Merlina was a long running children's detective/comedy from the BRT (now VRT). The premise was simple, the characters all had their place and the stories ranged from downright silly to rather suspenseful mysteries. Merlina was the female boss of the detective agency who usually remained firmly behind her desk and liked to be called 'auntie'. Her niece An was her best field agent, both smart and athletic (though as a woman also prone to being kidnapped). They would use crazy inventions produced by Napoleon, the Belgian version of 'Q'. Although obviously a genius, Napoleon could be extremely stubborn and would hold a grudge against anyone who mistreated one of his beloved inventions. His agitation was usually directed toward clumsy Pol, who joined the agency in the first episode (having come over from another series called 'De Opkopers').
As written by Dick Durver, the male characters had all the faults whilst the women were smart and bland. Guess which were the more interesting? Pol was the obvious comic relief, even the narrator introducing everybody at the start of each episode laughed at him. He also had his own annoying catchphrase/curse word to utter each time he did something wrong: "Akerdjie". From the start Merlina had a bitter archenemy called Sardonis, who hid his face behind a disturbing white baby's mask and employed the usual bumbling idiots wearing nineteen thirties gangster outfits (with matching scars). The series was quite an elaborate production for the BRT (sorry, VRT), who never had much of a budget to spend. As a compromise it seemed about half the episodes took place solely inside the detective bureau. This idea was reinforced by the fact that Sardonis was mainly interested in stealing the contents of Napoleon's safe.
The Belgians have a rich history of producing comic book (of the kind Americans would call graphic novels), and this series had all the usual elements: a mystery to solve, some comedy, over the top stupid bad guy, silly inventions and one or two smartypants to figure it all out by the end. If Merlina were still being produced today, there would probably be a comic book version out there along with so many recent children's shows like 'Samson en Gerg' and 'Kabouter Plop'. I never got to see the final episode, and therefore cannot be sure if Sardonis was ever unmasked. However, the Pol character resurfaced in a couple of spin offs by the same writing/directing team.
8 out of 10
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