Sex, cops and undead push foreign success of French TV

Sex, cops and undead push foreign success of French TV

PARIS - When a murdered boy and serial killer came back to life in French supernatural series "The Returned", hundreds of thousands of viewers in Britain tuned into what became a surprise Gallic hit.

Not content with a prime time slot on Britain's Channel 4, the series has been sold to nearly 40 other nations - one of several acclaimed French TV exports that mark a revival for a country famed for its cinema but not its television.

"An issue has been that they (French series) tended to be a bit slow generally, which can be a challenge," said John Peek, head of the London-based television consultancy TAPE.

"But... what's coming through now is that they can also be stylish and have a visual flair, which is something that makes them more attractive than they have been in the past."

The French are traditionally wary of television as a provider of quality content, and the recent revival has been influenced as much by the popularity of US shows as by risk-taking pay television channel Canal+, which often is compared to HBO.

"The Returned", which aired in Britain from June, echoes the current popular zombie theme, featuring former residents of a remote Alpine town who come back to life and wreak emotional havoc among the living, to the sound of a sombre soundtrack by Scottish band Mogwai.

It attracted an average of 1.8 million viewers per subtitled episode on Channel 4 - not much less than the first season of "Homeland", which drew in around 2.2 million per show on the same channel.

The series is now making its grand entrance onto the US market from October 31 on the Sundance Channel.

"Maison Close", a period drama set in a 19th century Parisian brothel that features racy, sometimes violent sex scenes, is another success that has reportedly inspired HBO to develop a remake.

But other more down-to-earth series have also scored widely.

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