France: Gauls fall for healthy slate of Yank crime skeins

PARIS — Forget the other genres: Crimeshows, both local and U.S. imports, have had the run of the French networks since the beginning of the year.

Even M6, the channel that launched reality TV in France, has turned a corner with topper Nicolas de Tavernost recently pronouncing “fiction is back.”

“Reality TV was the first genre exported from Europe to America, and it frightened the studios,” Tavernost says. “They responded by producing some really powerful dramas.”

Indicating just how ubiquitous U.S. shows have gotten on French TV, “CSI: NY” was recently dispatched to rally Saturday night primetime audiences for TF1 when new reality skein “The Kingdom” failed to conquer enough viewers.

With “CSI: Miami” notching up solid auds in its regular Wednesday night slot, the Gotham version drew around 7 million viewers (30% audience share) over two Saturday airings.

Pubcaster France 2 has been getting maximum mileage from what’s left of its deal with Warner Bros., which was nabbed last year by TF1 — although the deal won’t come into effect until 2008. In the Sunday primetime slot formerly occupied by “ER” but more recently by French feature films, “FBI: Missing” (known originally in America as “Without a Trace”) bowed in March with a record 8 million viewers.

However, local fiction is more than holding its own.

TF1’s top-rated show so far this year is “RIS,” a remake of an Italian “CSI”-style forensic series. New skein garnered 11 million viewers over its eight-episode run in January, way ahead of any U.S. shows.

Meanwhile, France 2 has replaced “Joey,” which drew a poor 6% audience share, with new Gallic show “Prejudices.” The pubcaster is hoping its youthful cast and fast-paced storytelling will appeal to younger viewers.

All of the French webs have plenty of series in stock. TF1 has yet to air “Grey’s Anatomy” and the second season of “Lost”; M6 has “Prison Break,” “Bones,” “Commander in Chief” and “Desperate Housewives.” Yet expect them to be scrambling as hard as ever for the latest hot shows at Mip.

Top 3 Shows

1. “RIS,” TF1

2. “Joseph,” TF1

3. “Maldonne,” TF1