Thursday, 28 January 2016


[Spoiler-Free] A very special episode with a great Danny John-Jules.
Officer Dwayne Myers (Danny John-Jules) attends the funeral of his old mentor, the popular barber Cedrik Verga. Shortly after the cremation of the body, Dwayne receives a text from Cedrik claiming: "I was murdered." The thing is Cedrik apparently died of natural causes and his phone was in the coffin («  It's an island thing. »)

DI Humphrey Goodman (Kris Marshall), DS Florence Cassell (Joséphine Jobert) and Officer J.P. Hooper (Tobi Bakare) help their colleague and friend in his search for the truth amongst childhood pals of the defunct. A missing pillowcase, a death during a hurricane 45 years ago and the "Myth of Mont Clair" are the keys to solve the mystery of this message from beyond the grave.

« I'm scared. I've looked up to these men my whole life and I'm starting to wonder if I've got it all wrong. »

This episode is the first written by Emma Goodwin (Casualty) for Death in Paradise. Her bold departure from the format is a hit, highlighted by an emotional performance from Danny John-Jules, a splendid direction by Audrey Cooke and the score by Magnus Fiennes. Don Warrington shows a tactful side of Commissioner Patterson (« All I can ask is... if feathers are to be ruffled, that you'll ruffle them as delicately as possible. »)

Kris Marshall successfully adjusts his character to the gravity of the story though humour is not completely absent (« JP, you're the closest thing we have to a teenage boy. ») Tony Armatrading, Burt Caesar, Joan Hooley, Nimmy March, Gary McDonald and Trevor A. Toussaint are the very competent guest actors of this episode. Oh, Humphrey cooks.

Death in Paradise is produced by Red Planet Pictures for the BBC. Yvonne Francas is the producer. Series creator Robert Thorogood is the co-executive producer. Tony Jordan and Tim Key exec produce. Produced with the support of the Region of Guadeloupe and Film Commission of Guadeloupe.

Next week: Humphrey's most favourite aunt comes to Saint Marie. The pitch of the fifth episode says it all, looking forward to it.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016


[Spoiler-Free] At last! Someone on this series remembered how to make a decent episode.

« I want to ride my bicycle. I want to ride it where I like. » (Queen, Bicycle Race)

Last week's episode was great with all those celebs, Ant & Dec... Oh wait, actually there was no Midsomer Murders on ITV last wednesday because of the National Television Awards. Now Series 18 returns for its third episode, written by Chris Murray and directed by Rob Evans. Previously Murray killed people with a roulette wheel in the opener of the 17th series and wrote the 2013 Christmas episode.

« Tell me. How did Greg Eddon do in the race?
- He won it. »

A professional cycle road race comes to the Midsomer village of Burwood Mantle. Greg Eddon, the race winner, warms down when he's murdered by someone who puts a spanner in his rear wheel to throw him off his bike. DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) and DS Charlie Nelson (Gwilym Lee) investigate, assisted by forensic pathologist Dr Kam Karimore (Manjinder Virk)

Rivalry is everywhere: on the road, within one of the teams and between two teams. Even (in a much nicer way) between John and Sarah Barnaby (Fiona Dolman), for the first word of Baby Betty, and between Charlie and Kam. An environmental activist is opposed to the race and someone receives a threatening package with a cow's heart (plus a note).  Another cyclist is murdered.

John, Sarah, Charlie and Kam go to a pub quiz and thankfully nobody is killed during the competition. Breaking The Chain makes a good use of professional cycling as a backdrop for the Midsomer routine. It brings back a little "nastiness" to the murdering habits of the county inhabitants, though it's both in shadow play and off-camera (« We get the picture, Kam. ») And for once in this 18th series, the dog and the baby are not the only members of the regular cast who seem awake.

The excellent English actor Joe McGann, who plays Jez Oliver, is well-known in the UK for his role in the ITV sitcom The Upper Hand (1990-1996), the British remake of the American sitcom Who's the Boss? (1984-1992). French actor Edward Akrout (Mr Selfridge, The Borgias) brings a touch of class and élégance to Midsomer County this week. The solid guest cast also includes Hari Dhillon (Holby City), Richard Graham, Tessa Peake-Jones (Unforgotten, Grantchester), Derek Ridell (Happy Valley), Olivia Vinall, etc.

