Marathon dramas rule Rendez-Vous

'Mountains,' 'Paris' most viewed programs

BIARRITZ, France — Marathon Intl.’s “Bloody Mountains,” a 12-part satanic cult thriller set in the brooding Pyrenees, proved one standout for buyers at a convivial 14th TV France Intl. Rendez-Vous, which wrapped Thursday in Biarritz.

According to stats taken two hours out from end of play on Thursday, “Mountains” was the most-viewed show at the Rendez-Vous digital library.

With shades of “Crimson Rivers,” it has a hangdog cop being sent to Toulouse to investigate the death of a girl, whose body is found naked in a cave, daubed with mysterious letters.

Second most-viewed show at the Rendez-Vous, France’s traditional late summer showcase for Gallic TV fare, was another big new fiction bet from Marathon — the “Friends”-ish sitcom “Paris Stories.”

Results — given high-viewing rates for another Marathon ritual murder thriller, two-part mini “The Hunt,” plus its costume romancer “The Queen and the Cardinal” — suggest the power of Marathon branding. “Paris” was conceived by Marathon prexy Pascal Breton, the creator of multi-territory hit “Saint Tropez.”

France Televisions Distribution, the giant overseas sales arm of pubcaster France Televisions, proved the other main fiction force at the Rendez-Vous. FTD saw wide videotheque interest in “Clara Sheller 2,” the sophomore season of its already strong-selling, Paris-set comedy about a kooky, afraid-to-commit but very chic femme office worker.

Though it will look to close most deals launched at the Rendez-Vous around or after Mipcom, said Nathalie Bobineau, FTD senior VP int’l distribution, the company began to roll out sales and negotiations on a brace of shows in Biarritz.

Some deals turned around “Live and Learn,” a gentle elementary school dramedy.

A big hit for France 2 this spring, “Live” is the subject of format negotiations for Germany. Broadcaster SvT is in talks to take Sweden on “Live” as well as HD concert docu series “After Midnight,” Bobineau said.

Finland’s YLE acquired FTD miniseries “Elena’s Destiny,” a Jewish-Russian family saga set from the 1900s to 1947. It’s also eying super-gonzo comedy “Mr. Paul, the Tempman,” while Czech TV took wine country revenge drama “SouthWest.”

In some of FTD’s other wide-ranging Rendez-Vouz biz, it sold teen soap “Summer Dreams” to Hungary’s MTV, Isabelle Adjani starrer “Figaro” to Slovenia’s RTV, and Amazon goldrush doc “Cursed for Gold” to Poland’s Canal Plus.

Italy’s Mediaset is also eying up “Sheller,” Bobineau added. Gallic sales company 2001 Audiovisuel took the top costume drama crown, in terms of Rendez-Vous videotheque screenings at least, with two-part mini “Kingdom of Felony.”

A 16th-century swashbuckler-cum-bodiceripper, “Felony” turns on an insouciant young femme aristo, the Dame de Monsoreau, who’s married off to a bushy-browed Catholic count, but falls for a Protestant poster boy.

FTD’s “Apocalypse: World War 2,” a stunningly graphic multi-part account, drawing on restored, colorized and now HD footage, was the most-screened docu.

Top 10 screened shows near to Rendez-Vous closure were rounded up by Carrere Group mini “Land of Light,” about a woman who creates a farm in Morocco, cybercrime-themed docu “Guerilla 2.0,” sold by Gedeon Programmes, and Java’s docu special “Big Business,” about obesity profiteers in the U.S.

The 14th TV France Intl. Rendez-Vous ran Sept. 8-12. It saw almost all French sellers, around 53 exhibitors, out in force.

Buyer numbers were punctured slightly by pilot screenings from Twentieth Century Fox Television in London, coming in at around 2006 levels of 195.

Numbers will most likely swell once more next year. The Rendez-Vous showcases most of France’s big fiction bows. “Clara Sheller” will go out primetime on France 2; “Mountains” will air Saturday night primetime France 3.

Also fiction is a rising Gallic export star.

“Since 2005, French TV exports have swelled. Producers have had to compete for a limited number of key slots with some excellent U.S. drama,” said Emanuelle Bouilihaguet, Marathon Intl. managing director.

Acquisition execs at the Rendez-Vous were also afforded a window onto French culture. Many were put up at Biarritz’s Hotel du Palais, Napoleon III’s summer palace; lunches took place at the exquisite art deco Biarritz Casino.

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