Thursday 30 November 2023


[Spoiler-free review] A stressed police captain teams up with a chilled-out  former cop in Panda. Singer, songwriter, musician and actor Julien Doré (1) and Ophélia Kolb (Tapie, Dix pour cent) star in this brilliant 6 x 52-minute French crime-comedy series which premieres tonight on TF1.

The bottom line: HPI in paradise.

Julien Doré is Victor "Panda" Pandaloni, a laidback pacifist and a vegan who's resistant to technology or even cars and likes to have his 15 hours of sleep in his hammock. He runs a small beach bar called Le Flamant Zen in a remote corner of the region of Camargue and raises his adopted teenager son. Panda's quiet life is disturbed when a young man named Léo Legendre asks for his help because he's chased by Captain Lola Vosquian (2) of the Brigade criminelle (Ophélia Kolb). Lola arrests them but Commissaire Messina informs her that Victor Pandaloni was once a gifted cop before he mysteriously left the service and vanished.

Stan, a young officer who's Lieutenant Pandaloni's #1 fan, welcomes back his hero. Panda doesn't share his enthusiasm, as he learns that he's still a member of the police force because he didn't officially resigned and Messina just put his friend on indefinite leave. The commissaire explains that Léo Legendre is suspected of the murder of a young woman found dead near him when he was unconscious on the yacht of a real estate entrepreneur. Panda thinks that Léo is innocent and he cannot resist to start his own investigation, though he remains haunted by the reason he left the police station. Soon, Panda and Lola reluctantly join forces. 

Created by Thomas Mansuy (Les Rivières pourpres, Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie) and Mathieu Legrand (Les Rivières pourpres, Astrid et Raphaëlle), Panda is based on an original idea by Simon McNabb for Dutch, a series project developed by Sphere Media. The episodes were penned by Thomas Mansuy, Mathieu Legrand, Bastien Dartois, Joseph Lantigny (Astrid et Raphaëlle) and Agathe Robilliard (Candice Renoir). Panda is a most impressive addition to the fiction line-up of TF1. Its style is reminiscent of HPI (the channel's ratings juggernaut since 2021) in an ambience pleasantly similar to Death in Paradise.  Julien Doré looks comfortable in his first important role (3) and his on-screen chemistry with the talented Ophélia Kolb is perfect. 

Actor, director and scriptwriter Gustave Kervern is excellent as Messina. Like Hélène Vincent, who plays Panda's friend and confidante Thérèse. Singer, YouTuber and actor Maxence Lapérouse is Stan, a character who could be a cousin of Gilles from HPI. The dialogues are amazing and the plots are well-crafted. After she's paired with Stan, Lola begs Messina to work with Panda on the case of a man murdered in the workshop of a painter practising polyamory. Victor accepts to be a cop again but under conditions. Mathis Bour plays Roman, Panda's son. Ariane is played by Laure Osseni. First episode guest starring Jean-Louis Garçon (Astrid et Raphaëlle) as Roman's teacher, Boris Baroux (Arthur Berthelot), Matthieu Rozé (Frédéric Berthelot), Théo Gerey (Léo), Rosie Boccardi (Manon), etc.

Second episode guest starring Vincent Heneine (Eliott), Nina Bouffier (Valentine), Christian Prat (Marcel), Anne Azoulay (Marina Simon), Nelly Lawson (Chloé), etc. Produced by Superprod Drama with TF1. Produced with the participation of RTL tvi, Be-Films and RTS - Radio Télévision Suisse. Filmed with the support of Région Occitanie. Nathalie Laurent, Clément Calvet et Jérémie Fajner are the producers. Music composed by Adrien Durand. Cinematography by Tristan Tortuyaux. Editing by Frédérique Olczak. Visuel effects by Autrechose. Titles by Mathieu Decarli and Olivier Marquezii for La Brigade du Titre (HPI). Episodes 1 and 2 written by Thomas Mansuy and Mathieu Legrand, directed by Nicolas Cuche (Les Bracelets Rouges). Episodes 3 to 6 helmed by Jérémy Mainguy. Distributed by Newen Connect.