Edward Akrout is not only an actor, he's an artist too. The official Twitter account of Midsomer Murders gives amusing and interesting Behind-the-scenes trivia during each episode. (An interview with Edward Akrout)


El Hotel de los Secretos the Mexican series/telenovela adaptation of the Spanish mystery drama Grand Hotel (Gran Hotel, 2011-2013), started this week on Univision.

The first of the 80 one-hour episodes (1) was aired on Monday and El Hotel de los Secretos is really impressive. This production of Roberto Gómez Fernández for Televisa based on the creation of Ramón Campos and Gema R. Neira (for Bambu Producciones and Atresmedia), is very ambitious. The sets are lavish and the locations are superb. It's also, for now, respectful to the original even if there are some changes because of the format and the local audience.

The cast is excellent. Irene Azuela and Erick Elías are great choices for the Mexican Alicia Alarcón (now called Isabel Alarcón) and Julio Olmedo. Diana Bracho is an amazing Doña Teresa de Alarcón. Daniela Romo plays Doña Angela. Diego Murquia becomes Diego Montejo and he's portrayed by Jorge Poza. Carlos Rivera is stunningly convincing as Andrés Salinas (Andrés Cernuda in Spain) and fans of Gran Hotel will recognize Sofía Alarcón and Alfredo Vergara, now performed by Dominika Paleta and Alejandro de la Madrid.

Javier Alarcón is now Felipe Alarcón and he's played by Pablo Cruz-Guerrero. Queta Lavat is Señora Limantour ("Lady" in Grand Hotel). We particularly like the new Inspector Horacio Ayala/Agent Hernando, Detective Serapio Ayala (the incredible Jesús Ochoa) and Agente Dagoberto Suárez (Eduardo España). There's also Ilse Salas (Belén García/Belén Martín in GH), Luis Couturier (Benjamín Nieto), Ximena Herrera (Cristina Olmedo), etc.

El Hotel de los Secretos is set in 1908 and centered on Julio Olmedo, a smart and dashing young man of modest origin. Julio becomes a waiter at the prestigious Gran Hotel of San Cristóbal to discover what happened to her sister, who worked there as a maid before she disappeared. He gets assistance of his new colleague Andrés and he convinces Isabel, the ravishing youngest daughter of the owner of the establishment, to join his search.

For those who love Gran Hotel it's interesting to compare (2), especially if you know the Italian adaptation aired on pubcaster Rai 1 last autumn. Most regrettably, it seems that RAI doesn't want a second series of Grand Hotel in spite of brilliant ratings and the enthusiasm of its fans. Televisa USA is preparing an English-language version with Lantica Media at the Pinewood Dominican Republic Studios.

French fans of the original Grand Hotel can enjoy the complete series on DVD from Koba Films. Last month Koba released the second half of the third and final series as "Grand Hôtel - Saison 5".

(1) Univision is trying out a shorter form of telenovelas: 80 episodes instead of around 200. And El Hotel de los Secretos is closer to a series.
(2) For example, Maite Ribelles, a regular character from the third series of Grand Hotel already appears in the premiere. She's now called Matilde Salaberri and she's played by Regina Blandón.

You can find reviews of the Italian and Spanish versions of Grand Hotel on this blog.

Monday, 25 January 2016


[Possible minor spoilers] The X-Files, one of the most popular and influential American television series of the 1990s, returned yesterday on American network Fox (with its original stars David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson and Mitch Pileggi) for a limited six-episode run. 
Created by Chris Carter, sci-fi/horror/procedural drama The X-Files aired from 1993 to 2002 for 9 seasons (202 episodes) on Fox. It starred David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, two FBI special agents charged with what the bureau called "X-Files", cases that defied conventional explanations and often dealt with paranormal. Mulder believed in aliens and paranormal, whereas Scully was (initially) a skeptic. Mitch Pileggi played their boss, Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi). Their frequent antagonist, simply known as The Cigarette Smoking Man, was portrayed by Canadian actor William B. Davis. The X-Files was divided between its "mythology" (a series-spanning story arc) and "Monster of the week" episodes.

The series spawned two feature films, in 1998 and 2008, and The Lone Gunmen, a short-lived spin-off aired on Fox in 2001. Beyond their talented contribution to a pop culture phenomenon, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson and Mitch Pileggi kept working on prominent projects. The versatile Duchovny played Hank Moody in Californication (2007-2014) and he's Sam Hodiak in Aquarius on NBC since 2015. Anderson moved to London and became one of the classiest actresses of the British television industry while also working in US series like Hannibal. Pileggi played in Stargate Atlantis, Sons of Anarchy and in the revival of Dallas. Since The X-Files and besides his important work for stage in Canada, William B. Davis appeared in shows like Stargate SG-1, Supernatural or Continuum.

