Friday, 4 March 2011


French private channel TF1 aired yesterday episode 2 of La Loi selon Bartoli, its Mentalist/House/Monk clone. Episode 2? Well, not quite.

TF1 knows how much French viewers adore eccentric, falsely annoying but genius American sleuths like House and The Mentalist. The channel should know, it airs them and they are primetime rating bonanzas. In La Loi selon Bartoli, Parisian actor Stéphane Freiss is Paul Lawrence Bartoli (Lawrence!) an iconoclast Juge d'instruction - an investigating judge in French criminal law system - whose oddball behaviour hides a razor-sharp mind and a sincere empathy.

Bartoli teams up with a charming young single mother named Nadia Martinez (Alexia Barlier), his new temp archivist who has a degree in psychology and doubles as a singer in a band. He has a Moneypenniesque assistant (Sophie Le Tellier) and hires a disgraced cop as a PI (Lionnel Astier). His contact in the police force, Cappa (Philippe Bas), has the custody of his young son in spite of the fact that he's a poker addict, thanks to an intervention of the judge.

Paul Bartoli is snarky disrespectful, ignores the concept of hierarchy, lives in a hotel room, loves good restaurants, has a soft spot for his lovely new temp and he has a mysterious past. The premiere aired one year ago captured 6.7 million viewers (27.4%), which prompted TF1 to order more episodes. But the channel raised interrogation when they chose to air the third episode in production order instead of the second.

Star Stéphane Freiss (who physically recalls Hugh Laurie) expressed his perplexity regarding a decision taken by TF1's programming execs (1). The main issue with this reversal is the story arc about Bartoli's past. And it was blatant yesterday night that viewers didn't have some elements to understand the new developments concerning the person who spies the judge and sent him toy soldiers in the premiere episode.

Bartoli won yesterday's night with 5.995.000 viewers (23.7%) but with pubcaster France 3 in second position with 3.954.000 (15.3%) for a movie starring the venerated Louis de Funès (2) - always a rating hit even with a gazillion reruns - and popular actress Annie Girardot, who died recently. Will it be satisfying enough for TF1 and will they ever air episode 2, which apparently was more comedic than the episode aired yesterday.

(1) (In French)
(2) (In French)

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