The Hero’s Journey in “Professor T”

In its original Belgian incarnation, Professor Jasper Teerlinck, a brilliant but very eccentric professor of criminology at the University of Antwerp, assists local police in murder investigations, coming across as a combination of Monk (multiple neuroses and phobias) and House (arrogant, indifferent to others), but in an academic setting.

He’s internationally renowned, very conscious of his stature in the field, jealous of any perceived challenges to his status, and occasionally suicidal.

He’s obsessive-compulsive and can’t tolerate being touched. He wears surgical gloves in public and carries an antiseptic to spray on surfaces others have touched. In that regard, he’s the perfect detective for 2020; in real life, he’d be wearing a face mask all the time.

Many of Teerlinck’s problems can be traced back to childhood traumas related to his father’s violent death and to his manipulative mother’s continuing interference.

His dean is an old family friend who protects him yet is intimidated by him — and by his secretary, who is in some ways as formidable and manipulative as T’s mother.

The secretary and the dean must constantly fend off complaints from students, their parents and other faculty over T’s obvious disdain for his students and colleagues, insulting them to their faces and avoiding meetings whenever he can.

Viewers share Teerlinck’s memories and hallucinations, which include dead characters discussing his current cases and everyone breaking into song.

His neuroses, quirks and cutting comments vie with the foibles of dean and secretary in supplying a humorous counterpoint to the grim murders he solves.

In the first episode, a former student, now a police detective, pulls him into a campus rape case strangely similar to one years earlier, which involved a friend of hers, and Professor Teerlinck becomes a regular adviser to the homicide department, though not a universally welcome one.

And the head of that department just happens to be T’s ex who cheated on him years ago, which apparently added to his mental issues.

In the third season, T lands in prison for killing a police detective in cold blood and finds himself sharing a cell for a few episodes with a psychopathic killer he helped capture in the first season who, instead of holding a grudge, becomes his Watson.