Monday, 23 September 2019


[Swiss transmission order] French pubcaster France 3's detective drama Crimes parfaits is a "semi-anthology" where a murderer known from the start thinks he/she has committed the perfect crime but a detective (different in every couple of episodes) proves him/her wrong. 

It's the concept of the inverted detective story, popularized by Columbo though created in literature many years before the famous lieutenant.

France 3 is the home of Capitaine Marleau, the ratings juggernaut created by Elsa Marpeau and starring Corinne Masiero as an offbeat gendarme without a first name. Columbo is one of the acknowledged influences of the character. Coincidentally (or not), cousins to the eccentric female sleuth regularly pop up on the channel. Julie Depardieu stars as a whimsical pathologist in Alexandra Ehle, a series written by its creator... Elsa Marpeau. Before that, Crimes parfaits was launched in 2017 with a couple of episodes starring Isabelle Gélinas as Agnès (no last name), an unconventional police captain.


Agnès hates the GPS, cell phones, as well as high tech. She shares her life between two sympathetic men (perfectly aware of the situation). Enough to confuse Thibaud, her uptight and by-the-book lieutenant, played by Arthur Mazet. Later, Crimes parfaits introduced viewers to Marleau's newest relative: Police captain Louise Bonne (actress and humorist Julie Ferrier). Isabelle Gélinas and Arthur Mazet returned several times and now they're back again in Comme un froid entre nous and Au théâtre ce soir. But this time their characters have last names: Agnès Bertaud and Thibaud Demazière.

Both episodes were penned by Didier Le Pêcheur & Delphine Labouret. Daniel Marlin, the murderer of Comme un froid entre nous, owns a restaurant in a ski resort. He locks up Julien Beaufort, his employee, in the cold room and disguises the crime as a snowboard accident. Agnès and Thibaud are called by Colonel Yves Lachassagne, of the local Gendarmerie. Julien, alias Manuel Langlois, was actually a con man and a blackmailer. Marlin happens to be the brother-in-law of Colonel Lachassagne, whose family is very important in the region.

Humorist and actor Bruno Salomone (Mention Particulière) plays Daniel. Isabelle Gélinas and him starred in Fais pas ci, fais pas ça (2007-2017) and Comme un froid entre nous looks just like a pretext to film a reunion in a nice ski station (La Joue du Loup). The scenery is not enough to forget the painful dialogues and the clichés. Also with François Cottrelle (Yves Lachassagne), Julien Bodet (Julien), Géraldine Loup (Françoise), Christine Cardeur (Pathologist), etc. Directed by Philippe Bérenger (Nicolas Le Floch).


Helmed by Didier Le Pêcheur, Au théâtre ce soir guest stars the popular Bernard Le Coq (Une famille formidable) as a declining actor named Martial Rey. Rey coldly strangles Xavier Mallory, who was about to replace him as director of the Centre dramatique national de Marseille. He manages to have a solid gold alibi and frames a taxi driver who has a criminal record. Agnès, a huge fan of Martial, investigates with Thibaud while dealing with personal complications when she must live with her two "husbands" under the same roof. 

This episode is almost perfect, except for the Agatha Christie-esque stage resolution. Its title refers to Au théâtre ce soir (1966-1986), a famous French television programme. The writers imagined the résumé of Martial Rey: L'éclusier de Conflans, L'âne et M. le maire, À trois on saute or... Nonosse (directed by Didier Le Pêcheur!) Agnès even watches a VHS of the latter (1) from a very recognizable company. Max (Thomas Walch), the pathologist, knows everything about the victim's theatrical performances: La trilogie du silence, Anatomie de l'indifférence, La nuit céruléenne...

The intro of Clovis Masson's radio show sounds like the theme of Radioscopie (France Inter, 1968-1990) composed by Georges Delerue. The plot of Au théâtre ce soir is good. The humour, well dosed, is enjoyable. The main cast and the guest actors are excellent. Also starring Renaud Leymans (Clovis), Vanessa David (Anne Grandet), Franck Manzoni (Yann Grandet), Nicolas Sartous (Xavier Mallory), Frank Adrien (Philippe), Laurent Fernandez (Micha), etc. Co-produced by Éléphant Story and France Télévisions, with AT-Production and R.T.B.F. (Télévision belge).

Produced with the participation of RTS (Radio Télévision Suisse) and TV5 Monde. Guillaume Renouil and Gaëlle Cholet are the producers. Executive production by Pierre Gallo for Solune Production. Music and theme from Crimes parfaits composed by Jean-Pierre Taïeb. Cinematography by Pierre Milon (Comme un froid entre nous) and Eric Guichard (Au théâtre ce soir).

Not yet shown by France 3.

(1) "Le film aux 7 millions de spectateurs." 

Thursday, 19 September 2019


[Favourite of the Month] Commissaire Swan Laurence (Samuel Labarthe), Alice Avril (Blandine Bellavoir) and Marlène Leroy (Élodie Frenck) meet Divisionnaire Tricard's family. Tricard meets love. A dog meets the commissaire.

