Friday, 31 January 2020


The 21st series of Midsomer Murders (four 90-minute episodes) premiered last month in the United States on streaming services Britbox and Acorn TV

Starring Neil Dudgeon (DCI John Barnaby), Nick Hendrix (DS Jamie Winter), Annette Badland as pathologist Dr. Fleur Perkins and Fiona Dolman (Sarah Barnaby).

Alexander Beauvoisin, a wealthy real estate agent, is shot dead at the Midsomer Museum of the Family during his speech for the unveiling of a new dolls house collection. Dr. Fleur needs help for her relocation. DCI Barnaby discovers "the only way to travel". A great scenario by scriptwriter Helen Jenkins (1) and a superb work by both director Toby Frow and new series composer Evan Jolly.

Eleanor Bron returns to Midsomer Murders as dolls house and miniatures creator Maxine Dobson after playing another role in 2012. Katy Brand plays children's entertainer Jemima Starling and wears a nightmarish bird costume. Also starring Roger Barclay (Alexander), Karl Collins (Samuel Wokoma), Rosalie Craig (Carys Nicholson), Clare Holman (Fiona Beauvoisin), Joanna Page (Holly Ackroyd), Isabel Shaw (Betty Barnaby). etc.

Produced by Bentley Productions (an All3Media company) for ITV. Distributed by All3Media International. Produced by Guy Hescott. Co-produced by Ian Strachan. Exec produced by Michele Buck and Louise Pedersen. Midsomer theme composed by Jim Parker. Editing by David I'Anson. Cinematography by Al Beech. Costumes designed by Sue Thomson

Based upon the books by Caroline Graham. In the United Kingdom, ITV will show The Miniature Murders on February the 4th.

(1) Helen Jenkins wrote two brilliant episodes for the previous series: The Ghost of Causton Abbey and Till Death Do Us Part. 

Series 21, Episode 1:

Friday, 24 January 2020


In the north of France, an ill-assorted cop duo investigates a murder in a cannery.

Sometimes France Télévisions sells  us its concepts with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Take César Wagner, for instance. The pre-credits sequence of the France 2 TV movie (now a future series) is nothing less than a two-and-a-half minute demo where the nosophobic sleuth demonstrates his shrewdness by guessing a cause of death from his car.

Police de caractères, a TV film for France 3, starts with a dead man going down a factory conveyor belt in 23 seconds because all you need is in the intro. Submitted for your approval, on your left, Louise Poquelin. She's a blue collar police captain and a mum. The title song is Should I Stay or Should I Go by The Clash, which means she's also a rebel. Clémentine Célarié (Lebowitz contre Lebowitz) plays Louise.

On your right, there's Lieutenant Étienne de Beaumont. He's an aristocrat who lives in the family château and he loves books. Joffrey Platel (Demain nous appartient, Riviera) co-stars as de Beaumont. The actor is a familiar face of France 3, where he played in Les ombres de Lisieux, Murder in... Lorraine (Meurtres en Lorraine) and the one-off TV movie Classe unique with Clémentine Célarié.

A title must be chosen carefully, just in case you'd want to stylize it heavily on-screen. In French, a "police de caractère" means "a font" and a "caractère" can mean "a temperament". The TV movie was initially called Poquelin until someone probably feared people would confuse it with a documentary about Molière (1). Similarly, one of the tentative titles of César Wagner was... Wagner.

The  fictional alliance between working class and upper class against crime isn't something new: The Persuaders (1971), Un juge, un flic (1977-1979), Dempsey and Makepeace (1984) or The Inspector Lynley Mysteries (2001-2008) preceded Police de caractères. After a confrontation about traffic regulations in the middle of a street, Poquelin and de Beaumont meet more formally.

Police de caractères emulates two of the biggest hits of France Télévisions: Agatha Christie's Criminal Games (Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie) and Captain Marleau (Capitaine Marleau). Étienne has a chic vintage car like the one of Commissaire Laurence and Louise Poquelin does Marleau on antidepressants. She vapes and literally can't bear the words "procedure" and "methods" (she's a rebel, remember).

Château Étienne has leaks and Timothée (2) the pathologist thinks de Beaumont is gay. Though its first half manages to be watchable, Police de caractères collapses in the second half. Some of the dialogues are painfully bad. Thankfully, the talented Dominique Thomas (Commissaire divisionnaire Ernest Tricard in Les petits meurtres) appears as Pierrot Picavet.

With Mariama Gueye (Léa Langlois), Jules Houplain (Antoine Poquelin), Sabine Haudepin (Catherine Debranchu), Caroline Tillette (Élodie Letellier), Xavier Gallais (Bertrand Letellier), Benjamin Bourgois (Timothée Richard), Cyril Garnier (Raphaël), etc. Produced by Terence Films and Gétévé Productions with France Télévisions, Fontana and RTBF (Télévision belge).

With the participation of RTS Radio Télévision Suisse. Produced by Bertrand Cohen and Stéphane Meunier. Music by Armand Amar. Written by Eugénie Dard, Charlotte Joulia, Sandrine Lucchini & Mathieu Savignac. Directed by Gabriel Aghion. Filmed in Cassel, Don, Douvrin, Lille, Warneton and Armentières. Police de caractères is distributed by Banijay Rights.