« But now people only laugh, and only Roswell is remembered. But we must ask ourselves. Are they really a hoax? Are we truly alone? Or are we being lied to? »

My Struggle, the opener of this new mini-series, is written and directed by Chris Carter. A three-minute crash course on The X-Files by Fox Mulder himself precedes the unchanged intro and the famous theme by Mark Snow. This first hour brings back the characters and relaunches the mythology in an era of internet social networks and video platforms where everybody can be a conspiracy theorist. « My life's become a punchline, » says Mulder to Scully.

The trigger of their reunion is a conservative internet talk show host doubling as a well-informed conspiracy theorist named Tad O'Malley (excellent Joel McHale). The man needs the expertise of the duo about something (right out of X-Men) and someone (Annet Mahendru) related to "the most evil conspiration the world has ever known". Mulder has a discussion with his former boss, Walter Skinner, and later he meets with an old man (Rance Howard) at the National Mall in Washington DC. Towards the end of the episode, things accelerate in the pure X-Files tradition and a bit of typical cruel irony. Then a familiar shadowy and dangerous figure reappears.

At some point Chris Carter should really take a breath to avoid drowning in his own conspiracy (the heavy use of news clips and headlines doesn't help). Although the post-9/11 update of the mythology is relevant. Past the undeniable pleasure to watch David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi (and a certain guest star) back in their respective roles, My Struggle allows to presume that everything we liked in the "old" X-Files will be in the mini-series. So it's a welcome return.  

The X-Files is produced by 20th Century Fox Television in association with Chris Carter's Ten Thirteen Productions. M6 will air it in France. It was the French home of the original series.

Friday, 22 January 2016


Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee teams up with Carnival Films (Downton Abbey) and Sky for his "first ever UK drama". Co-created by Neal Biswas (The Take), Stan Lee's Lucky Man stars James Nesbitt (The Missing) as a down on his luck, flawed charmer cop whose life changes when he's given a strange bracelet. 

The  10 x one-hour series started this week on Sky 1 and, past the inevitable excitement based on Lee's name, the first episode of this crime drama with a twist proves to be promising, stylish and entertaining. It's also always pleasant when James Nesbitt is in top shape.
The Irish actor plays Harry Clayton, a London homicide Detective Inspector with a gambling addiction who lost his family home during a poker game. His lawyer wife, Anna (Eve Best), left him with their daughter and he owes big money to Chinese casino boss Freddie Lau (Kenneth Tsang). During another bad evening at Freddie's establishment, Harry Clayton meets the beautiful and enigmatic Eve (Sienna Guillory). Her presence seems to bring him an unexpected good fortune at roulette and they spend the night together. The morning after, she's gone and Harry wakes up with a mysterious bronze bracelet clamped around his left wrist.

Now he can pay off Freddie and he avoids an accident while driving. Later, Lau is found dead right after Harry texted him about the money. Clayton's clever and loyal partner DS Suri Chohan (Amra Karan) covers him when he has to investigate on the case which he's involved in. Rich Clayton (Stephen Hagan), an antique dealer and Harry Clayton's half-brother, cannot identify the bracelet. Could it be Harry's lucky charm? Lau's murder and the death of a stripper are linked. Freddie's daughter Lily Anne (Jing Lusi) wants her father's empire and Harry chases a suspect on the Thames. He needs all of his new luck because his boss has him in his sights, one of his colleagues hates him and someone who was promised the bracelet wants it by any means.

Stan Lee appears in the episode (as himself) and there are comic book panels in the cool title sequence designed by Peter Anderson Studio (Unforgotten, Partners in Crime) to illustrate a song written and performed by Corinne Bailey Rae. Nevertheless, you can keep holding out for a superhero and enjoy the moderately supernatural tribulations of a likeable anti-hero. The slick style of More Yang Than Yin, written by Neil Biswas and directed by Andy De Emmony, reminds (in some respects) of Hustle and Life on Mars. And in the past Carnival Films produced shows like Crime Traveller and Bugs.

