20 March 2013 | GilBlas
An outstanding series
After having exhausted, it seemed, the supply of British mystery/police-procedural series, I turned my attention to foreign (non-English-language) productions. If you are not averse to subtitles, you will find among foreign productions some outstanding series in this genre, and "Beck" is one of them.
"Beck" – after "Wallander" and "Van Veeteren" – is the third Swedish-language police- procedural series I have watched, and it may be the best, which is high praise. I should qualify that by saying I have watched only the first 18 episodes of "Beck" (produced from 1997 to 2005), available in the USA as sets 1 through 6. Eight subsequent episodes have been produced and released on DVD, but not yet, as far as I can tell, with Region 1 encoding.
"Beck," which aired as a Swedish TV series from 1997 to 2009, is based on the books of Mai Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö in which Inspector Martin Beck, the lead detective of a special homicide team of the Swedish police, was the central character. I gather that the team (in this series) is based in Stockholm, but the crimes they investigate are not limited to that city. Each episode is approximately 90 minutes in length and represents a complete case. I found the stories to be uniformly engrossing, and in several there were twists at the end that I did not see coming.
Tying the episodes together is a cadre of well-cast, well-acted characters that appear in all, or nearly all, episodes, and other characters whose tenure spans fewer episodes. Three characters, who appear in all episodes, merit special mention: Beck: level-headed, insightful, possessed of more of an everyman quality than most leading characters (he reminded me of my junior high biology teacher); Gunvald, Beck's right-hand man: brash, swaggering, politically incorrect, tough – the iron fist in Beck's velvet glove; Grannen: Beck's wonderfully eccentric neighbor - he rarely failed to make me laugh.
Note: As a result of having read a user review (on another site) that lauded the series but was critical of the quality of the video transfer, especially in light of the fact the reviewer considered the DVD sets to be pricey, I purchased just one set and was attentive to image quality when I watched the first episode. What I found was that the video transfer is not state of the art but neither is it bad. More importantly, it quickly ceased to be an issue as I was pulled into the series. And after I finished the first set, I purchased the remaining five.