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
(2007-)

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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Syrinx2 and Rolamb, I'm ONLY just getting to see Spiral and ONLY Series/Season 4 on Netflix. I think I read there was some legal BS preventing the previous seasons from still being available, and I have no idea if Season 5 will make it to Netflix.

Meanwhile, I've never been so addicted to a television show withOUT kvetching. I was totally engaged in The Killing, but it had too many WTFs that took me out of the show.

Spiral is like the UK's New Tricks, back when it was good, only better. I love the cinematography and the acting and the chemistry and the dialogue - and I've only seen ONE freaking season!

How unfair. How stupid are Americans that they don't demand more international crime series?

Rolamb, not sure if you've mentioned Frank Riva, but a friend said it is also good, but of course it is nowhere to be found on Netflix.

I know, I should be grateful for even one season of Spiral, but I'm not. I want them all.

  • Do you feel they should be shown in the US with subtitles or be remade?
Bite your tongue, or some stupid suit in Hollyweird will hear you.
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Btw, I have been looking for a French series called " L'Homme Sans visage ", (The Faceless Man) which was a spin on Fantomas. I only saw the first two episodes and then had to leave our home due to the extensive bombings during the Lebanese Civil War. If anyone has information on it It would be greatly appreciated.
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I've only watched episodes of P.J. which you could find (maybe still can) in TV5 Europe. Not bad. But I think I will look for Braquo - maybe it will keep me company until Les Revenants are back.
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DO ! it is great series Dark and gritty and great flawed characters
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As a French educated Lebanese with dual nationality who lived in Paris for over a decade, I have always loved anything French and this included most of its television. I loved the crop of series you came up with and all I have to add to the other comments is that we had a lot of great police series that you did not mention, my favorite by far was Les Cinqs Dernieres Minutes which had the best formula for procedural outside from Columbo. We were made part of the investigation, presented with the suspects and given some clues. At the end , the Inspector Bourel (played best by Raymond Souplex) used to say""Oui, mais c'est bien sur" and two very lucky chosen participants had the chance to offer their conclusions. And I was in heaven.
There are the Commissiaire Maigret series , the legendary Georges Simenon hero, which were also very well done with both Bruno Cremer and before him Jean Richard, both great actors. You have other rather good but uneven series like Julie Lescault, Navarro, and Les Cordier,Juge et Flic, Commissaire Moulin, etc....
Nowadays it's Canal + which produces and airs the best series, mainly the one's you mentioned. They are now airing Mafiosa, which equals Engrenages and Braquo in excellence.
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as a french it s nice for me to see some french series mentioned here, on a site I visite daily.
I do recommand Profilage, Braquo ,Engrenage, sur le fils. Series that need to be watch in french subtitled in english (if needed).
Fan of north american series (and being bilingual) I can not stand the french dubing

Paris enquêtes criminelles and R.I.S are poor attempts at being the french CSI .

Rolamb: I saw that a series based on the french movies Taxi (4 movies) adapted in America only 1 movie will hit the screen in the summer.
How come I thought that after 1 movie that did not seem to work in US.
They would have given up.

This movies show why sometime it s hard to adapt a movie from Europe to Amecica. Mainly when the humor is based on cliches that belong to one culture.
I love the french version when i see it as a french, but when I saw the american version after leaving in the US, I enjoyed the movie and its humor but with an americanized culture I don't feel the same way and understand why it did not hit the US box office as did the French one
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Ok now i understand why the series is coming this summers. It s a french series, produced by europa corps which is french and allready responsible for french taxi, american taxi, Leon, Fifth Element......
The series is allready on air in france , but i missed the 3 first episodes and wanna see it in american so gonna wait
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Braquo looks good .
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@graindesable Yes, they are available, otherwise I would not have been able to watch it. I speak enough French to go on holiday over there, but I'm not able to fololow a tv show.
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It is. I don't know if it can be found with english sbutitle though.
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Awh man, Louis de Funès I miss his antics.
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Living in France I've seen Braquo & Engrenages - both are equal of anything others produce, and should, in my opinion, be subtitled rather than remade -or "americanised"- sanitised?? Paris enquetes & RIS are copies of CSI & NY enquiries down to the translations of the plots. Profilage would be very difficult for an american or english audience to follow, but has very strong and subtle plots. Brigade du nuit is a good but sombre series about nightime in the seamy side of Paris. Sur le fil as well is set in the poorer outskirts of Paris, and deserves to be better known.
French series tend to be short, 6-10 episodes, and have a lot of inside settings, (cheaper!) and now as much action as american productions.


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Thanks for adding! I had never heard of 'Sur le Fil"and will try to find it (as long as there are subtitles available in a language I understand enough, French regrettably isn't one although I can make myself clear enough in the weeks I spent every year on the Mideterenean.
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Profilage is the best french detective serie, imho.
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Thanks for the advice. I tried to find it, but it's a series that has never been sold outside France so there are no subtitles available. My French isn't good enough to understand it. In our series on detectives we usually try to tell about series that have English subtitles available to everyone on this site can understand them.
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Looking good!
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