TV series review: Professor T – season 1 (ITV, 2021)
When you do a remake of something, in this case the quirky Belgian TV crime drama Professor T., you’re bound to have people compare it to the original. This isn’t the first time the germophobic professor has been snatched up and remade in a different language either: the French made their version in 2016, the Germans in 2017 and the Czech in 2018. So far only the German version has got more than one season under its belt, although it seems the British version has been renewed for a second season.
Set in Cambridge, criminology professor Jasper Tempest (Ben Miller) is a rather particular man. He seemingly hallucinates a variety of people and situations and abhors germs, and barely tolerates his mother (Frances de la Tour). The university Dean (Douglas Reith) and the professor’s personal assistant Ingrid Snares (Sarah Woodward) put up with his quirks, because he also happens to be brilliant at what he does, even if his teaching methods may leave a few things to be desired.
When a brutal crime is committed in one of the university dormitories, police inspector Lisa Donckers (Emma Naomi) calls on her old criminology professor to help with the case. He’s an excellent profiler, after all. Perhaps a bit too good, if you ask Paul Rabbit (Andy Gathergood), Donckers’ supervising officer, who has his own demons to deal with. If things weren’t complicated enough, the professor and police chief Christina Brand (Juliet Aubrey) have a chequered past. Donckers’ and her partner – as in co-worker – Dan Winters (Barney White) have a chequered present.
So far so copied straight from the original, including the professor’s fondness for listening to Italian crooners and sitting on the university rooftop.
I think my biggest issue with the British Professor T is that Ben Miller basically plays his old character from Death in Paradise turned up to eleven, so it’s difficult to not make comparisons. There are also the inevitable comparisons to make between the remake and the original. It was fun to note how similar in look the British cast are to the original – I could tell just from looking at them who they were playing. They haven’t even made much of an effort with the names.
Now, I’m not terribly familiar with Cambridge, so maybe they have a lot of houses around there that are architecturally atypical to standard British houses, because the overarching feeling I get from watching it is that the show may have British actors in it, but it doesn’t look or feel British. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a little jarring. What’s the point of doing a British remake if you don’t capitalise on the setting? Lovely though the buildings were, they’ve picked ones that certainly look cool, but it also makes the show feel like it wasn’t made in the UK. They could have done a Branagh Wallander (i.e. English actors speaking English while playing Swedish characters in Sweden) over in Antwerp and you wouldn’t really know the difference. Professor T is not different enough to have its own identity to distinguish itself. Perhaps season two will improve on this?
The season is shorter as well, a measly six episodes, so there were bits in this first season which I don’t believe you find out about until the third and final season of the original. Will the second season use more scripts from the original? Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Overall, I’m not in love with British Professor T in the way I am with the Belgian version, but at least it’s something different. It’s not Line of Duty nor Midsomer Murders, but it’s not entirely memorable either, sadly. When it comes to crime dramas set in an English university town, arguably Inspector Morse and its offshoots capture the setting better? At any rate I’m interested to see what they’re doing with it, and how it will continue to follow – or be different – from the original.
3.7 out of 5 goldfish.