If you’re one of the many viewers of this type of media, have you considered consuming it en français ? The formulaic nature of a mystery or detective story means you will not only be engaged (and sometimes surprised by the twists and turns!), but that the vocabulary will become familiar as you get to know the characters and their world. While our previous forays into Hoopla have focused on our favorite film stars and musical movies for la fête de la musique, they also offer a wide selection of television series. Their crime selection comes mainly in two categories: adaptations and team-driven series.
If this sounds like fun, allow me to recommend some!
Who doesn’t love seeing their favorite fictional protagonists pulled from the pages of a best-selling book? From the page to the screen - or, in French, de l'écrit à l'écran - is a formula of TV and film creation that is always entertaining!
The Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie, is extremely influential from her throne of sixty-six detective novels. Outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible, it’s no wonder that her novels have been adapted beyond her native language. Hoopla offers linked series Les Petit Meurtres d’Agatha Christie and Agatha Christie’s Criminal Games as well as the short Agatha Christie's Family Murder Party. The two longer series pull cases from the pages of Christie’s best-known novels and set them in the French countryside of the 1930s and ‘50s across three seasons and 18 episodes. Family Murder Party is inspired by her novel Hercule Poirot's Christmas and keeps unraveling the same mystery during four episodes.
Criminal Games is a personal favorite as it introduces plucky reporter Alice Avril and her handy moped, who helps and complicates Chief Inspector Laurence’s days to entertaining results! Add in the ever-stylish Marlène and this trio could not make for better TV.
Hoopla (and this list!) welcomes another literary royal with the inclusion of Mary Higgins Clark, named “the Queen of Suspense” and lauded with the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière in 1980. She is one of the best-selling authors of all time in France and was even named Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters. With sales of more than 100 million thrillers in the United States alone, the Mary Higgins Clark Mysteries is sure to put a smile on many fans’ faces!
Originally the 18th-century hero of police detective novels written by Jean-François Parot, Nicolas Le Floch features the best and worst of Paris under Louis XV's reign. Kings and bandits, feasts and poisonings, parties and plots - all investigated with a tricorn hat that deserves the same acclaim as a certain English detective’s deerstalker.
The name “Georges Simenon” is synonymous with “mystery.” An absolutely prolific author, Simenon published nearly 500 novels, is the third most read Francophone author (after Jules Verne and Alexandre Dumas), and is best known for his acclaimed detective, le commissaire Maigret. Actor Bruno Cremer played the titular character in 9 seasons of Maigret and his cases, which started airing in 1992. Additionally, Hoopla has made the 2006 Georges Simenon Mysteries available for borrowing. Drawing from Simenon’s non-Maigret work, this more recent adaptation features 6 episodes around 90 minutes each.
Fantômas is the 1911 creation of two authors, Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre. Together, they published 32 volumes to great acclaim, with an additional 11 published by Allain alone. Their masked genius of crime is considered a myth to everyone but the Inspector Juve, who follows the seemingly unconnected cases with temerity despite the ridicule of his co-workers.
Blood Of The Vine takes place in the beautiful Bordeaux region of France. We follow a wine expert as he competes with the police to solve these mysteries that take place in vineyards, or ones that involve winemakers and sellers, or those that have another connection to wine. This show is based off of a series written by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen. While Hoopla offers the first two seasons for your viewing fun, Le sang de la vigne has run for 6 seasons since 2011.
When I think about crime TV shows, the first shows that come to mind involve a team who work together season after season. Often, the relationships between the investigators is as much of a reason to tune in as the crimes they investigate!
Spiral (or Engrenages in its original title) is the first show that comes to mind when writing about French crime TV! Starting in 2005, this show follows both police officers and legal representatives in Paris. Spiral has received international acclaim, starting as the first French-language drama series on the BBC in 2006 and going on to broadcast in over 70 countries. If you’re looking for even more of a reason to give this show a watch, in 2015, they even won the International Emmy Award for Best Series!
Other official (and pretty dark) teams include: Captain Marleau has been described as a French Columbo ; Deadly Seasons follows a troubled superintendent and his reckless inspector partner ; Braquo's cops operate at the edge of the justice they originally signed up to protect ; Origins follows a team of investigators led by both a cop and a genealogist in order to uncover the origins of a crime.
Detectives features a quirky family of private detectives, Roche and Son, and the former French intelligence officer who joins them in order to make their operation run more smoothly. You may know Sara Martins from her English-speaking role on the BBC’s Death in Paradise (also available on Hoopla!). While Detectives does not feature the beautiful sun and sands of balmy Sainte-Marie, Martins shines just as brightly in the streets of Paris!
Other shows that share elements with Detectives include: Caïn introduces us to the eponymous detective’s family, who play just as important a role as his team ; Murder In… takes us to various regions of France and relies on quirky duos of investigators to unravel their mysteries ; Balthaza follows another odd couple team of a darkly humorous forensic pathologist and a no-nonsense Chief Inspector ; Passenger takes a darker tone as a psychiatrist teams up with a police chief in order to catch a serial killer.
Maybe you’re partial to true crime over fictional cases? There’s a show for that! While not 100% in French due to an English-speaking narrator, Almost Perfect Crimes investigates the most sensational of France’s historical crimes. Former Police Commissioner Danielle Thiéry and other Francophone experts present the facts of the cases en français between dramatic re-enactments of the 12 selected Crimes Presque Parfaits. edit: please note that Hoopla is likely available as a part of your public library's digital offerings!
Ingrid began her passion for French through the immersion program in Milton, MA, and has followed it around France and the world. She took a break from this first love to pursue a B.A. in English with a minor in Irish Studies at Boston College and a Masters of Library and Information Sciences at Simmons College. She is thrilled to meld her excitement for libraries and French language and culture in her position at the Center!