The cast is top-notch. Alongside those already mentioned there's Darren Boyd, comedian/actor Omid Djalili, Burn Gorman (recently seen in And Then They Were None) and Steven Mackintosh as Harry's boss Detective Superintendent Alistair Winter. Steven Thompson plays Kevin Grey and Yuri Becker is played by Joseph Gatt. Peter Guiness drops by in the opening scene as financier Vincent Lermontov before the character drops dead. The London locations are amazingly filmed right from the start to the Bondian Thames boat chase. We'll see if the concept can resist to 9 other episodes after this entertaining debut.

Stan Lee's Lucky Man is produced by Stan Lee's Pow! Entertainment and Carnival Films with Sky. Stan Lee and Gill Champion are the co-executive producers for Pow! Entertainment. Neil Biswas is co-executive producer. Anne Mensah and Beverley Booker are the executive producers for Sky. Gareth Neame is the executive producer for Carnival. Richard Fell exec produces. Chris Clough is the producer. John Pardue (And Then They Were None, An Adventure in Space and Time) is the cinematographer. Music composed by Nick Green (The Bletchley Circle). NBC Universal, owner of Carnival, distributes globally.

Thursday, 21 January 2016


[Spoiler-Free] A weak, forgettable episode. Maybe we needed some rest after two weeks of absolute brilliance.

Zoe Mackay, a young model, is strangled during a fashion show of designer Nelson Benedict at the Paradise Beach Hotel. Why was she holding a stocking?  

DI Goodman (Kris Marshall) asks Florence (Joséphine Jobert) for some advices on meeting women. Dwayne (Danny John-Jules) wears cologne and J.P. (Tobi Bakare) went to school with one of the models, Rosey Fabrice. Humphrey tries to tell a joke about a pterodactyl to Catherine (Élizabeth Bourgine).

This week's happy winners of a trip to Guadeloupe (aka "The guest cast") are Jason Barnett, Hannah Britland, Fola Evans-Akingbola, Elarica Johnson, Paul Nicholls and Heida Reed. Death in Paradise is produced by Red Planet Pictures for the BBC. Yvonne Francas is the producer.

Series creator Robert Thorogood is the co-executive producer. Tony Jordan and Tim Key exec produce. Musique composed by Magnus Fiennes. Produced with the support of the Region of Guadeloupe and Film Commission of Guadeloupe. Episode written by Tom Higgins and directed by Audrey Cooke.


[Spoiler-Free] Series 2 of Bajo Sospecha, the hit Spanish crime/mystery drama, started in a promising way last week on private channel Antena 3

It gets even better with the second episode of this new case.
Isabel Freire, head nurse at the Hospital Policlínico Montalbán (a nod to Manuel Vázquez Montalbán?) is kidnapped in the car park of the hospital and later found dead. There could be a link between this murder and the disappearance of Catherine Le Monnier, daughter of a French politician and a Spanish woman, who was completing her medical residency at the hospital. Undercover cop Victor (Yon González) is sent there by Commissioner Casas (Lluís Homar) as a nurse in order to find out who killed Isabel and what happened to Catherine. He must work in conjunction with an old acquaintance as well as with French detectives.  

Another woman, psychiatrist at the Montalbán hospital, disappears. The team arrests a suspect. Adela Valcárcel, the hospital manager, destroys a possible evidence. The first series of Bajo Sospecha was lazily nicknamed "Broadchurch in Spain" (1). Bajo Sospecha 2 (10 x 70-minute instead of 8 x 70-minute for Series 1) confirms that the drama is rather a worthy successor to the beloved mystery drama Grand Hotel (Gran Hotel), created like Bajo Sospecha by Ramón Campos and Gema R. Neira for Bambú, the same prodco. Once again the excellent Yon González, who played Julio in Gran Hotel, investigates in a place full of secrets, mysteries and lies. 

This similarity is reinforced by two other ex-regulars of Grand Hotel in the cast: the talented Lluis Homar (Cisneros in the third series of GH) and, this year, the great Concha Velasco as "Doña Adela" (which sounds like "Doña Angela"). Another common feature is the presence of a cop character who'd deserve its own spin-off. In Grand Hotel it was Inspector Ayala (with of course his deputy Hernando), in Bajo Sospecha it's Rafael Vidal - played by Vicente Romero

Sophie Leduc is performed by Mar Sodupe (La famille Bélier), a French actress born in Spain. Alain Juillard is played by the impressive French actor Hugo Becker (A Very Secret Service, Gossip Girl). Gonzalo de Castro, who plays Miguel Manrique, was Mateo Sancristóbal in Doctor Mateo (2009-2011), the Spanish Doc Martin. Other guest actors include Luisa Martin (Lidia Abad), Olivia Molina (Belén Yagüe), Unax Ugalde (Daniel Legarra), etc...