(1) Julien Doré won the 2007 edition of Nouvelle Star, the French version of Pop Idol.
(2) The character is only credited as Lola. Her surname is given once in each of the first couple of episodes (spelling not specified).
(3) He previously appeared as himself in Dix pour cent and had roles in several films or shorts.

Thursday 23 November 2023


A retired crime journalist gets involved in the latest investigation of her son, a police commander.

The bottom line: The Chantal Ladesou Mysteries.

Le fil d'Ariane is a 2 x 52-minute crime-comedy pilot for a potential series created for TF1 by Clara Bourreau and Cécile Lugiez (both worked on Sam) and starring the popular comedian, actress and television/radio personality Chantal Ladesou. Written by Clara Bourreau, Cécile Lugiez and Charlène Galan (Profilage), it premiered on Belgian broadcaster La Une this month. Chantal Ladesou is Ariane Legrand, a crime journalist who behaves like a diva though her glory days are behind her. She loses the murder of a female influencer in Sète to a young colleague and she's pushed into retirement by her editor-in-chief.

Ariane Legrand doesn't take it well but the police detective in charge of the case in Sète happens to be her son, Commander Jacques Vidal. No matter that she hasn't seen him and her grandchildren for a long time, Ariane decides to move in with them in order to investigate on the death of the influencer and get her job back. Le fil d'Ariane is essentially Chantal Ladesou as her public persona in an episode of Simon Coleman, the crime-comedy from France 2 where a cop takes care of his sister's three children. The humour ranges from laborious to embarassing. Someone probably thought that the voice-over by the main character was a good idea but it's not.

Comedian and actor Florent Peyre plays Jacques. Pierre Deny (Demain nous appartient) appears as Jean-François. Appoline Kircher is played by Clémence Ansault, Chantal Ladesou's daughter. Also with Lina Ksantini (Camille Vidal), Léni Plouviez Bascop (Noé Vidal), singer and actress Philypa Phoenix (Balthazar) as Capucine Cissé, Tim Rousseau (Amaury Mercier), Alka Balbir (Antonia), etc. Produced by Elephant Story with TF1. Co-produced by AT-Production and RTBF (Télévision belge). Produced with the participation of RTS (Radio Télévision Suisse)Gaëlle Cholet, Charlotte Denaud and Guillaume Renouil are the producers. Music composed by Arno Alyvan. Cinematography by Philippe Lardon. Editing by Thierry Brunello. Distributed by Newen Connect, Le fil d'Ariane was filmed last june. Directed by Jason Roffé (Tandem).

Wednesday 1 November 2023


[Spoiler-free review] French channel TF1 is the happy home of HPI, the  ratings juggernaut crime-comedy series starring Audrey Fleurot. This month the private  broadcaster tries its luck with Master Crimes, a 6 x 52-minute crime/mystery drama from one the makers of HPI.

Comedian and actress Muriel Robin stars as Louise Arbus, a (mandatorily) nonconformist criminologist and unorthodox police consultant (of course). 

The Bottom line: B-.

Louise Arbus is a brilliant (the best of her time, we're told) though irritating university psychological criminology professor. Arbus used to work with the police until she started doubting about the guilt of Pierre Delaunay, a man sent to prison thanks to her expertise. Commissaire Oscar Rugasira asks Professor Arbus to join him on a crime scene where the murderer has written a sentence from one of her books on the body of his victim: "I'm waiting for the perfect killer". 