(1) Molière's real name was Jean-Baptiste Poquelin.
(2) Coincidentally (or not), the pathologist of Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie is named Timothée Glissant. (Château de l'Hamer Houck)

See also:

Monday, 20 January 2020


The 21st series of Midsomer Murders premiered last month in the United States on streaming services Britbox and Acorn TV

In the United Kingdom, ITV will show the first of four 90-minute episodes tomorrow. 

« Didn't think glitz and glamour were your thing, sir.
- They're not. »

DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) and DS Jamie Winter (Nick Hendrix) investigate in the world of ballroom dancing when a dancer is found murdered at her home. She was last seen at the opening gala of the Paramount Dance Extravaganza contest, where she wasn't competing. The victim was also a freelance journalist working mainly on local news stories.

Dealing with the rivalries of dancers and the power struggles at the Wilder Biorobotics Institute, a high-tech research facility which sponsors the event, is less complicated for John than speaking to his own father. Nick Hicks-Beach, who wrote the excellent The Lions of Causton for the previous series, returns to Midsomer Murders with the even better The Point of Balance (directed by Audrey Cooke).

Barnaby gets a dance lesson and someone meets a bad robot. Annette Badland is back as Fleur Perkins, the pathologist. Fiona Dolman plays Sarah Barnaby. The episode has very good dialogues, humour, emotion and splendid performances by Nigel Havers (Andrew Wilder), Christopher Timothy (All Creatures Great and Small) as Barnaby's father Ned and Cassidy Little (Duncan Corrigan). Jaye Griffiths (Casualty, Bugs) plays Lily Wilder.

Like Cassidy Little, guest actors Natalie Gumede (Rachel Stevenson), Danny Mac (Anton Walsh) and Faye Tozer (Rosa Corrigan) are former participants of Strictly Come Dancing, the BBC dance programme. With Carolina Main (Heather Wilder), Tom Chambers (Father Brown) as Ray Wilder, Jack Hawkins (Jake Hannity), Kazia Pelka (Tanya Brzezinski), Luke Pierre (Warren Cunningham) and Isabel Shaw (Betty Barnaby).

Composer Evan Jolly (Agatha Raisin) succeeds to the great Jim Parker, who retired after Series 20. Produced by Bentley Productions (an All3Media company) for ITV. Distributed by All3Media International. Produced by Guy Hescott. Co-produced by Ian Strachan. Exec produced by Michele Buck. Editing by Adam Masters. Cinematography by Al Beech. Based upon the books by Caroline Graham. 

Monday, 13 January 2020


Adrian Monk (Monk) and Jasper Teerlinck (Professor T.) have a new cousin: César Wagner, a detective who fears illness but isn't afraid of a bad TV movie.

The bottom line: The title says it all (1).

The decomposing body of a doctor who just came back from Congo has been discovered in his overheated home. Recently appointed in Strasbourg, police Captain César Wagner first thinks that it's a case of Ebola. Without examining the house, he returns to his car where he guesses what really killed the man. Dr. Élise Beaumont, the pathologist, later confirms to Wagner that he was right.

Babacar Sy, a young football rising star, dies while playing an important match. Professor Stern, Beaumont's boss, concludes that a left ventricular hypertrophy provoked a cardiac arrest so the cause of his death is natural. Élise openly challenges her opinion and César notices something strange. France Télévisions, the biggest police station of the French television industry, welcomes another eccentric/troubled detective with César Wagner.

Gil Alma, best known for the short sitcom Nos chers voisins (2012-2017), stars in the title role of this  90-minute film produced for France 2. Olivia Côte (Scènes de ménages, Vous les femmes) co-stars as Dr. Élise Beaumont. César Wagner is as bad as its title lets it presume ("Caligula Beethoven" or "Claudius Mozart" were probably unavailable). The terrible pre-credits sequence is basically a heavy demo for a possible series and the rest isn't better.

The nosophobic and hypochondriac captain teams up with the maverick pathologist to start an unofficial investigation, against his chief and his colleagues but also against the town hall. The mayor of Strasbourg is none other than... César Wagner's mother. César wanted to be a footballer when he was younger, which exempts him from reading the Scott Manson novels by the late Philip Kerr.

The supremely charismatic Samuel Labarthe (Agatha Christie's Criminal Games) guest stars as Christian Haas, the president of the football club and a close friend of the mayor. Fanny Cottençon plays Marie-Ange Wagner. Written by Éric Vérat and Sébastien Paris. Directed by Antoine Garceau. Produced by Incognita. Co-produced by France Télévisions, Be Films and RTBF (Télévision belge), with the participation of RTS (Radio Télévision Suisse).

Produced by Édouard de Vésinne (Taken). Frédéric Bruneel (Taxi Brooklin) exec produces. David Amselem and Alexia de Beauvoir are the associate producers. Ludovic Eyrolle is the production manager. Music composed by Maïdi Roth and Franck Pilant (Crimes parfaits). Cinematography by Philippe Guilbert. Editing by Vincent Zuffranieri. Filmed with the support of Strasbourg Eurométropole and La Région Grand-Est.

Also with Coralie Russier (Léa Saskevitch), Soufiane Guerrab (Farid Belladj), Joséphine de Meaux (Frédérique Koehler), Étienne Diallo (Grégoire Rollot), Marilyne Canto (Professor Joséphine Stern), Éric Savin (Luc Thomassot), Pierre Raby (Christophe Mondénian), Antonia de Rendinger (Philomène Fischer), etc. César Wagner will premiere on France 2 this friday.

(1) Yes, we know we used it last month.