A fine time for crime French TV

Channels' procedurals are slaying audiences

PARIS — France finally has a new line of hit dramas — period procedurals.

“Petits meurtres d’Agatha Christie” (A Family Murder Party), Christie retreads set in 1920s France, and miniseries “Nicolas le Floch,” featuring a dashing, debauched marquis who is also a law officer in 1760s Paris, buck a flurry of frosh fiction flops.

Both were standouts among new fiction at TV France Intl.’s Rendez-Vous of French TV in Madrid last month, and will get a big sales push at Mip TV in Cannes in March. The two have sold to Sony’s Mystery Channel in Japan.

They represent attempts at what’s becoming a Gallic TV holy grail — finding innovative ways to meld U.S. or Brit fiction templates with a French sense of place, taste and art.

“Party,” a TV movie anthology, bowed Jan. 11 on France 2, Gaul’s main pubcaster channel, to 20.4% and 18.9% audience share for its first two segs — “The ABC Murders” and “Ordeal by Innocence.”  France 2 averaged 16.2% in December. 

It was produced for France 2 by France Televisions, Escazel Films, AT-Production and Belgian pubcaster RTBF.

“Floch” bowed late October, also on France 2, its two segs nabbing 19% and 18.2% in Tuesday primetime.

It was co-produced by France 2 and producer-distrib Compagnie des Phares et Balises (latter’s second inhouse project) with the participation of TV5 Monde.

Both shows gel with older demos which, as in the States, increasingly make up Gaul’s broadcast network auds, observes Bertrand Villegas at Paris-based audience research company World Information Tracking.

“Party’s” first seg scored 20.4% in all demos and 12.5% in women under 50, according to Gallic audience measurement org Mediametrie.

“Floch” and “Party” are recession-proof TV, allowing escape to grander ages. They also offer original French twists on procedural staples, says Villegas. 

“Party” replaces Christie’s Hercule Poirot with Commissioner Laroisiere and twittish sidekick Inspector Lampion. “Floch” plays like “CSI” meets Louis XV.

But “Floch” might even perturb “CSI’s” Gil Grissom: femme lead Vamala Pons introduces herself to Floch wearing a mask — and nothing else.

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