French TV hit 'Les Hommes' to be adapted for U.S. auds

Endemol Studios has acquired the rights to adapt critically acclaimed French serialized drama “Les Hommes de l’Ombre” for the U.S, marking the 10-month-old company’s first third-party scripted buy.

White House vet and CNN senior analyst David Gergen is in discussions with Endemol Studios to consult on the adaptation, which has the working title “Kingmakers.”

Launching in August to build upon the success of “Hell on Wheels” — which older sister Endemol USA developed for AMC — Endemol Studios recently received a 2012-13 series order from ABC for “Red Widow” (based on Endemol’s Dutch scripted series “Penoza”) and a pilot order from AMC for “Low Winter Sun,” an adaptation of a British series that Endemol and AMC are co-producing.

Endemol Studios was conceived because Endemol USA’s scripted division had been developing scripted programming without a means to finance projects when they became greenlit. Going outside the company for new material to develop is a new milestone, Endemol Studios CEO Philippe Maigret told Variety.

“We can only succeed long term in establishing Endemol Studios as a successful independent mini-major, if you will — that’s what we’re aspiring to become — if we focus on developing the best possible material,” Maigret said. “It would be arrogant and wrong to think that it’s only Endemol material that would be best to focus on.

“We are resourced now to acquire external product and finance development,” he added, citing support from Endemol Group as key. “This is the big difference today.”

“Les Hommes,” acquired from French producers Tetra Media Studio and Macondo, tells the story of two political communications advisors who will stop at nothing on behalf of their candidates following the assassination of the country’s president. The format offers a stage “to tell a Shakespearean drama where the players battle personally and professionally,” Maigret said.

“To be honest, it’s fair to say we stumbled upon it,” Maigret recalled. “Back in January, I read a review in a French newspaper about this series before it premiered and was very intrigued. … My dad would refuse to talk to me when I called if the show was on the air.”

Starring Nathalie Baye, Bruno Wolkowich and Gregory Fitoussi, “Les Hommes” premiered to the highest audience for a French scripted program since 2008, with 5 million viewers and an 18 share. A second season is in production.

“The audience really embraced it,” Maigret said. “I reached out to our office in Paris, we looked at the DVDs and the response was unanimous. Everybody got very excited about the show. … My French was a little helpful for once, and we concluded the deal quite quickly.”

Maigret added that the show’s ability to lure film star Baye, a four-time winner of the Cesar Award, testified to the quality of the source material.

Dan Franck, co-writer of Emmy-nominated and Golden Globe-winning miniseries “Carlos,” created “Les Hommes” with Frederic Tellier, Charline de Lepine and Emmanuel Dauc.

Jean Francois Boyer, CEO of Tetra Media Studio, said the deal “reinforces our commitment to expand our business internationally.”

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