Van der Valk
Van der Valk offers a self-contained mystery of the week across each 90-minute episode, along with light touch serial stories about the lives of our eponymous protagonist and his close knit team of colleagues. The crimes that Commissaris Van Der Valk and his team investigate take place across all walks of life in Amsterdam and allow us an access all areas view of this vibrant world city – a familiar and yet still exotic city, thriving, multicultural, cosmopolitan, a meeting place of cultures that straddles racial, sexual and religious divides, that features criminal low-life and cultural high life. The appeal of the show lies in it being aspirational, a window onto an exciting fashionable world an audience will love revisiting, and yet also witty, warm and real. The setting is an intrinsic part of the appeal of the show. All life is here. Commissaris Piet Van der Valk himself is an experienced detective with a healthy disregard for his superiors, who only keeps the right side of reprimand because his strike rate is so high. He is centred, comfortable in his own skin and has seen pretty much everything the city can throw at him. Van der Valk’s understanding of human frailty allows him to deal with his suspects empathetically. He wants to nail them but that doesn’t mean he can’t communicate or just spend time with them. Indeed, part of his unique skill is his ability to shed his police identity and enter into the subterranean world of both victim and killer. He is open-minded and non-judgmental, moral without being moralistic and, like the city, tolerant. He sees murders as challenges to the status quo, gauntlets thrown down to be solved to restore social and moral balance so he can party with a clear conscience. His private life remains enigmatic. Girlfriends come and go. He was born and bred in Amsterdam but his past remains an undiscovered country, his family will remain in the background. There’s a sense, as we observe Van der Valk with his team, that these are the relationships that underpin his life. In particular his friendship with his inspector, Lucienne Hassell. Lucienne is Van der Valk’s touchstone, the one he moans to and banters with and the only one he really trusts. She is a committed professional with a hint of steel, brisk, efficient and fair-minded with none of the flights of fancy of her boss, for whom she has total respect. But their connection remains inscrutable. She is gay and categorically has no interest in him on a personal level but they are close, perhaps that’s the secret of their connection. Together Van der Valk and his team will solve complex, twisting cases with a combination of street-pounding procedure, perceptive human observation and inspired detection. There will be humour and warmth as there is in life but there will also be pathos and heartache, murders being a blot on even the most appealing landscape.