Archive | French TV

An archive of blog entries about French TV programmes and production.

January 23, 2016

What have you been watching? Including Room, Marvel's Agent Carter, Arrow and Endeavour

Posted on January 23, 2016 | comments | Bookmark and Share

It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

The usual "TMINE recommends" page features links to reviews of all the shows I've ever recommended, and there's also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I've reviewed ever. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there’s Locate TV - they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

It's been another huge week, full of new shows, continuing shows and returning shows. I've struggled manfully with them, but despite delaying WHYBW to Saturday to give me a little extra time to get through everything and then write about them, I'm still to cover three new series:

  • Mad Dogs (Amazon Instant Video): Shawn Ryan's US remake of the Sky 1 original brings back Ben Chaplin in a different role but none of the other cast for this relocated show about a bunch of old friends (in both senses of 'old') who reunite for a plush holiday in the middle of sunny nowhere. Before you know it, everything ends up going a bit criminally pear-shaped and holiday heaven becomes holiday nightmare. I haven't even watched the pilot of this, which has been sitting on Amazon for a while now, but given the original didn't overly impress me and I gave up after about three episodes, I'm not sure I'm going to be in much of a rush to watch this version either. I do hope they explain why it's called Mad Dogs, given the lyrics are 'Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun'.
  • Baskets (US: FX): Co-created by Louis CK, Zach Galifianakis and Jonathan Krisel, this sees Galifianakis playing dual roles as twin brothers, one of whom aspired to clown school in Paris, but who ended up becoming a rodeo clown. It's apparently a bit Marmite, but I'll try to review it in the first half of next week.
  • Stan Lee's Lucky Man (UK: Sky 1): Marvel's Stan Lee gives us James Nesbitt as a Brit cop, down on his luck, who gets a magical bracelet that reverses his fortunes. It's Stan Lee, so could be fun, but it's also Sky 1 so could be stupid/mediocre beyond belief. Again, first half of next week for this one.

Despite those three failings, I have managed to cover rather a lot this week already, with reviews or previews of the first episodes of:

As well as a third-episode verdict on Cooper Barrett's Guide To Surviving Life (US: Fox).

The meat of the week's viewing has, however, been continuing and returning shows, so after the jump, you'll find reviews of the latest episodes of (deep breath): 100 Code, American Crime, Arrow, Billions, Byw Celwydd (Living A Lie), Colony, Endeavour, The Family Law, The Flash, Grandfathered, Limitless, Man Seeking Woman, Occupied (Okkupert), Rebellion, Second Chance, Les hommes de l'ombre (Spin) and Supergirl. Oh yes, and the two-hour premier of the new season of Marvel's Agent Carter. Pardon me if you were hoping I would carry on with Idiotsitter, but no thank you.

I'm pretty sure something's going to have give on that list soon, but I'm not quite sure what yet. Pity the first show to turn in a duff episode.

This week, I also moseyed on down to the cinema to watch a movie:

Room (2015)
Adaptation of Emma Donoghue's book of the same, which sees five-year old Jake (Jacob Tremblay) discovering that the small room he's lived in his whole life may not be the extent of the universe and that his mother (Brie Larson) has been keeping some important and very disturbing details from him. While that scenario (inspired by real cases) doesn't sound like a very enjoyable subject matter, both the book and the movie quickly switch things around and give us a genuinely moving tale of parental love, the adaptability of children and finding hope in extremis, so if you think it's not your thing, you might find you're completely wrong.

Not quite as initially claustrophobic as the book, the movie is still a magnificent piece of work, with Larson and Tremblay justifiably getting all kinds of award nominations. William H Macy appears for almost no good reason, except to remind you of all the roles he used to get before he ended up doing Shameless (US). Recommended - you won't even be able to watch the trailer again afterwards, without wanting a cathartic little cry.

Continue reading "What have you been watching? Including Room, Marvel's Agent Carter, Arrow and Endeavour"

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January 18, 2016

Totally Serialized 2016 now has a trailer

Posted on January 18, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

This month's celebration of French and UK TV in London (read all about it here) now has very cool trailer with clips from all the big attractions. Enjoy!

January 14, 2016

Review: Spin (Les hommes de l'ombre) 1x1-1x2 (France: France2; UK: More4)

Posted on January 14, 2016 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Spin (Les hommes de l'ombre)

In the UK: Fridays, 9pm, More4. Also available on Walter Presents
In France: Aired on France 2, 2012-2014

To the rest of the world, it can sometimes seem like the only TV channel in France that makes scripted French-language television is Canal+. Take your pick of shows - Engrenages (Spiral), The Last Panthers, Les Revenants, Braquo, The Tunnel - if it's at least partly in French, it's going to be from Canal+.

