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.