If you find yourself reading my blog then I assume you’re a bit of a Francophile, or possibly planning a trip to France, so have I got a treat for you: a glorious selection of French TV series to watch.

These days it’s all about binge-watching. Box-sets and series are quite the thing, particularly right now during the Coronavirus lockdown affecting millions of people around the world. I’m sure we’re all guilty of watching a fair amount of TV, so perhaps you’re sick of your selection and looking for new recommendations?

How about delving into a French TV series?  By watching in French you can assuage your guilt as you’ll be absorbing/learning/perfecting a foreign language. Watching a film in its original language is a great way to help learn that language. Nowadays with smart TVs most of us have the option to use subtitles which makes it extra easy to watch. No excuses!

Now, if you’re fed up of being stuck at home and longing to travel, then indulging in a French TV series can transport you to France. There are series set all over this beautiful country to feast your eyes on.  Indulge in some wanderlust and discover new places.

French TV series watch

I’ve put together a list of French TV series to watch, some of which I’ve watched and enjoyed, some of which JF has seen, some are recommendations by friends and others are on our list of series to watch.

The series I’ve chosen come from a variety of sources, not just Netflix, in order to appeal to the greatest number of people possible. I know not everyone subscribes to a film streaming service.

In terms of variety, there should be something here for everyone, with many genres covered: rom-com, crime, supernatural, historical/period drama, spoof, thriller, comedy, political drama, horror and mystery.

Plan Coeur (The Hook Up Plan)

An original series made for Netflix France, Plan Coeur is a cute rom-com following the lives of a group of Parisian Millennials. The main character Elsa is trying to get over a breakup with the help of her friends who, unbeknown to her, hire a male escort posing as a school teacher to seduce her.  But not everything goes to plan.

I’m always happy to gaze at Paris and Plan Coeur offers the chance to see how 20-30-somethings live in the French capital, from bijou apartments to Parisian fashion. This may not be the most original of series but it’s easy on the eye and addictive-watching.

Available on Netflix

2 seasons of 14 episodes in total

Dix Pour Cent (Call My Agent)

Dix Pour Cent follows the life of a talent agency in Paris that, since the death of its founder, always seems to be on the edge of disaster.  The action revolves around 4 agents and their assistants, combining their complicated professional and personal lives. The storyline is mostly humorous but the show doesn’t shy away from serious topics like the difficulty for older women landing good roles, racism, sexism and the #metoo movement.

Every episode stars a real-life French actor/personality playing themselves with a certain sense of self-deprecation. There are some big names including internationally known Jean Dujardin, Isabelle Adjani, Juliette Binoche and Nathalie Baye. All the guest stars are famous in France which makes watching Dix pour Cent a fun way of finding out more about French celebrities.

Dix Pour Cent is currently my favourite French TV series to watch. It’s funny, extremely watchable, full of great characters and of course that Parisian scenery! I can’t wait for season 4 to begin.

Available on Netflix

3 seasons of  6 episodes each. Season 4 coming soon to France 2

Le Chalet (The Chalet)

When a group of friends gather for a wedding at a picturesque chalet in a nearly deserted village in the mountains, it quickly turns into a nightmare. It becomes apparent that things aren’t what they seem.  Cut off from the outside world, a dark secret from the past comes back to haunt them.  Grizzly discoveries and flashbacks reveal disturbing events from 20 years ago and it appears no one is safe.

Le Chalet has been described by some critics as a slasher, in the style of Scream without quite so much blood, but while there is indeed a rather silly amount of bodies by the end, I still thoroughly enjoyed this part thriller, part horror series. (And the Alpine scenery is gorgeous!) Definitely a good French TV series to watch.

Available on Netflix

1 season of 6 episodes

Marseille

This political crime series was the first original French drama made for Netflix but it was panned by the critics and only ran for 2 seasons. However, like many films that are derided by the critics, it has almost become cult viewing by the public. It has also had reasonable success overseas and despite its flaws, we enjoyed it.

Marseille stars multi award-winning actor Gérard Depardieu, an icon of French cinema, as Robert Taro, the mayor of France’s 2nd city.  Politics, power, corruption, drugs and crime are all at play as Taro’s young, ambitious, former protegé plots to depose the long-standing mayor.  Marseille (the place) is vastly underrated as a destination in France and if for no other reason this series is worth watching for the beautiful port city scenery.

