, but a couple of touches operate outside the norm. The rooftop musical interlude in episode one is an unexpected delight as are the moments, also musical most of the time, that take place in Teerlinck’s head.
The Professor T series is entertaining, but if you’re looking for edgy, intense, deep crime drama, look elsewhere. All 13 episodes of Professor T season 1 are on Walter Presents. They clock in around 50 – 55 minutes each. A second season has aired, but it’s not yet available online in the US.