Bajo Sospecha is produced by Bambú Producciones, the company also behind Velvet, for Atresmedia Televisisión. Ramón Campos and Teresa Fernández-Valdés are the producers. Ramón Campos, Teresa Fernández-Valdés and Carlos Portela exec produce. It is distributed by Beta Film. Music composed by Federico Jusid.

(1) See

See also:

Monday, 18 January 2016


Wolf Hall, the acclaimed six-part BBC drama based on Hilary Mantel’s historical novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, arrives this thursday in France and Germany on Franco-German channel Arte.
Adapted by playwright and scriptwriter Peter Straughan (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), Wolf Hall is directed by Peter Kosminsky (The Promise). The cast (over 100 characters) is headed by Mark Rylance (The Other Boleyn Girl) and Damian Lewis (Homeland).

Some of the key roles are played by Bernard Hill, Claire Foy (Going Postal, Little Dorrit), Anton Lesser (Game of Thrones, Endeavour), Mark Gatiss (Sherlock), French actor/director Mathieu Amalric (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Joanne Whalley, Jonathan Pryce, Jessica Raine (Call the Midwife), etc...

Wolf Hall is co-produced by Company Pictures and the US company Playground Entertainment (The White Queen, Dancing On The Edge) for the BBC and Masterpiece, in association with BBC Worldwide, Altus Media and Prescience. It is without a doubt a great piece of television. Except that Arte will show it in two weeks instead of six: three episodes this week and three episodes on thursday 28! Which is highly regrettable.

You can find our 2015 review of the first episode here:

Thursday, 14 January 2016


[Spoiler-Free] A sparkling cyanide episode particularly hilarious from a French perspective.

« We have a bit of a problem. »

The outgoing governor of Saint Marie dies poisoned at her leaving party in the gardens of Government House after drinking a glass of champagne served by Commissioner Patterson (Don Warrington). DI Goodman (Kris Marshall) searches for the "future Mrs Humphrey" on a dating website under the guidance of Dwayne (Danny John-Jules) when he's interrupted by a phone call from his superior. They join Florence (Joséphine Jobert) and J.P. (Tobi Bakare) on the crime scene. Quite embarrassed, the commissioner is excluded from the investigation.

« "You can't trust the French as far as you can throw them. »

The team finds out that Spinner's Rock, an inhabited rock between Saint Marie and Saint Robert, could be a motive for the governor's death. The place is owned by the British and claimed by the French (« The correct title is La Roche de la République. ») Behind the island diplomacy lies blackmail, bugging and treason. Nothing is what it seems, even the murder, and Humphrey needs "a highly technical piece of cutting edge kit". Writer Dan Muirden's first Death in Paradise is a coup de maître. His resume includes Father Brown, The Coroner and New Tricks but in the past he also worked as a diplomat!

« You British complain about having lost your identity in the world. Well, I disagree. You're just as hypocritical as you ever were. »

Muirden's clever and fun script is served by a delightful performance from French actor Valéry Schatz as the vaping François Tromeur, "President of the General Council of Saint Robert". Tromeur is arrogant, untrustworthy and... Parisian (Selwyn dixit). The regular cast is at its best. Lucy Cohu drops by on Saint Marie as Governor Caroline Bamber. Adetomiwa Edun plays her private secretary Ellery Wallace (which sounds like "Ellery Queen" and "Edgar Wallace"). Charlotte Hope and Nigel Lindsay are the other guest actors.

Catherine Bordey is played by Élizabeth Bourgine. Episode directed by Edward Bennett. Death in Paradise is produced by Red Planet Pictures for the BBC. Yvonne Francas is the producer. Series creator Robert Thorogood is the co-executive producer. Tony Jordan and Tim Key exec produce. Musique composed by Magnus Fiennes.!valry-schatz/c1o2y (An interview with the supremely talented Don Warrington).

Wednesday, 13 January 2016


[Spoiler-Free] Felicity Ford, a forest ranger, is blinded by mysterious lights while driving by night between Midsomer Stanton and Cooper Hill. The next morning her car is found abandoned at the roadside. 

The body of Felicity is discovered nearby, in a sort of black pod and covered with a dark substance.

The bottom line: Too bad that Mulder and Scully weren't available.

