Wednesday, 1 December 2021

THE CODE (LE CODE) - SERIES 1, EPISODES 1 & 2: PROFESSION DE FOI & PRESUMÉ COUPABLE (FRANCE 2)

[Favourite of the Month] Idriss Toma, a successful lawyer, brutally faces the consequences of his work for the rich and powerful. He decides to help those who really need him. 
 
The Code (Le Code) is a top-tier 6 x 52-minute legal drama from the makers of Double Je and Cherif which premieres today on French pubcaster France 2.

« Donnez-moi 30 secondes. »
 
Created by Lionel Olenga, Cécile Even and Nicolas Robert (1), Le Code is produced by Making Prod and L.O. Productions with France Télévisions. The series stars the talented and charismatic Daniel Njo Lobé, frequently seen on television (Meurtres à..., Astrid et Raphaëlle, Marseille...) or on stage and heard in numerous French dubbings (he's the voice of Idris Elba in Luther). Here he plays lawyer Idriss Toma, whose latest triumph in a parisian court comes at a price when he's shot with three bullets while celebrating. Toma survives and returns to Lille, his hometown, but a small piece of bullet stuck in his head can kill him at any moment.  Smart, charming and self-confident, he wants to help people in need of a second chance against the judicial system. 
 
Idriss is now a partner in the law firm Ayad-Toma-Vanhoven specialized in criminal defense with a passionate lawyer named Nadia Ayad and Jeanne Vanhoven, the eccentric "living legend" of the Bar of Lille. The trio is helped by two young collaborators, Claire Caldeira and Maxime Laffargue, and the firm's legal assistant Élodie Nedelec. In Profession de foi, the very effective (right from the pre-credit sequence) first episode, Idriss Toma and Claire Caldeira defend a woman about to be judged for the murder of her violent companion. Idriss has a problem of his own as he tries to reconnect with his daughter Chloé after the death of her mother. Nadia must take care of a compulsive shoe stealer. 
 
11 years after the end of the long-running legal drama Avocats et associés (1998-2010), the genre makes a flamboyant return on France 2 thanks to the impeccably crafted Le Code (directed by Jean-Christophe Delpias). Its creators, producers and scriptwriters brilliantly blend the spirit and the tone of U.S. classics from Steven Bochco and David E. Kelley like L.A. Law, Murder One or Boston Legal with the specificities of French criminal procedure. Daniel Njo Lobé is surrounded by a perfect regular cast. Naidra Ayadi (Stillwater, Zone Blanche) plays Nadia Ayad. Theatre, movie and TV actress Christiane Millet is fabulous as Jeanne Vanhoven, a character reminiscent of Boston Legal's Denny Crane (William Shatner) (2).  
 
There's also Barbara Probst (Missions, Camping Paradis) as Claire, Théo Frilet (Maxime Laffargue), Catherine Demaiffe (Le sang de la vigne) as Élodie and Wendy Nieto (Crimes parfaits) as Chloé Barbier. Nadia and Maxime confront the formidable prosecuting attorney Jacques Kowalski in Présumé coupable, the gripping second episode where a young man with a heavy criminal record is accused of shooting down the owner of a grocery store. Chloé gets in big trouble and Idriss wants to be her lawyer. All the characters promise interesting developments, judging from those two episodes written by Lionel Olenga, Cécile Even and Nicolas Robert. 
 
The excellent guest stars of Profession de foi are Annelise Hesme (Nina) as Estelle Lantez, Stéphane Blancafort (Tandem) as Carl Roussel, Gwendolyn Courvenec (Avocate générale Christiansen), François Bureloup (Chérif) as Mr Garcia, Guillaume Faure (Julien Gurou), Fleur Geffrier (Das Boot, Double Je) as Louise Litt, etc. Alban Casterman (Tandem, Al Dorsey, détective privé) makes an appearance... on a photo. The guest cast of Présumé coupable is of the same quality: Grégoire Bonnet (Scènes de ménages, Nina) as Avocat général Kowalski, Elias Hauter (Jérémy Dutertre), Pascal Casanova (Président Toumou), etc. Produced with the participation of TV5 Monde. Filmed with the support of Région Grand Est, Ville de Reims and Communauté urbaine du Grand Reims.
 