« Et ne m'interrompez plus jamais pendant un meurtre. » 

Louise accepts to collaborate with Captain Barbara Delandre, a no-nonsense police detective in charge of the investigation. She hires four of her students to assist her on the field: Samuel Cythere (a shy young man), headstrong/hacker Mia Delaunay (Pierre Delaunay's daughter), Boris Volodine (Arbus's best student) and influencer Valentine Vallée. Master Crimes is a creation of novelist and screenwriter Elsa Marpeau. In the past, she  imagined two of the quirkiest sleuths of pubcaster group France Télévisions for their eponymous hit series... Capitaine Marleau and Alexandra Ehle.

Elsa Marpeau wrote Episodes 1 and 2 with Franck Calderon, producer of Master Crimes with Sophie Exbrayat for UGC Fiction. UGC Fiction is a subsidiary of UGC Series like Itinéraire Productions, one of the prodcos behind HPI. Franck Calderon worked with Muriel Robin on Mon ange (2021), Le premier oublié (2019) and Jacqueline Sauvage, c'était lui ou moi (2018). Actress Anne Le Nen, who plays Captain Delandre, is the wife of Muriel Robin. She played Captain Léa Hippolyte in the  crime drama Antigone 34 (2012). Olivier Claverie (Downton Abbey 2, Avocats et Associés) is Commissaire Rugasiras.

« Il n'y a que les imbéciles qui sortent de leur zone de confort. »

When Master Crimes started in Belgium and Switzerland ahead of TF1, viewers quickly compared it to How To Get Away with Murder (2014-2020). The first episodes, a two-part story unlike the rest, rather feel like a a lite version of the Flemish series Professor T. (2015-2018). In fact, Elsa Marpeau devised TF1's adaptation of the latter (Prof T., 2016). It takes 90 minutes to introduce Arbus and her "Scooby Gang" (at the expense of Delandre and Rugasira) in a cliche-esque plot requiring a huge suspension of disbelief. At least, Muriel Robin has some good scenes. 

Master Crimes takes shape from the third episode, written by Manon Dillys (Fugueuse, Les Ombres Rouges) and Anthony Maugendre (Tandem). Past the Delaunay case and Barbara's interest for pathologist Théodore Belin, the plots of Episodes 3 to 6 wouldn't look out of place in HPI or another 52-minute crime drama from France. Master Crimes is watchable with a lot of indulgence and a bit of patience. The series relies heavily on the four students but Louise Arbus turns out to be a likeable character and Muriel Robin makes a successful entrance amongst the plethoric French TV investigators. 

Also with Victor Meutelet (Emily in Paris, Grand Hôtel) as Samuel Cythere, Astrid Roos (Mia Delaunay), Nordine Ganso (Boris Volodine), Thaïs Vauquières (Valentine Vallée), Michaël Cohen (Théodore Belin), Nicolas Briançon (Spiral) as Pierre Delaunay, Léon Durieux (Grégoire), Ronan Freud (Thomas Delandre), etc. Episodes 4 to 6 written by Manon Dillys, Anthony Maugendre, Charlotte Joulia (OPJ Pacifique Sud, Police de Caractères), Vincent Robert (Police de Caractères, Crimes parfaits), Marc Kressmann (Demain nous appartient, Candice Renoir), Virginie Parietti (Ici Tout Commence), Emmanuelle Michaux (Section de recherches), Coline Assous (Ici Tout Commence) and Fred Monard (Cassandre). 

Story arc by Manon Dillys. Series directed by Marwen Abdallah (Cassandre). Co-produced with TF1, Be-Films and RTBF (Télévision belge). With the participation of RTS Radio Télévision Suisse. Music by Yannis Dumoutiers (HPI). Cinematography by Kika Ungaro. Editing by Ludivine Essa and Stéphanie Gaurier. Main title design by Brett & Cie (HPI, Crimes parfaits). The filming of Master Crimes began in October 2022 in Paris and its suburbs (Sceaux, Suresnes, Villecresnes...) Les yeux grands fermés, a TV movie with Muriel Robin aired by TF1 last month, was watched by 3.73 million viewers (18.9%). Master Crimes will premiere in France on November 9th (two episodes per week). The series is distributed by Newen Connect.