The 18th series of Midsomer Murders, the venerable ITV detective drama, started last week with the mother of all the false good ideas. At least The Incident at Cooper Hill, written by Paul Logue and directed by Renny Rye, brings back murder in Midsomer County. This week DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon, more placid than ever) and DS Charlie Nelson (Gwilym Lee) are in pure X-Files territory. Something comes from the sky with a rush of wind and blinding lights to cover people with some black slime that even Dr Kam Karimore (Manjinder Virk), the new forensic pathologist, can't identify.

Barnaby and Nelson investigate in the village of Cooper Hill, a famous UFO hotspot. It's also a place where military secrecy meets family secrets and secret love stories. Oh, it's John's birthday. UFOs and their hunters would have been solid gold for Midsomer Murders during the Tom Barnaby era or when his cousin arrived. Unfortunately, the ITV stalwart lost its spark and wit a couple of series ago and here it shows again. Only Renny Rye's direction and the guest cast save The Incident at Cooper Hill.

Midsomer regular helmer Rye nails it right from the pre-credit sequence with the nightly scenes of the episode and in the bunker. English actor Pip Torrens delivers an impressive performance as Group Captain Jeremy Ford. Alison Steadman (Abigail Tonev) and Steve Oram (Nathan Tonev) manage to make the last 30 minutes watchable. Michelle Collins, Steve Evets, Steve Toussaint and Sîan Webber are the other guest actors. Fiona Dolman plays Sarah Barnaby.

Midsomer Murders is produced by Bentley Productions Ltd, an All3Media company, for ITV. Phil Hunter is the producer. Jo Wright exec produces. Music composed by Jim Parker.


According to Broadcast, the BBC is working on its next Agatha Christie adaptation.
Following the success of the three-part version of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None on BBC One in December, the corporation is developing an adaptation of her short story The Witness for the Prosecution with the same producer and screenwriter, Mammoth Screen and Sarah Phelps.

In 2014 the BBC announced it would be the new TV home of Agatha Christie in the UK for the 125th anniversary of her birth, thanks to a major deal with her estate. Their first commissions were the excellent Partners in Crime (regrettably axed) and the adaptation of And Then There Were None.

Last June, ITV acquired Mammoth Screen.

See also: (Our opinion about And Then There Were None). (Our review of Partners in Crime).


Spain, land of mystery and suspense...

- Bajo Sospecha (Antena 3, January 12). [Spoiler-Free] The second series of the hit Spanish crime/mystery drama (10 x 70-minute instead of 8 x 70-minute for Series 1) started this week. Produced by Bambú Producciones, the company behind Velvet and Grand Hotel (Gran Hotel), for Atresmedia Televisisión 

Isabel Freire, head nurse at the Hospital Policlínico Montalbán (a nod to Manuel Vázquez Montalbán?), is kidnapped in the car park of the hospital and later found dead elsewhere. Undercover cop Victor (Yon González) is sent by Commissioner Casas (Lluís Homar) to the Montalbán hospital as a nurse in order to find out who killed her. There seem to be a link between this murder and the disappearance of Catherine Le Monnier, daughter of a French politician and a Spanish woman, three weeks ago. Victor must investigate in conjunction with new (or not so new) colleagues.

The first series was sold as "Broadchurch in Spain" (1), whereas it was rather the worthy successor to the beloved mystery drama Grand Hotel. The premiere episode of this new case of Bajo Sospecha doesn't disappoint. The great Concha Velasco (Ángela in Gran Hotel) plays Adela Valcárcel. Gonzalo de Castro (Miguel Manrique) was Mateo Sancristóbal in Doctor Mateo (2009-2011), the Spanish Doc Martin. Alain Juillard is performed by French actor Hugo Becker (A Very Secret Service, Gossip Girl).

Music composed once again by Federico Jusid. Created by Ramón Campos and Gema R. Neira (Grand Hotel). Produced by Ramón Campos and Teresa Fernández-Valdés. Ramón Campos, Teresa Fernández-Valdés and Carlos Portela exec produce. Bajo Sospecha is distributed by Beta Film.

(1) See 

Tuesday, 12 January 2016


Received a few things from Koba Films last month so here is a list of our next DVD reviews:

- Grand Hôtel 5 ("Grand Hôtel - Saison 5"). Released last week, actually the second half of the third and final series of Grand Hotel.

- La Dynastie Carey-Lewis - Nancherrow (Nancherrow). Available next month. The 1999 two-part sequel of Coming Home (1998).