Available on Netflix

2 seasons of 8 episodes each

Engrenages (Spiral)

In contrast to the critical failure of Marseille, Engrenages was a huge critical success winning multiple awards, including an Emmy. It was also massively popular across the globe and originally shown on Canal+, BBC4 & SBS (Australia) among others.  The NY Times puts its popularity down to

(a) familiar and exportable format, the police drama. But it’s a particularly rich and complicated version, weaving detectives hunting down drug traffickers and terrorists into a contemporary Parisian backdrop of political arrivistes, corrupt judges and criminals with friends in high places, including predators in the mold of Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

JF recommends this as a great French TV series to watch if you can get hold of it.  He was addicted to it.

Available on MyCanal, Hulu and some episodes only on Amazon

7 seasons 76 episodes in total

Les Rivières Pourpres (The Crimson Rivers)

Les Rivières Pourpres is a crime drama with a French, German and Austrian cast based on a French thriller starring Jean Reno and Vincent Cassel, itself originally based on a novel by Jean-Christophe Grange.

This TV series follows an old-school police detective and a former ace student as his side-kick as they solve murder cases around France that are too complex for local police departments to deal with.  For the viewer this means we get to travel around different regions of France each episode as backdrops to the grizzly crimes. While the murders can be gory, the scenery is stunning and the chemistry between the two main characters is great.

Available on Netflix (season 1 only) and FranceTV France 2 replay (season 2)

2 seasons of 16 episodes in total

Les Revenants (The Returned)

Les Revenants was based on a film of the same name and season 1 of this supernatural TV series was a massive hit. It was considered the best French TV series of all time by many viewers but season 2 was a disappointment.

In a small Alpine village, several people return years after they left. They appear confused and what they don’t realise at first is that they have all been dead for many years. As they try to fit back into their lives strange and mysterious phenomena start occurring. Mix the undead with a serial killer and you have a suspenseful, atmospheric, utterly engrossing story.

Available on myCanal and Amazon (season 1 only)

2 seasons of 8 episodes each

Au Service de la France (A Very Secret Service)

Au Service de la France is a spoof comedy about the French Secret Service in the 1960s. André Merlaux is a young trainee officer undergoing a series of tests and assignments under the watchful eye of his operations manager. Mixing parody and satire, Au Service de la France uses real events as a base for its storyline. Much of the show’s humour derives from its portrayal of French society and politics, particularly France’s relationship with its former colonies.

The episodes are only 20-25 minutes long so this series is a good one to watch in short bursts, as a quick fill-in when you can’t spend long in front of the TV!

Available on Netflix

2 seasons of 24 episodes in total

Marianne

I have included this series here, despite it not being my kind of thing at all, because apparently horror appeals to many people! And I have it on good authority from a friend into the genre that it’s worth watching.

Marianne is another made-by-Netflix French TV series which was reasonably well reviewed on release but after only one series it has been cancelled.  According to Wikipedia the plot revolves around Emma, a best-selling author who realises that the characters she creates in her horror novels also exist in the real world.

Available on Netflix

2 seasons of 8 episodes

Un Village Français (A French Village)

Un Village Français was the first major French TV series to seriously address the issue of collaboration during the Nazi occupation in World War II.

The action takes place in the fictional village of Villeneuve in the Jura mountains. It starts in 1940 and over the 7 seasons it reaches the end of the Second World War. This series tackles many themes “embodied by a rich palette of characters”. It is a historically accurate and sympathetic look at ordinary people during terrible times where “to live is to choose”. (Quotes from France TV).

Available on France TV France 3 replay and YouTube

7 seasons with 72 episodes in total

There are obviously plenty more fabulous French TV series to watch out there and of course not every series is available in every country but I hope you find something you like the sound of here.

Please feel free to add further ideas in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.

When you’re not watching French TV series, how about having a listen to these French-English songs instead!

Related Reading

How to Travel Without Travelling

Radio FG and The Use of an English Swear Word in French

Movies in France – How to Find a Film in English

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French TV series watch

 

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