Produced by Stéphane Drouet and Lionel Olenga. Music composed and performed by Michael Tordjman and Maxime Desprez (Double Je). Cinematography by Dominique De Wever. Editing by Thaddée Bertrand (Episode 1) and Nathalie Langlade (Episode 2). Sophie Schmidt is the production manager. Main title design by Mathieu Decarli. This year, Daniel Njo Lobé won the Best Actor award (French competion) at the Séries Mania Festival for Le Code. The series was filmed in Lille, Épernay, Reims and Paris. Distributed by Mediawan Rights, Le Code is available on Salto, the French streaming service, since November 24th.
 
Special thanks to Christophe Kerambrun and Nicolas Robert.

(1) Based on an original idea from Lionel Olenga.
(2) Her name is a nod to the character of Grace Van Owen in L.A. Law.

 
See also:
 

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

THE MADAME BLANC MYSTERIES - SERIES 1, EPISODE 1 TO 3 (CHANNEL 5/ACORN TV)

[FAVOURITE OF THE YEAR] An English antiques dealer becomes an amateur sleuth in the south of France after the suspicious death of her husband.

The bottom line: À savourer sans modération.
 
The Madame Blanc Mysteries (formerly The Reluctant Madame Blanc) is a  6 x 60-minute mystery comedy-drama which premiered last month in the U.K. on Channel 5 and started in the U.S. this week on the SVOD service Acorn TV. The series was created by actress and television presenter Sally Lindsay, whose resume includes Still Open All Hours, Mount Pleasant, Scott & Bailey and Coronation Street. In The Madame Blanc Mysteries, she also stars as Jean White, who runs a successful antiques business in England with her husband Rory. Jean's life is turned upside down when he dies in a car crash on his way home from Sainte Victoire, a little town in southern France known as an antiques hub. She learns from her sollicitor that all of their money has disappeared and their shop will be repossessed.

Luckily, Jean still owns is a cottage they bought in Sainte Victoire. Rory was supposed to bring back a very expensive ring but it wasn't in his personal effects found on the scene of the accident so she travels to France in search of explanations. André Caron, head of the Sainte Victoire gendarmerie, knows nothing about the ring. Worse, Rory was often seen with a woman and everyone thought she was his wife. Jean White suspects her husband's death wasn't accidental so she starts her own investigation amongst the colourful Franco-British denizens of Sainte Victoire. The "other woman" turns out to be a dangerous adversary but Jean is helped by Dominic "Dom" Hayes, a friendly taxi driver. What happened to Rory and the disappearance of the ring are not the only mysteries she has to solve.
 
Directed by Dermot Boyd (The Worst Witch), The Madame Blanc Mysteries was written by Sally Lindsay with actress Sue Vincent (Mount Pleasant). In the series Vincent plays garage owner Gloria. Dom Hayes is played by Steve Edge (Starlings). The both iconic Sue Holderness (Only Fools and Horses) and Robin Askwith (the Confessions films, The Canterbury Tales, If....) play wife and husband Judith and Jeremy Lloyd-James, who live in their family chateau. Alex Gaumond, a Canadian actor and singer who starred in several West End musicals, is Gendarme André Caron. The other regulars are Narayan Hecter as Gloria's son Xavier, Margeaux Lampley (Céline), Aonghus Weber (Niall), Alaïs Lawson (Claudette Hayes),  Jacqueline Berces (Gendarme Richard), Félicité Du Jeu (Section de recherches, Waking the Dead) as Adele, Djinda Kane (Simone), Sanchia McCormack (Charlie) and Olivia Caffrey as Barbara.
 
In the second episode, Jean White helps an elderly woman whose mother and brother were taken by the Nazis during World War II. She has an old book containing a riddle that could lead to a treasure. Meanwhile, Sainte Victoire welcomes the producer of a TV programme called A New Life in France. Natasha Cashman (Détectives) and François-Eric Gendron (Avocats et associés, Le Proc) are in the guest cast. The 1980s themed 35th wedding anniversary party of Judith and Jeremy goes wrong in the third episode. Comedy legend Paul Chuckle guest stars as Gloria's dad Trevor. With its excellent detective stories, a riveting series arc and a cast of quality, The Madame Blanc Mysteries is a must see for fans of mystery/detective dramas.
 