- Femmes & filles (Wives and Daughters, 1999). Adapted from Elizabeth Gaskell (North & South).

- Bonne nuit Monsieur Tom! (Goodnight, Mister Tom, 1998). Starring the great John Thaw.

Not necessarily in that order.

Thursday, 7 January 2016


[Spoiler-Free] The fifth series of Death in Paradise, the globally popular feel-good detective drama, premiered this thursday on BBC One with a brilliant episode penned by series creator Robert Thorogood and directed by Edward Bennett.

Set on the fictional Caribbean island of Saint Marie and actually filmed in the French overseas region of Guadeloupe, Death in Paradise stars Kris Marshall as DI Humphrey Goodman, Danny John-Jules (Officer Dwayne Myers), Joséphine Jobert (DS Florence Cassell), Tobi Bakare (Officer J.P. Hooper), Élizabeth Bourgine (Catherine Bordey) and Don Warrington as Commissioner Selwyn Patterson.

« Ahoy there! » 

A millionaire marine biologist is murdered in the middle of the sea, alone on his boat. The only suspects were all underwater at the time, studying the coral reef. And the only clue is a toy soldier. Commissioner Patterson's sole worry is to reassure the members of the Saint Marie Yacht Club that there's no gang of pirates off the island coast to disturb the wealthy tourists. Incidentally, Humphrey has bought a "yacht"... well, rather an old boat. Much to the perplexity of Dwayne and the team.

J.P. and Dwayne confront their respective fears and Florence shows them that she has no weaknesses while chasing a suspect. A Duke of Wellington infantryman and the riddle of the two barbers help DI Goodman to crack the case. Every British actor will appear on the island at some point. This time it's the turn of Julian Ovenden (Downton Abbey), Emma Rigby (Prisoners Wives, Hollyoaks), Joshua Hill, Lloyd Owen and Neve McIntosh (Doctor Who).

Death in Paradise is produced by Tony Jordan's Red Planet Pictures for the BBC. Yvonne Francas (The Syndicate) is the producer. Robert Thorogood is the co-executive producer. Tony Jordan and Tim Key exec produce. Musique composed by Magnus Fiennes. Produced with the support of the Region of Guadeloupe and Film Commission of Guadeloupe.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016


[Spoiler-Free] Gregory Lancaster, 75, a wealthy landowner of Little Malton, dies at home from pneumonia. But when the undertakers arrive at Malton Hall his body has disappeared.

The bottom line: It's in the tree, it's (not) coming! 

Midsomer Murders is now so boring that someone steals dead bodies for one hour before something remotely interesting happens: a chainsaw stained with blood falling off a tree. The 18th series of the venerable ITV detective drama started this wednesday with the aptly titled Habeas Corpus, written by Rachel Cupperman & Sally Griffiths and directed by Alex Pillai.

DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) and DS Charlie Nelson (Gwilym Lee) work with a new forensic pathologist, Dr Kam Karimore (Manjinder Virk). Fans certainly appreciated the charming explanation given to the departure of Kate Wilding, played by Tamzin Malleson, including a photographic cameo of a former regular. The body of the Lancaster's nanny is stolen from the graveyard near the local church. Even Pink Ted, baby Betty Barnaby's favourite toy, goes missing!

Habeas Corpus goes a little more sinister in its second half but cannot match Cupperman and Griffiths's Death and the Divas (the 2013 Hammer episode) or even their Murder by Magic for Series 17. The guest cast is excellent: Helen Baxendale, Navin Chowdry, Emma Cunniffe, Alastair Mackenzie, Ciaran McMenamin, Clive Merrison and Diana Quick. Note the presence of Sarah Middleton, very good as the young undertaker assistant who seems right out of a Tim Burton movie. Fiona Dolman plays Sarah Barnaby.

This series has an extended run of 6 episodes (against 4 for the previous one). Let's hope the rest is better than this lacklustre premiere. Midsomer Murders is produced by Bentley Productions Ltd, an All3Media company, for ITV. Phil Hunter is the producer. Jo Wright exec produces. Music composed by Jim Parker.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016


Mathieu Kowalski, a professional poker player, receives a phone call from his twin brother Thomas Kowalski. Thomas, a Parisian cop, asks Mathieu to "replace" him for two or three days. Except this time it's more complicated than when they were teenagers as it seems the police captain got himself into big trouble.

Mathieu must use his player instinct to be convincing on a crime scene alongside his brother's partner Sybille Paoli. But also in the private life of his twin, with Thomas's ex-wife Mathilde and their son Lucas.

