3 Unmissable French Series | 3 Séries Françaises Incontournables

Whilst the French are undoubtedly the pioneers of cinema – or the septième art, as they fondly call it – it’s taken them a remarkably long time to transfer their talent to the small screen. For decades, the picture palace was top dog and the box was a poor second best. Now, however, the tides are turning and funds are flooding in for small screen productions. When it comes to series, I’m a tough one to please – but Les Revenants, Marseille and Disparue deliver the goods (and then some).

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Credit: lesrevenants.canalplus.fr

Les Revenants (The Returned)

The dead have returned – and the living are divided over how to react to their unexpected reappearance. Camille, who died in a bus accident four years ago, is the first to reappear. Others soon follow, attempting to pick up their lives where they left off, only to realise that those they left behind have since moved on. Seemingly inexplicable happenings – decreasing water levels in the nearby dam and frequent power shortages – force the community to relive its past, and set the living against the dead. Throughout the series, the lives of the residents of the remote alpine community and the revenants entwine: Julie, a nurse, cares for Victor, a young boy murdered during a burglary 35 years prior; Adèle struggles to cope with the reappearance of Simon, her ex-fiancé; and, much to Toni’s distress, Serge resumes his killing spree. This is a fascinating exploration of grief, loss and redemption – featuring sublime shots of Haute-Savoie and a brilliant soundtrack by Mogwai. It was, without a doubt, one of the highlights of my final year studies! / Les morts sont revenus – et les vivants sont divisés sur leur réapparition inattendue. Camille, qui est morte dans un accident de bus il y a quatre ans, est la première de revenir à la vie. D’autres suivent peu après, essayant de reprendre leurs vies où ils se sont arrêtés, seulement pour découvrir que ceux qu’ils ont quittés passent à autre chose depuis leur mort. Des évènements apparemment inexplicables – une baisse du niveau d’eau du barrage à proximité et des coupures d’électricité – forcent la communauté à revivre son passé et montent les vivants contre les revenants. Au cours de la série, les vies des habitants de la communauté alpine isolée et les revenants lient : Julie, infirmière, s’occupe de Victor, petit garçon tué dans un cambriolage 35 ans plus tôt ; Adèle a du mal à accepter la réapparition de Simon, son ex-fiancé ; et, à la grande détresse de Toni, Serge recommence à tuer. Cette série est une exploration fascinante du chagrin, de la perte et de la réparation – avec des plans sublimes de Haute-Savoie et une bande sonore géniale de Mogwai. Elle était, sans doute, un temps fort de ma dernière année d’études !

1-Marseille
Credit: theguardian.com

Marseille

France’s gritty second city is the backdrop to a charged political feud between Robert Taro, the city’s mayor for the last twenty years, and Lucas Barrès, his protégé turned bitter rival. Corruption is rife; duplicity is second nature. Marseille means everything to Taro – and, at times, it appears to mean more to him than his family. While Taro battles for reelection, his wife and daughter face battles of their own. Amidst the gangsters and ceaseless violence, the national ethos appears to crumble; “liberty, equality, fraternity” has been replaced by “captivity, disparity, disunity”. Fraught with back-stabbing and betrayal, Marseille exposes – brashly but effectively – the rift between the bourgeois and the banlieue, opulence and poverty. When the election reaches the home stretch, there’s no end of twists and turns in the tussle for top spot. Gérard Depardieu, French cinema’s enfant terrible, embodies Taro’s character perfectly, to the point where you begin to wonder who else could have played this role. / La querelle politique électrique entre Robert Taro, maire de Marseille pendant vingt ans, et Lucas Barrès, son protégé devenu rival amer, a comme arrière-plan la deuxième ville de France, une ville sans concession. La corruption est courante ; la duplicité est une seconde nature. Marseille est tout pour Taro – et, parfois, elle semble être plus importante pour lui que sa famille. Tandis que Taro se bats pour être réélu, sa femme et sa fille font face à leurs propres batailles. Au milieu des gangsters et de la violence sans cesse, l’ethos national semble disparaître : « liberté, égalité, fraternité » est remplacée par « captivité, disparité, désunion ». Rempli de coups de poignard dans le dos et de trahison, Marseille expose – effrontément mais efficacement – le fossé entre le bourgeois et la banlieue, l’opulence et la pauvreté. À la dernière ligne droite de l’élection, il y de nombreux méandres dans la lutte pour devenir maire de Marseille. Gérard Depardieu, enfant terrible du cinéma français, incarne parfaitement le personnage de Taro, jusqu’au point où on se demande si quelqu’un d’autre aurait pu jouer le rôle.