Rendez-vous avec la mort is adapted from Agatha Christie's novel Appointment with Death by scriptwriter Sylvie Simon. Commissaire divisionnaire Ernest Tricard thanks his colleagues and friends for their presence at the funeral of his mother when Clémence Berg, his sister, arrives from French Guiana to settle in the derelict hotel which belonged to the deceased. This tyrannic widow, hated by her relatives and her servant, quickly gets interested in Commissaire Laurence. 

Melie Lacour, the servant, is murdered because she stole the clothes of her mistress and was mistaken for her. Swan sends Alice undercover at the Hôtel du nord. Rendez-vous avec la mort is one of the best episodes of Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie. The plot combines perfectly the spirit of the work of the English crime writer with this sense of comedy, typical of the series, which reminds of the best plays of Au théâtre ce soir (1). Sylvie Simon gives us a fireworks show of brilliant dialogues and hilarious situations.

The main cast looks like they have a lot of fun, particularly Blandine Bellavoir in a yellow bathing cap and Samuel Labarthe with the dog. Dominique Thomas, the beloved Tricard, and Marie Berto (Arlette Carmouille), form a great duo. The guest cast is excellent, starting with Mireille Herbstmeyer as Clémence. She can now be seen in Marianne, the Netflix Horror series. Franco-British actor Tom Hudson, who plays Louis Berg, is the son of Peter Hudson, who played Docteur Masson in Versailles (2015-2018) and James Horton in Highlander: The series (1992-1998).

The strange residents of the hotel have a little something of The Addams Family, especially the young Suzanne Berg (Juliette Pedevilla-Defaÿ, very Wednesday Addams) and Roger Bessan (Olivier Carré). The latter evokes Lurch, the manservant to the Addams, but also Baptiste from the episode Un meurtre est-il facile?. There are nods to some other Petits meutres as well. Also with Cyril Gueï (Tim Glissant), Guillaume Bouchède (Philippe Berg), Clémence Aubry (Caroline Berg), Stéphane Pézerat (Raoul Neuville), Stéphanie Petit (Melie Lacour) and Bubulle & Marcel.

Co-produced by Escazal Films and France Télévisions, with the support of Pictanovo and Région Hauts-de-France. Produced with the participation of TV5 Monde, RTS Radio Télévision Suisse and R.T.B.F. Télévision Belge. Sophie Révil is the producer. Laurent Chiomento exec produces. Main characters created by Sylvie Simon and Thierry Debroux. Music composed by Stéphane Moucha. Bertrand Mouly is the cinematographer. Production designed by Moundji Couture.

Costumes by Sophie Dussaud. Edited by Bertrand Nail. Main title sequence designed by Romain Segaud. Superbly directed by Nicolas Picard-Dreyfuss, Rendez-vous avec la mort will premiere on France 2 on September 20. Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie is available in the U.S. on VOD service MHZ Choice  under the title Agatha Christie's Criminal Games.

(1) Au théâtre ce soir (1966-1986) is a famous French television programme which showed pre-recorded plays.

Thursday, 12 September 2019


Alice Avril (Blandine Bellavoir) finds out working in television can be murder. The latest case of Commissaire Swan Laurence (Samuel Labarthe) becomes very personal for Marlène Leroy (Élodie Frenck)

Written by Flore Kossinetz (Demain nous appartient, Coeur Océan) and Hélène Lombard, L'heure zéro is adapted from Agatha Christie's novel Towards Zero. Roger Foucher, the presenter of le journal télévisé is found dead in a pond. Commissaire Laurence is called, assisted with Agent Arlette Carmouille and Tim Glissant, but the pathologist thinks it's an accident. Alice Avril resigns from La Voix du Nord (again) to get a job at TV Nord, the regional television channel. 

Alice dreams to work with Audrey Fontaine, the first woman to present the news in France. Instead she's hired as the assistant of starred chef Maxime Beaumont, who hosts the cooking show. Jean Devandière, the director of the channel, is murdered in his office and the weapon is one of Maxime's kitchen knives. Swan meets Audrey, who teaches him that a rose is a rose. The womanizing Beaumont sets his sights on Avril. Marlène Leroy is shocked to see the chef in Laurence's office: he abandoned her when she was 20 as they were about to marry. 

Hell hath no fury like a Marlène scorned in this uneven episode. A bit long, L'heure zéro is saved by the performances of Blandine Bellavoir and Élodie Frenck and by an excellent guest cast, especially Portuguese actor Nuno Lopes (Maxime). The presence of Alban Casterman (Al Dorsey, détective privé) is always a pleasure. This is his third appearance in Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie. After two different roles, here he plays Ted Gautier. The idea that "Cramouille" (the talented Marie Berto) is now a police officer in uniform works much better than in Ding Dingue Dong

The sets and costumes are fabulous. There's an impressive number of vintage cars. Also with Barbara Schulz (Audrey Fontaine), Dominique Thomas (Ernest Tricard), Cyril Gueï (Tim Glissant), Alyzée Costes (Claire Beaumont), Annette Lowcay (Marie Dupuis), Christian Van Tomme (Jean Devandière), Emmanuel Plovier (Louis), Thomas Debaene (Étienne Foucher), François Godart (Robert Jourdeuil) and Bubulle. Co-produced by Escazal Films and France Télévisions, with the support of Pictanovo and Région Hauts-de-France. 

