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Monte Carlo bets on U.S. talent

'Mad Men,' 'Lost' among competition lineup

Matthew Fox, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Kyle MacLachlan and Emily Deschanel are due in Monaco for the 49th Monte Carlo TV Festival, which kicks off Sunday with the world preem of “Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace.”

The U.S. documentary feature from New York’s Channel Prods. covers the backroom negotiations driving the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace accord.

Heightening the Hollywood presence, “Mad Men,” “Lost” and “Boston Legal” are among 28 skeins facing off in the main TV drama competition; “30 Rock,” “The Office” and “Entourage” rep the U.S. in the comedy category.

The five-day fest will launch a TV Xchanges networking conference June 9-10. Fabrice Larue, prexy of France-based FL Capital Partners, and “Law and Order” producer Dick Wolf will give keynote speeches.

The fest has had to develop a new identity since it abandoned its market in 2001. CEO David Tomatis said Tuesday that it now serves as a networking event for producers and talent; a platform for international productions in its six competitive sections; and an opportunity for some 350 invited journos, mostly from Europe, to meet U.S. talent.

This year, Hollywood’s troupe is expected to include producer Chuck Lorre (“Two and a Half Men”); “Sex and the City” showrunner Darren Star; and “Law and Order” co-stars Anthony Anderson, Epatha Merkerson and Linus Roache. Creator Ilene Chaiken and star Kate Moennig will talk up “The L Word,” Jessica Szohr “Gossip Girl” and Bryan Dattilo “Days of Our Lives.”

U.S. shows are normally favorites in competitive categories, but, Tomatis said, they haven’t swept the awards over the past two years. “There’s very strong competition from Europe, especially the U.K.”

However, Stateside companies have had a hand in raising foreign TV standards. Two drama competitors are HBO Ole original productions for Argentina’s serial killer thriller “Epitafios,” and “Alice,” from HBO Brazil and Gullane Filmes, about a country girl in Sao Paulo.

Showtime’s “The Tudors” competes for Ireland.

Drama contenders also include a BBC1 hit trio — costumer “Lark Rise to Candleford,” the BAFTA-prized “Spooks” (“MI-5”) from Shine’s Kudos and young wizard adventure skein “Merlin.”

Other drama competitors are Corsican mob saga “Mafiosa, le clan,” from France’s Image et Compagnie, one of Canal Plus France’s hardest-boiled crime dramas; and the Marathon Intl.-sold “Bloody Mountains,” a satanic cult thriller set in the Pyrenees that was the most-watched show among buyers at September’s TV France Intl. Rendez-Vous in Biarritz.

U.S. drama and comedy submissions were chosen by the Producers Guild of America.

Only one U.S. TV movie — HBO’s “Recount,” helmed by Jay Roach — figures in Monte Carlo’s TV film competition.

“CSI: Miami” competes with sibling “CSI” and “House” for the fourth Intl. TV Audience Award as the most-watched drama TV series worldwide, according to Eurodata TV statistics.

Special events include presentations by some of France’s top companies, with showcases from pubcaster channel France 3 (Marseilles procedural “Enquetes reservees” and hit soap “Plus belle la vie”), Calt Prods. and premium paybox bouquet Orange Cinema Series.

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