DISPARUE EP1
Credit: france2.fr

Disparue (The Disappearance)

When carefree Léa Morel fails to return home after a music festival, her parents, Florence and Julien, become increasingly concerned for her welfare. While Florence attempts to maintain a semblance of normality, for the sake of their younger daughter, Julien’s anguish gives way to anger and he launches his own investigation. With every relative, friend and acquaintance that Detective Molina and his deputy, Camille, question, the truth becomes muddier. Wild goose chases are abound, and everyone – including Léa – is hiding secrets; the one person unaccounted for is the only person with answers. In the search for Léa, no stone is left unturned: from the narrow, cobbled streets of Vieux Lyon to the expansive parkland of the Parc de la Tête d’Or and the Parc Mirabel. As they retrace her steps and attempt to piece together what has happened, the Morels turn closer to home for answers. / Quand Léa Morel, jeune insouciante, ne revient pas chez elle après un festival de musique, ses parents, Florence et Julien, deviennent de plus en plus inquiétés de son bien-être. Tandis que Florence essaie de maintenir une vie quasi-normale, pour le bien de leur fille plus jeune, l’angoisse de Julien cède à la colère et il décide de mener son propre enquête. Avec chaque membre de la famille, ami et connaissance questionné par inspecteur Molina et son député, Camille, la vérité est rendue plus confuse. Des quêtes futiles sont abondantes, et tout le monde – y compris Léa – cache ses propres secrets ; la seule personne inexpliquée est la seule personne qui ait des réponses. Dans les recherches pour retrouver Léa, les chercheurs remuent ciel et terre : des rues étroites et pavées de Vieux Lyon jusqu’aux énormes espaces verts du Parc de la Tête d’Or et du Parc Mirabel. Alors qu’ils reviennent sur les pas de Léa et essaient de reconstituer les évènements de cette soirée désastreuse, les Morel se tournent vers leur propre famille pour des réponses.

Have you seen any of these? What did you think of them?

Avez-vous vu ces séries ? Qu’en pensez-vous ?

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20 thoughts on “3 Unmissable French Series | 3 Séries Françaises Incontournables

  1. I have seen none of these! I tend to like my TV shows fairly light and fluffy 🙂 But I’m glad to know that there are some good series in French these days. My friend told me that there is a French bureaucracy comedy on Netflix and I’m dying to track it down, but I can’t remember the name!

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    1. I’ve been surprised by the quality of them, given the French aren’t really renowned for their TV series. I particularly like crime series, but am open to other genres 🙂 If you ever track down the name of it I’d love to know what it’s called – sounds like a great premise for a show that many of us could relate to!

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      1. Haha, that’s for sure. I don’t think I’ve ever met a French person who watched French TV shows, except for reality TV. I will have to ask my friend what the show was called! I’ve searched all over Netflix and can’t find it.

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      2. I’ve had much the same experience – whenever I’ve asked a French person for recommendations, they either tell me there’s nothing worth watching or that they don’t watch French series. I guess they’re the ones missing out these days!

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      3. They’re the ones who will have to come to you for recommendations! By the way, the name of the French comedy on Netflix is Au service de la France – I haven’t watched it yet but apparently it’s a comedy about the bureaucracy of the French secret service in the 60s.

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      4. I’ve actually seen the first episode of that (but haven’t got any further yet). I’ve heard a lot of good things about the series though, so now term’s over I intend to commit myself to finishing it off 🙂

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  2. I loved Les Revenants! It’s one of my favourite TV series of the last few years. I also really enjoyed Marseille. I haven’t seen La Disparue, I’ll have to check it out. I absolutely loved Engrenages, it’s a gritty crime drama set in Paris and is superb. I came away with a great understanding of some very colourful French swear words. I also recently watched Les Hommes d’Ombre, a political drama, which was really good.

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    1. “Les Revenants” was the first French TV series I ever watched, and I absolutely loved it. I can’t understand why there’s an American remake when the original is so good. Thanks for your recommendations 🙂 I’ve heard good things about “Engrenages”, but yet to find it online to watch – anything crime-related is right up my alley! I’ll have to do some searching for “Les Hommes de l’Ombre” too!

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  3. I have only seen the first season of les Revenant. I am still waiting for my local library to order the second season. Haven’t seen the other two shows yet. I am watching Nicolas le Floche now. It’s kinda fun to see Versailles and all the sword-fights 🙂

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    1. Hope you enjoy the second series when there’s a copy available to watch 🙂 I hadn’t heard of “Nicolas Le Floch” before, but I’ve just done some Googling and it sounds like an interesting series – I’ll have to see if I can find a copy sometime! Thanks for the recommendation 🙂

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  4. I suggest you try “Baron Noir” about politics too but up North, with excellent actors among which Kad Merad and Niels Arestrup. As for me, I think it’s even better than “Marseille”.

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  5. Malheureusement, je n’ai pas de télé chez moi, donc je ne peux pas regarder les séries que tu proposes! J’ai entendu des choses excellentes de “Marseille,” du coup ça m’intéresse. Peut-être un jour!

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    1. Moi non plus, mais je regarde des séries sur Netflix/ YouTube 🙂 Il y aura une deuxième série de “Marseille” plus tard cette année (le tournage a commencé en mars je crois) et j’ai hâte de la voir!

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  6. Ooooh I’ve been meaning to watch Le Revenant for ages so thanks for putting it back on my radar! If you fancy something a bit different, I’m currently watching Ingobernable which is set in Mexico and is mainly in Spanish, it’s so good!! (And good to hear different accents in Spanish and how many words I can link to the French words ha!). It’s on Netflix too! Hope you’re well 🙂

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    1. It’s one of my absolute favourites, and a rare gem in that the second series is also pretty good and not a huge let down! There’s an American remake lurking on Netflix, but the original (as per) is the better version 🙂 Ooh thanks for the recommendation – I’ll take a look at that when I get a moment. I’m well thanks, hope the final stretch of final year is going well for you!

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