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Johnny English: Similar to the Thom(p)sons?

#1 · Posted: 29 Sep 2018 08:07 · Edited by: Shivam302001
A top class agent who does not possess any noteworthy skills to account for his rank. He has a knack of botching up at the exact moment when he is most likely to succeed. A person who gets entrusted with vital missions despite his tendency to botch up. A person who despite his seeming failures never loses confidence in himself. And of course, slapstick humour.

Sounds familiar? Rowan 'Mr. Bean' Atkinson's character in the Johnny English film series show striking resemblance to the Thom(p)sons, albeit in the modern world. What do you think?
#2 · Posted: 30 Sep 2018 19:03
"Johnny English" was actually inspired by Latham, a bungling secret agent which Rowan Atkinson portrayed in a series of ads for Barclaycard. In one ad, for example, he and his assistant Bough are breaking into a house in order to obtain documents against the owner who is a crime lord. Bough goes on about the advantages of buying a house using Barclaycard which Latham scoffs at, gets distracted and sets off the alarm, trapping himself in the crime lord's house!

A search of YouTube for

Rowan Atkinson Barclaycard

should get you some other examples.
#3 · Posted: 30 Sep 2018 19:23 · Edited by: Shivam302001
Thank you for the information. It is certainly welcome to see Mr.Atkinson in such roles, a nice change from his Mr. Bean avatar. I, personally felt that this character was similar to the Thom(p)sons, but seemingly this type of police-officers are quite common in fiction apparently, the movie The Pink Panther (1963) being another example.

P.S: It would be very kind of the moderators if they can correct the spelling of 'Johnny' as I made a slight mistake in the topic name.
[Moderator note: No problem; that's done. Thanks for spotting that! :) ]
#4 · Posted: 1 Oct 2018 17:15 · Edited by: mct16
It has been a staple of fiction for a long time. Many films and comics portray the official police detectives as bungling and hopeless, mainly in order to give more credit to the amateur sleuth.

Other examples are Dennis Hoey's portrayal of Inspector Lestrade in the Universal film versions of Sherlock Holmes starring Basil Rathbone. I recall similar hapless police detectives in RKO's Falcon series starring George Saunders and Tom Conway.

I always thought it a bit unfair. Certainly there are times when the police get it wrong or fail to solve a crime, but this can be due lack of clues which even an amateur would fail to find or rules and procedures which limit them in their investigations.

The American police and legal procedural series, "Law & Order", is full of examples of competent detectives finding clues that lead them to the murderer. However, because they did not always follow procedure to the letter, the defence lawyers can convince the judge to have the evidence dismissed, thus making it difficult to actually convict the murderer.

Interestingly, after World War Two, the French censor took a very critical view of poking fun at the police. A good example is Maurice Tillieux's "Gil Jourdan", another gifted amateur detective. In his first couple of adventures, Jourdan resorts to not-very-legal methods to track down some criminals and in the process outsmarts and ridicules Inspector Crouton, a very Thompson-like police officer. On one occasion, Crouton is chasing Jourdan and ends up in a barrel of tar which some workmen are using to resurface a road!

The French censor banned the early Jourdan books from being sold in France due to "disrespect towards the police". Subsequent adventures toned down Crouton's bungling, showing him as more reasonably capable, and Jourdan would even refer to him as "eccentric, not stupid". Other detective series such as "Tif & Tondu" were also more respectful towards the police. The bungling Thompsons in "Tintin" may have been tolerated due to their popularity.

I have to say that I have not always liked stories in which the amateur outsmarts the professional detective because the latter is too stupid to see the wood from the trees. That is one reason why I have not read much of the Japanese manga "Case Closed", though I love the elaborate cases they deal with. An interesting novel I read recently was Gaston Leroux' "The Mystery of the Yellow Room" in which the amateur and professional are treated on an equal level and actually enjoy a friendly rivalry based on that.

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