Jo: A Second Opinion

Performance EntreChats à l'hotel Mama Shelter

France: the country that gave us fois gras, Daft Punk and the odd extra-marital affair. If you’ve ever been there, you’ll notice that pretty much every time its inhabitants open their mouths the language that flows out is French. No matter whether mumbled, shouted or whispered, they stick faithfully to their mother tongue.

Crime drama Jo is set in France. Its lead star is Jean Reno, a Frenchman. Based around the investigations of the Paris police’s murder division, all of its main characters are French. Even the show’s creators and producers are of the Gallic persuasion. So it comes as unwelcome surprise to discover that everyone in it speaks not French but English. Not English with a French accent, a la ‘Allo ‘Allo (except for Reno, presumably because English with a French accent is all he can do), but full-on American English.

The jarring incongruity caused by this choice of language, no doubt made to help sell the show to international markets, is inescapable. While the viewers’ eyes are taken on a tour of some of Paris’s most iconic locations, our ears are treated to characters calling one another “ass wipeâ€?, referencing “Jesse Jamesâ€? and recounting the time one man assaulted another and “busted his grillâ€?. It’s all as authentically French as Pepé Le Pew.

Even worse is the fact that Jo is yet another CSI-style clone, all forensic details and police procedurals, with Reno as yet another flawed yet brilliantly maverick cop at its centre. Around him, the supporting cast are walking stereotypes pilfered from half a dozen other equally uninventive cop shows, all speaking the universal dialect of cliché. The actors who play them are at times so bad you wonder if you are watching a particularly badly dubbed version of a French show.

In an era when subtitled European television series like The Killing and Borgen are international hits, and in the same year that Amor, a subtitled French language film, was nominated for five Oscars (only one of which was Best Foreign Language Film), the whole exercise seems entirely redundant. That its creators couldn’t even come up with a single original idea is plain criminal. As they might say in France, Jo really is a bit “merdeâ€?.

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