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French Tv Series To Watch This Summer

In a recent New York Times article, television critic Alessandra Stanley likened the French series Spiral (Engrenages), to AMC's The Killing.

Spiral, available on Netflix instant streaming since September 2012, is one of a small handful of French series to grace US audiences in recent years. Another, the gritty crime series, Braquo was made available on Hulu in January 2013. A third, Borgia, was broadcast on Showtime. 

This seems to echo a trend highlighted in a USA Today article on American audiences' increasing interest in international TV. "It's not just Downton Abbey," says USA Today, "TV viewers' appetites are going global as streaming technology broadens their options." This has long been true in France, where foreign TV shows including American hits like NCIS, The Goodwife and ER (to name a few) have been hugely popular.

Unlike the US, France has been relatively slow to embrace the production of ambitious fictional TV series. But the recent series like Spiral point to a shift. As Stanley writes, "Some fans liken Spiral to The Wire because it unsparingly interweaves the many complicated and corrupt strands of the French judicial system. But it’s really more like a novel by Balzac or Colette."

Another indicator of the trend is the launch of a new program at one of France's most prestigious schools in Paris, La Fémis, dedicated to writing for TV series. The program, initiated by Marc Nicolas, director of la Fémis, will address what Nicolas referred to as “France being behind the curve when it comes to TV script writing”.

The Film, TV & Media Department at the Cultural Services has put together a list of some of the TV shows creating  buzz in France right now. Although only two are available to US audiences on instant streaming, and a third on Showtime, if you happen to be in France this summer, the titles below  are worth checking out. Dedicated TV fans can find most of the titles on DVD at amazon.fr or other similar sites... and you never know, you may see them popping up in your Netflix “Suggestions for you” list some time soon!

BRAQUOCreated by par Olivier Marchal for Canal +Written by Abdel Raouf Dafri (season 2)Produced by Capa Drama, Canal +Genre: dramaCast: Jean-Hugues Anglade, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Karole Rocher and Joseph Malerba…

Four police offers decides to “cross the line” and break the rules to clear the honor of one of their colleagues who committed suicide during a case where he was involved and blamed.

Braquo Season 2 won an International Emmy Award in 2011.

2 seasons available in France and in the US on Hulu

ENGRENAGESCreated by Alexandra Clert andGuy-Patrick Sainderichin for Canal +Produced by Son et Lumière, Canal +Genres: Action, Adventure, Mystery, Drama, Crime FictionCast: Grégory Fitoussi, Caroline Proust, Audrey Fleurot, Philippe Duclos, Thierry Godard, Fred Bianconi…

Threw a young prosecutor, a police captain, a judge and a lawyer, this series describes the life of a courthouse in Paris.

Engrenages was nominated for an International Emmy Award in 2011.

4 seasons available in France and in the USA on Netflix

BORGIACreated by Tom Fontana for Canal +Directed by par Dearbhla Walsh, Christoph Schrewe, Metin Huseyin and Thomas VincentProduced by Atlantique Productions / Lagardère Entertainment et EOS EntertainmentGenre: History, BiopicCast: John Doman, Mark Ryder, Isolda Dychauk...

On the XVIth century during Renaissance, the rise to power of the Borgia Family, an Italian dynasty with Spanish origins, gathered around Rodrigo Borgia, to become the new pope Alexander VI in 1492, threw schemes and scandals.

2 seasons available in France1st season broadcast on Showtime in the USA

LES REVENANTSCreated by Fabrice Gobert for Canal +Produced by Haut et court, Canal +Cast: Anne Consigny, Clotilde Hesme…Genre: Drama

In a city lost in the mountains, many dead people reappear, apparently alive and normal. They try to take their old life back, while other strange phenomena occur…

1st season only available in France

UN VILLAGE FRANCAISCreated by Frédéric Krivine, Philippe Triboit and Emmanuel DaucéProduced by Tetra media Fiction, France 3Genres: history, dramaCast: Audrey Fleurot, Francis Renaud…

4 seasons available in France 

Un Village français centers on the people of Villeneuve, a fictional sub prefecture, in the Jura, in German occupied France during the Second World War.

AINSI SOIENT – ILSCreated for ARTE France by David Elkaïm, Bruno Nahon, Vincent Poymiro, Rodolphe TissotProduced by Zadig Productions, ARTE FRanceCast: Jean-Luc Bideau, Thierry Gimenez, Michel Duchaussoy, Julien Bouanich, David Baiot, Clément Manuel, Clément Roussier…Genre: drama

Paris nowadays. Five young candidates for the priesthood enter the seminary of the Capucins led by charismatic and controversial father Fromanger.

1st season available in France

MAFIOSA, LE CLANCreated by Hugues Pagan for Canal +Produced by Image and Compagnie, Canal +Cast: Hélène Fillières, Thierry Neuvic, Phareelle Onoyan, Jean-Marc Michelangeli…Genre: Drama

By the will of her dead uncle murdered, Sandra Paoli, 30, is propelled to the head of a powerful mafia clan.

4 seasons available in France


Created by Frédéric Azémar for ARTE FranceProduced by Making Prod, GMT Productions, Arte France, Movieheart and Sunflag MainCast: Niels Schneider, Caterina Murino, Alessio Boni , Bruno Todeschini…Genre: Drama

In the Antiquity told by Homer, Odysseus is not yet back from Troy war. In Ithaca in his absence, His wife and queen, Penelope, and his sun, Telemachus, have to deal with a group of unruly suitors, the Mnesteres, willing to take the throne.

1st season available in France

INQUISITIOCreated by Nicolas Cuche and Lionel Pasquier for France 2Produced by September ProductionsCast: Aurélien Wiik, Vladislav Galard, Annelise Hesme…Genre: Thriller

1370, during Middle age, happens the great Western schism between the two popes, one in Avignon (France), Clement VII, the other in Rome, Urban VI, each one fighting for their legitimacy.


1st season available in France

PIGALLE, LA NUITCreated by Hervé Hadmar and  Marc Herpoux for Canal +Produced by Lincoln TV , Tetra Media, Canal +Cast: Jalil Lespert, Simon Abkarian, Armelle Deutsch …Genre: Drama

Thomas is French and works in London. During a stay in Paris he goes to a club of stripping and discovers that his sister Emma is the star of the show. Soon after, she disappears. Thomas begins then to explore the Pigalle district and its secrets to find her.

1st season available in France