US networks spend fortunes in development, ordering myriad of drama pilots to get one or two regular shows but French television, of course, cannot do that. When you're not pubcaster group France Télévisions (with the licence fee money) or pay TV Canal Plus (home of Spiral) and want to limit risks, then it leaves you two options: buy a foreign format or seek inspiration elsewhere.
TF1 does both. It aired the French official version of Law & Order: CI and has "The French CSI", RIS Police scientifique, which is actually the official remake of an Italian format. The private channel also airs an adaptation of ITV1's juggernaut Doc Martin. But sometimes they find their inspiration abroad without necessarily buying the format: the laughable L'Hôpital was a copycat of Grey's Anatomy, the costly soap Seconde chance was the French Ugly Betty, and the short-lived La Loi selon Bartoli was basically France's answer to The Mentalist and House.
Yesterday night TF1 ventured into another familiar territory with Con Me If You Can! (international title of Ni vu, ni connu), a 90-minute TV movie aired in their primetime Monday night comedy slot. Lino Vars (Thierry Neuvic) is a good husband and father. His wife Karen (Laure Marsac), a frustrated painter, thinks he works as an airline pilot and ignores that Lino is actually a top notch con artist. With his friend Oscar (François Mercantal) and Eléonore (Lizzie Brocheré), a young actress, they form a team of grifters targeting the rich and the powerful. Commissioner Chambort (Francis Perrin) dreams to catch Vars, although his idiotic assistant Camus (Raphaël Lenglet) is of no help.
The team's latest con, selling the Eiffel Tower to a Russian mob boss, backfires when the man wants revenge. Lino Vars finds in the situation an opportunity to con a famous painter who made a fortune with an idea of Karen. Written by Stéphane Kaminka and Brigitte Laude, and directed by Christophe Douchand, Ni vu, ni connu is an assumed nod to the movie Catch Me If You Can (2002). It also borrows visual and music codes to a genre popularized on TV by Hustle, the BBC/Kudos hit, whose notoriety is here far from equivalent to what it is in the UK.
Of course Hustle itself is not the epitome of originality (see Ocean's Eleven and a 2003 movie called Confidence) but it makes the difference with its style and its great cast, starting with its lead Adrian Lester. Past the similarities with Hustle or Leverage, Con Me If You Can! is a standard monday night TF1 comedy. Amusingly, the talented Francis Perrin - who plays the cop - was a con artist in a wonderful French comedy series of the 80s called Le Mythomane.
Ni vu, ni connu, a Franco-Belgian co-production by GMT Productions (Julie, Police Commissioner/Julie Lescaut), with Stromboli Pictures, RTBF and TF1, attracted 5.109.000 viewers (19,5%). Castle won the night with 6.111.000 viewers for France 2 (21,8%). From what we know, Mickey Stone sleeps well.
http://www.ozap.com/actu/audiences-tf1-petit-leader-castle-puissant-france-4-et-france-3-faibles/437596 (In French)