The deliciously Vigata-esque (1) Sainte Victoire is definitely in the same alternate reality as Saint Marie (Death in Paradise) and as fictional. The Madame Blanc Mysteries was actually filmed in Malta and Gozo and the locations are truly gorgeous. The very good music is by Hague & White aka Chris Hague, Joel White and Steve White (the husband of Sally Lindsay). The beautiful title song is called Passing Through and the song heard at the beginning of the first episode is Loin by Louise Courtois. The Madame Blanc Mysteries is produced by Clapperboard Studios and Saffron Cherry Productions (2) for Channel 5 and Acorn TV. Mike Benson, Sally Lindsay and Caroline Roberts-Cherry exec produce. Produced by Andy Morgan.
 
Zlatina Rankova is the line producer. Vanessa Attard is the production coordinator. Cinematography by Sean Van Hales. Editing by Roy Demery. Costumes designed by John Krausa. Produced with the support of the Government of Malta via the Malta Film Commission and the support of incentives for the Film industry provided by the Governement of Ireland.
 
(1) Vigàta is the town of Il commissario Montalbano
(2) Sally Lindsay is the creative director of the company.
 

Monday, 18 October 2021

MAGELLAN (COMMISSAIRE MAGELLAN): MORTEL REFRAIN (FRANCE 3)

The beloved French mystery series Commissaire Magellan comes to an end with its 38th episode.
 
Created by Laurent Mondy (Les Cordier, juge et flic), Commissaire Magellan was launched on pubcaster France 3 in 2009. Produced by Jean Luc Azoulay's JLA Productions with France Télévisions (and 13ème Rue) and set in the fictional northern town of Saignac, it stars Jacques Spiesser as Commissaire Simon Magellan. Selma Kouchy plays Lieutenant Selma Berrayah, his deputy. The other regulars are Nathalie Besançon as Magellan's companion Florence Higel (a journalist for the local paper La Sentinelle), Franz Lang as Simon's nephew Ludo and Marie de Stefano as Cordelia (the commissaire's younger daughter).
 
Commissaire Magellan crossed over twice (in 2016 and 2018) with Mongeville, another hit of the channel. Jacques Spiesser is brilliant as the debonair detective in those old school whodunnits, built according to a proven formula, which deliver what the fans like and expect. In many respects, this  heir to Les cinq dernières minutes, Navarro (a production of Jean-Luc Azoulay) or even Derrick (1) is France's answer to Midsomer Murders. In February 2021, Mongeville and Commissaire Magellan were officially axed by France 3 in spite of their healthy ratings (even in repeats). Written by Anton Voyl (2) and directed by Stéphane Kopecky (Joséphine, ange gardien),  Mortel refrain was filmed between October and November 2020 in the Département du Nord.

Mathieu Deschamps, a singer famous 15 years ago, prepares his return with a new album and a tour when he's killed in a recording studio. Commissaire Magellan and Lieutenant Berrayah investigate in the victim's entourage, starting with his wife, his stepdaughter and his producer.  It's Simon's birthday soon and Paul Gavrillac, his longtime friend, arrives at his house without warning. He's quickly followed by Barbara, Magellan's ex-wife, who didn't warn either. Both are depressed for the same reason. The plot of Mortel refrain looks like it has been done a gazillion times but at least Jacques Spiesser and his character make a proper goodbye, subtle and elegant. 
 
Series favourites Bernard Alane (Paul) and Agnès Soral (Barbara) provide the highlights of this episode with Franz Lang. The guest cast includes Anne Caillon (Demain nous appartient) as Elsa Deschamps and Jean-Pierre Michaël (Ici Tout Commence, R.I.S. Police Scientifique) as David Gordon. Also with Avy Marciano (Stéphane Larrieux), Éric Boucher (Mathieu Deschamps), Julien Crampon (Corentin), Bertille Chabert (Juliette), etc. Produced by Richard Berkowitz. Exec produced by Olivier Guedj. Jean-Marie Aumont is the production manager for JLA. Elizabeth Bonnay is the production manager for France Télévisions. Music by Frédéric Porte. Cinematography by Jonny Semeco. Commissaire Magellan is available in the U.S. and Canada on SVOD service MHz Choice under the title Magellan
 
(1) Not to mention, Les Cordier, juge et flic (naturally).   
(2) Most probably a pseudonym (a reference to La Disparition, the novel by Georges Perec). Thomas Luntz is credited as the writer in the press release which announced the filming of this episode.