French private channel TF1 works to refresh its line-up of crime dramas. After Le Mystère du Lac and Une chance de trop (adapted from Harlan Coben's No Second Chance) last autumn, and the 2-part pilot of Contact in December, here comes Instinct. The 2 x 52-minute pilot (L'échange and Le secret de Julia) will be shown this Thursday on TF1. It stars Olivier Sitruk as Mathieu Kowalski and Capitaine Thomas "Kowa" Kowalski, Charlie Nune (Lieutenant Sybille Paoli), Léa Bosco (Mathilde), Guillaume Denaiffe (Lieutenant Guillaume Dantec), Alex Fondja (Lieutenant Jean-François Victor), Corto Paroux (Lucas Kowalski) and Arianne Agiagge (Pathologist). Micky Sébastian plays Commissaire Delphine Leroy.

Interestingly, Olivier Sitruk played twins in the excellent crime/comedy drama Jeff et Léo, flics et jumeaux (2004-2006) on M6. This time Sitruk only interacts with himself through the phone conversation between the Kowalskis at the start. Then, Thomas disappears and Mathieu exchanges his tux for his brother's suit to investigate with Paoli on the homicide of a psychiatrist. He quickly makes his marks because he's smart and instinctive, though Sybille begins to have doubts. She thinks his change of attitude has something to do with Gallien, his former partner, gone AWOL after a robbery. Commissaire Leroy tells "Thomas" that he's under scrutiny from Internal Affairs. Mathieu tries to contact his brother but the real Thomas is unreachable.

Written by Richard Berkowitz, Franck Ollivier and Nicolas Douay, the double pilot episode of Instinct works rather well in spite of a couple of clichés and a second part (the case of a murdered young woman) weaker than the first. The cast is excellent, starting with Olivier Sitruk. These days it looks like all the actresses in the channel's dramas have the soap Plus Belle La Vie (1) in their resume (here Charlie Nune and guest star Dounia Coesens). Some French viewers may recognize Guillaume Denaiffe from a few adverts. It's always nice to see Micky Sébastian, who was ousted three months ago from France 3's cold case drama Origines before the filming of its second season.

This pilot, directed by Marwen Abdallah, is enjoyable enough to wish more. The character of Mathieu is sympathetic, thanks mainly to Olivier Sitruk, and the Thomas Kowalski storyline shows many possibilities. Instinct is produced by Jean-Luc Azoulay's JLA Productions (Commissaire Magellan) with TF1, Be-FILMS, RTBF (Télévision Belge) and RTS Radio Télévision Suisse. Produced by Richard Berkowitz and Nicolas Douay. Bernard Paccalet exec produces. Music composed by Fabien Nataf.

(1) The French equivalent of EastEnders, aired by pubcaster France 3. 

See also: (The evolution of TF1's crime dramas - At 5'11", In French).

Saturday, 2 January 2016


But first allow me to wish you all the best for this new year.

- Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (BBC One). « And the scorpion replied: Because it is my nature. » Some weeks ago I wrote that this feature-length special looked interesting. And interesting it was, if not fascinating. They couldn't help to drown an almost perfect hour in 30 minutes of nonsensical self-satisfaction.

[Update - January 3] - War and Peace (BBC One). Episode 1 of a lavish and epic six-part series adapted from Leo Tolstoy's classic novel by the great Andrew Davies (Mr Selfridge, House of Cards, Little Dorrit, Pride and Prejudice). Starring Paul Dano, stunning as Pierre, Lily James, James Norton (who can showcase his talent better than in Grantchester), Rebecca Front, the ubiquitous Stephen Rea (also in Dickensian), the fabulous Gillian Anderson, etc. The classy War and Peace possesses everything you can expect from a BBC costume drama (it has shades of their Jane Austen adaptations).

Produced by BBC Cymru Wales, in association with The Weinstein Company, Simon Vaughan's Lookout Point and BBC Worldwide. My only (minor) reservation is that this episode could have done with a proper main title sequence. Directed by Tom Harper and produced by Julia Stannard. Music composed by Martin Phipps. The magnificent cinematography is by George Steel. Andrew Davies, Bethan Jones and Faith Penhale exec produce. Simon Vaughan is the executive producer for Lookout Point. Harvey Weinstein and Robert Walak are the executive producers for The Weinstein Company. Filmed in Lithuania, Latvia and Saint Petersburg.