Produced with the participation of TV5 Monde, RTS Radio Télévision Suisse and R.T.B.F. Télévision Belge. Sophie Révil is the producer. Laurent Chiomento exec produces. Main characters created by Sylvie Simon and Thierry Debroux. Music composed by Stéphane Moucha. Songs News of the World, Secrets de Cuisine and Talk to me composed and performed by Laurent Avenard, Moïra Conrath and Ludwig Gorhan. Bertrand Mouly is the cinematographer. 

Production designed by Moundji Couture. Costumes by Sophie Dussaud. Edited by Pascale Arnaud. Main title sequence designed by Romain Segaud. Directed by Nicolas Picard-Dreyfuss, L'heure zéro will premiere on France 2 on September 13. Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie is available in the U.S. on VOD service MHZ Choice  under the title Agatha Christie's Criminal Games.

Monday, 9 September 2019


Corinne Masiero puts the chapka of Capitaine Marleau aside for something completely different.

The bottom line: Capitaine Marleau, ange gardien.

Launched in 2015 on France 3, Capitaine Marleau stars Corinne Masiero as an offbeat gendarme with no first name. Produced and helmed by French television powerhouse Josée Dayan (Les rois maudits, Les misérables, Le comte de Monte Cristo), the crime drama gradually became a ratings juggernaut and a pop culture phenomenon. Last year, both Dayan and Masiero took a break from Marleau to shoot Quand sort la recluse, a 2X90-minute film for France 2's Collection Fred Vargas (based on the work of the bestselling crime writer).

Corinne Masiero reprised her role of Violette Retancourt, a character she first played in 2009, alongside Jean-Hughes Anglade and Jacques Spiesser (Magellan). Except that she had now the tremendous popularity brought by Capitaine Marleau. Last april, the unconventional detective hit another rating record (7.70 million viewers/32.8%!) The next day, Part 1 of Quand sort la recluse caught 4.64 million viewers (20.65%). Those numbers certainly didn't hurt the announcement earlier in the month that Corinne Masiero would play a nun for TF1 in Colombine, a TV movie written by its director Dominique Baron and Sophie Deschamps (with Anne  & Marine Rambach) and to be filmed in Senegal.

Not just any nun, as the press informed us, but "a whiskey drinking, trigger-happy nun with a strong temperament who runs a bush dispensary welcoming ill children and orphans" (1). Colombine (no last name) shows her shotgun in the pre-credit sequence. Mélia, an idealistic emergency doctor, arrives from Paris to work at the dispensary. Oddly, though she was born in this troubled West African country, Mélia wasn't curious enough to get information about its current situation. Colombine celebrates her arrival with a stock of unused jokes from Capitaine Marleau.

The nun raises a little girl named Amina like her daughter since the civil war. Mélia puts herself in great danger when she tries to learn more about her origins, which forces Colombine to intervene. The leader of the opposition to the country's president takes refuge in the dispensary. Colombine is basically a compilation of Marleau's one-liners and social commentaries mixed with a compilation of tropes from Joséphine, ange gardien. Interestingly, Dominique Baron directed the pilot of TF1's long-running comedy/drama in 1997. Some scenes of Colombine are involuntarily funny.

Also starring Annabelle Lengronne (Mélia), Noom Diawara (Qu'est-ce qu'on a fait au Bon Dieu?) as Bakary, Jimmy Woha Woha (Aziz), Julie Judd (Manon), Issaka Sawadogo (Quand sort la recluse, Guyane) as Issaka, Sandra Luce (Sandra), Alioune Badu Ba (Doukoure), Hanae Capraja (Amina), Namory Keita (Moussa), dancer, choreographer and actress Prudence Maïdou as Mata, Lamine Ndiaye (Bishop Dabo), etc. Produced by Big Band Story (Al Dorsey, détective privé, Coup de foudre à...) with TF1 in co-production with Solo Films, Be-Films and Umedia (in association with uFund).

Exec produced by Stéphane Amphoux, Oumar Sy and Éric Névé. Produced by Michel Catz. Co-produced by Christophe Louis, Nadja  Khamlichi and Cédric Iland. Benjamin Dupont-Jubien and Mehdi Sabbar are the line producers. Francis Barrois and Souleymane Kebe are the production managers. Executive production in Senegal by Astou Films. Music composed by Christophe La Pinta. Cinematography by Dominique Bouilleret. Editing by Sandrine Deegen. Colombine will premiere on TF1 in 2X52 minutes on September 16.

(1) "Une religieuse à fort tempérament, buveuse de whisky à la gachette facile, qui dirige un dispensaire dans la brousse accueillant des enfants malades et orphelins." (