Performance EntreChats à l'hotel Mama Shelter


19 May, 9pm on Fox

Why’s Jean Reno French? Not generally – we all have these burdens to bear – but specifically in Jo. He’s heading up a Parisian homicide team, but everyone else speaks like they’re in a pilot for CBS. In truth, it’s because the series is an attempt by French broadcaster TF1 to grab a slice of the lucrative international market. But in TV terms… well, it doesn’t have the elegance of Wallander.

Being cast in the American mould, CSI: Paris throws us straight into the murder and death with little hoo-hah – this show’s got to be syndicated some day and backstory’ll only confuse the proles. There’s a dead body in front of a landmark – Paris has got a few, so we’re good for a couple of series yet – Reno’s Jo rolls up, quickly diagnoses a religious motive and saunters off to an autopsy. Boom, job’s a good ‘un and we’re almost done in time for brioche.

These bite-sized, 45-minute crime dramas may appeal to the undemanding, but they’re unsatisfying. They don’t have the contemplation of noir or the plotting of something like Morse. People are dead and lying to us before we know who they are, and the investigators are many so we don’t have to waste time getting between plot points. There’s no room for ideas to bed in, so subversion and reveals don’t mean much.

The cops in such series are identikit and the attempts to give them some marginal individuality are one of the few places you’ll get some laughs. Jo may be another unstable, drug-taking cop with an estranged daughter, but he’s an unstable, drug-taking French cop with an estranged daughter goddammit. So, he, um, has controlled rent and shiz.

But remember, Reno’s the tentpole casting here – the Gallic equivalent of Gary Sinise – and the only regular with any acting chops to be seen. He’s there to make the project look like it has dramatic worth and give it profile. But while Jeany Boy gets the mandatory scenes of torment, the Abercrombie & Fitch models he’s cast with are only there to spout exposition and practice being out of focus. Presumably they’ll each get their moments in upcoming episodes, but such things aren’t usually much more than fodder for showreels.

Jo’s showing on Fox, so TF1 got their prize of a marketable commodity – but the products sells because it’s a known quantity. Like a lightbulb or a strip of cling film or some batteries – not like a piece of quality television. Maybe it’s unfair to to single out Jo if the problems are with the market as a whole, but it’s no reason to defend it either. Do like a French footballer and shrug.