Adrian Scarborough said that a certain rumpled American TV sleuth inspired Max Arnold — the bicycle-riding, coffee-drinking Detective Inspector he plays in “The Chelsea Detective.”
“The [British detective] is a well-worn genre over here, but what was great about this is that it had several things that set it apart from your average run-of-the-mill — Max’s quirks and eccentricities are quite fun and I really like that,” Scarborough, 53, told The Post.
“I watched a lot of ‘Columbo’ as a child and always loved the quirkiness of Peter Falk. I thought he was brilliant,” he said. “We also have a show over here called ‘Inspector Morse’ with John Thaw in the lead role and that was incredibly popular in the ’80s and ’90s. It took things to a whole new level with the psychology of detective work.”
There’s a lot of that in “The Chelsea Detective,” premiering Monday (March 7) on Acorn TV. DI Arnold — who’s dyslexic, lives on a houseboat after separating from his wife and plays piano in an elder-care facility — uses his powers of deduction and focus to solve the cases to which he’s assigned in the Chelsea district of London.
He’s joined by his longtime partner, DS Priya Shamsie (Sonita Henry, “Star Trek”), who’s just back from maternity leave and isn’t shy about speaking her mind — particularly to Max.
“He’s got this sidekick who occasionally put the boot in him,” Scarborough said of Shamsie. “She tells him to get real — he’s a bit of a dreamer and a melancholic and she’s anything but …she’s out there to solve problems and get on with life.”
Max rides his bicycle to work and drinks a lot of coffee from his beloved coffee maker — traits he shared with Scarborough.
“We had to do lots of montages of me cycling around and they were such joyous days because I didn’t have to remember a single line,” Scarborough said. “I do ride my own bicycle because I don’t live in London, so I have a fold-up bike that I can put on the train, and once I’m actually at the station in town I cycle absolutely everywhere in town.
“I was particularly interested in the bicycle side of things because we haven’t had a policeman riding a bicycle on TV for quite a while,” he said. “I also loved the idea of [Max] being on a houseboat — and the sort of metaphysical island on which he finds his life washed up on the side of the Thames. And I thought the dyslexia was a great idea; he has a visual memory so taking photos on his iPhone uses modern technology in an interesting way.
“But I’m a decaf coffee drinker, which some people would argue is not a coffee drinker at all,” he said. “I had my [coffee] machine on set because I thought it would be a useful thing to have around the place. I didn’t hold back when it came to offering other people a nice decaf/oat milk latte, which is where I head, mostly.”
Max and Priya tackle a new case in each of the four episodes of “The Chelsea Detective,” which are constructed around labyrinthian plotlines that make you wonder how they will solve the crime (hint: they do).
“There were a couple of moments where we came onto the set to shoot a scene and somebody went, ‘Hang on, how did [Max] know that?,’” Scarborough said. “We were very lucky to have on the set, and on the end of the telephone, people who made sure we were genuinely doing this right — so it’s pretty accurate as far as police procedurals go.
“We had some fantastic sessions with detectives talking about the way they go about their business now and how different it is and how much it’s changed.”
The series has not been officially confirmed for a second season, but it’s expected to return.
“The writers have been given script-development money so they must feel confident it’s worth doing a second season,” he said. “In fact, I know two of [the new storylines] already.”