TF1? That only makes English language shows, like Crossing Lines, Jo and Taxi Brooklyn, surely?

This, of course, is not the case. TF1 makes plenty of French-language shows - TMINE's pal Monsieur Thierry Attard will point you in their direction in both English and French, if you're so inclined. There are also plenty of other French TV channels out there making TV in French. It's just we've never really bothered importing it until now.

But having poached all its formats back in the 80s when it was just starting up and now newly awakened to its ratings potential thanks to the success of Les Revenants, Channel 4 is once again looking at French TV as a potential way to fill up the airwaves - as well as the Internet, thanks to Walter Presents. And since everyone, even BBC Four, has been a bit lax at airing anything French for the past 30 years or so, that means Channel 4 is free to pick its way through all of French TV's archives for the cream of the crop.

So, firstly, we have to thank Walter. Les hommes de l'ombre first aired on pubcaster France 2 nearly four years ago. But despite popping up at 2013's Totally Serialized (you could have won tickets to see it, thanks to this 'ere blog, in fact) and featuring the Only Handsome French Actor Everyone Knows About, Grégory Fitoussi (Engrenages, American Odyssey, Mr Selfridge, World War Z, GI Joe), no one bothered with it until Walter picked it for his web site. 

And it's a good choice. Despite its misleadingly translated English title of Spin, it's actually quite a hard hitting political thriller looking at public perceptions, PR, deception by the state, and modern political campaigns. It stars Bruno Wolkowitch (The Tourist) as Simon Kapita, an old-school political operator of integrity, headhunted by the UN to head up one of its commissions. However, on a quick trip back to his homeland, the man he helped to become President of France is killed by a suicide bomber of Algerian descent, so everyone naturally assumes he was a terrorist. The President of the Senate (Philippe Magnan) takes over and starts to clamp down on security, but Kapita soons discovers that Magnan is hiding the bomber's true motivation for political advantage - he wants to become the new President. 

That's the plot for episode one. However, wisely for once, More4 aired the first two episodes on Friday, and it's a bit misleading for me to leave things there since although that deadly secret does remain an important plot point, the show moves on. It's then about Kapita first selecting a potential alternative candidate (Nathalie Baye), persuading her to run for office and then managing her campaign. Equally important is the fact that Kapita's protégé, the ambitious and trendy young Ludovic Desmeuze (Fitoussi), throws aside his integrity to run Magnan's campaign, pitting the two former friends against each other in an escalating political war.

Although comparisons to Borgen are obvious, the show is its own beast, having as much in common with that Danish show as it does with The West Wing, with Kapita's assembling of his political team reminiscent of that show's In The Shadow of Two Gunmen and he being almost as inspirational as Josiah Bartlett in his own, French way. 

But it's really a much darker show than both of them. I said Spin was a mistranslation and its French title gives you a better idea of the kind of show it is: Les hommes de l'ombre. As well as being a nice bit of aural word play, this means roughly both 'the men in the shadows' and 'the men behind the scenes', and indeed, the show is very much about Wolkowitch and Fitoussi as the hidden kingmakers*, working the cogs of democracy, unseen in the shadows, alongside governmental subterfuge.

It's also very good. While it doesn't have the gritty realism of Engrenages - or the industrial strength Parisian swearing - it's got a strong plot, interesting, albeit relatively conventional characters and situations, and some top acting. Although the female characters don't come out of it very well, they do at least get lots of things to do and the political machinations that we see do have a strong stench of reality to them. Despite the lack of black characters, the show also subtly flags up public racism and islamophobia - a far more topical issue now than it was back in 2012, of course.

Unfortunately, the show's somewhat let down by its English subtitling. The French dialogue is subtle, nuanced and economical; the subtitles are not. While they usually get most of the plot across, they often change the meaning of what's been said in significant ways (such as changing certain characters' perceptions of different political groups and leanings), and somewhat bizarrely do so even when a literal word-for-word translation would have been both more accurate and even better written. 

So take it from me - if the dialogue seems bad, it probably isn't in French.  

Well done then, Walter. Good choice. Just hire a better translator next time.

* Yes, France is a republic and Wolkowitch wants to get a woman elected. You know what I mean

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