A collaborative post by Syrinx2 and Rolamb.

As we talked about in our first couple of posts about the European detective series, we understand that a lot of you would be happy to see quality European series, even with subtitles. To give you a taste and make you more aware of the good detective series Europe has to offer from the last thirty years, we will bring you a series of posts about the best detective series Europe has brought us. We hope to at least give you the idea of the European series that could be interesting to see.

As we leave Italy, from last week - where we told you about Romanzo Criminale - we head for France. If you didn’t catch that post, take our advice and have a look. Now, with France we get to difficult territory as there are a lot of collaborating between countries. But more on that later.

Typically, French police dramas have a caricature to work against. That might be because of ‘Allo, ‘allo! (1982-1992), the hilarious second world war comedy series by the BBC that played out in France.

Then we have Chief Inspector Clouseau played by Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther series. (1963-1993)

Those non-French creations have done some harm to France as a detective country. However, we have found that one figure is the main culprit to this dilemma. And he’s French. Louis de Funès as Le Gendarme (1964-1982) a comedy series of films.

Let’s look at detective TV series, then. We found that when watching French detective series we have to be prepared to split our attention. There are at least three examples of border crossings.

First there’s Crossing Lines (2013-) with William Fichtner. a French - German - Canadian production.

French series Jo -Crime Scene Paris, with Jean Reno, is set in Paris - with actors speaking English.

This is similar to what we’ve seen in The Tunnel (2013) with Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy - a French collaboration.

These three doesn’t really cut it to get the French stamp of approval by us. They still can be good, though, and deserve a mention. We’ll probably make a separate post on those next year. The fact that it was Bron || Broen who started this series of detectives across Europe we feel that The Tunnel is welcome here.

We now move over to pure French detective series. In this post we also do not cover the French spoken detectives of other countries. It has been a bit of a discussion but we stick to the borders of France.

France is darker than the other countries around it. And we begin deep, deep within the darkness.

First off is a show that has been aired on the UK on BBC4 and on Netflix, Mhz Worldwide in the US: Engrenages, or Spiral as it was called outside of France (2005 - ).

In the first season we follow Captain Laure Berthaud and Lieutenants Gilles Escoffier and Frédéric Fromentin in the hunt for a murdered and disfigured woman found in a landfill outside Paris.

The series is not as stylish and manicured as its American counterparts. Read CSI. It is raw and shows us what human nature is capable of, as well on the police side as of the (sometimes individual) criminals. Policemen can be addicts, criminals even but not in a clean way it would be shown in f.i. CSI Miami when Ryan Wolfe was addicted. Engrenages is a couple of levels of quality above the previous mentioned semi-French series.

Season’s 1 and 2 only had eight episodes, series 3 and 4 had twelve each. Usually there was a gap of at least two years between the seasons, but because of popular demand season 5 will be shot soon and will air in 2014.

Trailer Season 1 Episode 1:

Going for darker than dark: Listen to the Braquo theme!

Braquo (2009 - )

Braquo was the second of the French series that was pretty popular outside of France. The name of the series comes from the French slang word braquage, meaning a heist, armed robberies, particularly of banks.

In the pilot we see detective Max Rossi (Olivier Rabourdin) being wrongly accused of criminal misconduct. He and his colleagues exist in the blurred boundaries at the very edge of the law, often using violence and intimidation to get the job done. But this time he is innocent and can’t live with it, commits suicide and so disrupts the lives of his four colleagues. As suicide obviously implies guilt and they know for sure he is innocent, they decide to clear his name. In the good French tradition this means "crossing the gray line": doing whatever is necessary, even breaking the law. The kidnap, torture, shoot people while of course also being busy with being a detective on their precinct. As they attract some attention, the police internal affairs bureau steps in and Vogel, a sworn enemy to them, makes their live even more troublesome. Vogel uses every means he can to bring them down. We won’t spoil what happens, go ahead and see it, it’s worth your time! We thought it was one of the better detective series we’ve seen over the last years. Do not be fooled by the fact that there was a second season and a third (and last) season was announced. Not everything evolves as smooth for the cast as it could be. In contrast to Engrenages, we liked all the protagonists and hated Vogel, everyone was human and that made it worth our time.

The theme for the series is as dark, gritty as the series itself.

All three seasons just had eight episodes. The series is available from Hulu as of September, 2013.

And what else? Not everything is as dark as the two series we have given you here. There have been a few that are more CSI-esque over the years. But they were never as successful.

Les Bleus (2006-2010)

P.J. (1997-2009) 15 seasons!

Paris Enquettes Criminelles

R.I.S, police scientifique (2006-)

Unfortunately, French series seldom are subtitled (we didn’t find any for the above mentioned except Engrenages and Braquo), which makes it hard for non-French-speaking viewers to watch them. So, we ask for help with those series. Were they any good? Could it be so that French networks think that no one but French speaking countries have interest in watching?

  • To end this post, we wonder if you guys have seen either Engrenages or Braquo?

  • Do you feel they should be shown in the US with subtitles or be remade?

And of course, our shameless plug: read our four previous posts on Danish-, Swedish- and Italian detectives and International detective duos. They can be find in the right hand column!

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