- March 15, 2021
- All things Paris
- Eléonore Duizabo
Now that you’re stuck spending day after day at home, why not put all that spare time to use and discover the best series out there combining Paris and theatre? We’ve put together a compilation of our top ten favourite series, all of which promise to delight lovers of the City of Lights and its most cinematic backdrops.
©France Télévisions / Netflix
CALL MY AGENT
This is one of the best French series of the last decade. Aired for the first time in France in 2015, the four-season series is now available on Netflix everywhere and its international ratings prove it’s a success the world over! For good reason too… The series provides a rare glimpse of the backstage world of the film industry, beckoning us through the doors of the talent agency ASK. This chic and sleek agency in the beating heart of Paris manages the biggest stars in French film and theatre. Call My Agent follows the everyday lives of four ambitious agents, who’ll go to literally any lengths to land their clients the best roles. We discover a less seen side of showbiz, with agents playing the roles of matchmaker, psychologists and advisors for their artists. But for the actors and the agents, their professional and personal lives sometimes struggle to coexist. The French series has its fair share of guest stars, with cameo appearances from the likes of Charlotte Gainsbourg, Monica Bellucci, Jean Dujardin and Isabelle Huppert. Each actor has an episode, playing the role of self-deprecating diva with their agents. Call My Agent is an amalgamation of all you could ever want: crazy but touching situations with endearing, funny, and complex characters played by sensational actors. It’s a French series we can recommend to anyone who loves the world of glitz, glamour and cinema. Find the whole series on Netflix.
© Jo Voets - France 2
THE ADVENTURES OF YOUNG VOLTAIRE
We’ve all heard of Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire. But long before his masterpieces Candide and Zadig, the philosopher was a young man named François-Marie Arouet. After studying with the Jesuits, where he befriended the future Cardinal Richelieu, the young Voltaire had only one mission in mind: to climb the social ladder. He quickly made a name for himself in upper-class Parisian society with his witty verses against the established regime, which earned him several stays at the Bastille, then onto exile to the Netherlands and England. Along the way, he won more than his fair share of lovers. Ever aware of his talent for words, the aspiring writer Voltaire took to theatre. All of Paris came to applaud his plays (Oedipus, Zaïre and Henriade) on the stage of the Comédie-Française. This thrilling new biopic stars Thomas Solivéres in the role of the indomitable Voltaire, that undisputed master of words whose own arrogance plays tricks on him. A regular on the stage who most recently appeared in Alexis Michalik's film Edmond, Solivéres is just one of a prestigious cast of French actors: Victor Meutelet, Christa Theret, Thibault de Montalembert and Pascal Demolon. This series plunges us into the scandalous life of the young Voltaire, hopping from the stage of the Comédie-Française to the French King’s court and into the depths of the gruesome Bastille. Behind magnificent period costumes and a sumptuous set design lies a resolutely contemporary and intriguing character. A biopic directed by Alain Tasma. Catch it on France TV.
The ratings say it all: arriving on Netflix in January 2021, French series Lupin is now the platform's biggest foreign language success, gaining over 70 million views in the course of just a month! Having made his name in French feel-good movie The Intouchables, Omar Sy takes the lead in Lupin as Assane Diop, a man out to avenge the death of his father. While Assane was still a child, his father was wrongly accused of stealing a necklace from the powerful Pellegrini family. Thirsty for justice, Assane takes inspiration from his favourite childhood hero: Arsène Lupin, the gentleman thief brought to life by French detective writer Maurice Leblanc. The young man is always one step ahead of the police: disguising his appearance, breaking free from prison, losing his rival on the rooftops of Paris and escaping from the Louvre with Marie-Antoinette's coveted necklace. This series is the perfect blend of action, humour and French je ne sais quoi! It was shot at some of Paris’ most memorable landmarks, including the Louvre, Luxembourg Gardens, the Puces de Saint-Ouen, the Observatory Fountain, and the lesser-known but no less glorious Nissim de Camondo Museum. Who knows, maybe the mysterious Opéra Garnier will feature in the second season, just as in Maurice Blanc's The Melamare Mystery! While we’re on the topic did you know that Lupin's adventures were adapted for the theatre by their author Maurice Leblanc? There are more than five plays bringing to life the adventures of this daring gentleman thief. The Netflix series wouldn’t have existed without Maurice Leblanc's lifelong love of the world of theatre. If, like us, you devoured the first series, fear not! Season 2 of Lupin will hit Netflix in summer 2021.
©Ludovic Pollet / Arte
With each episode less than ten minutes long, Replay transports famous scenes from great plays into our contemporary world. You’ll find Cyrano de Bergerac in a jazz club, Medea in a petrol station and Dom Juan mid-way through a glitzy photo shoot. Each 10-minute episode is shot in a single take, leaving us totally immersed in the impeccably staged scenes. Almost as if it were theatre! This is a superb way to bring the stage to the screen, capturing the unique timelessness of theatre and the true power of play texts. If that wasn’t enough, the short format of the episodes means you’ll race through them in under an hour. We definitely recommend this one for a quick hit of theatrical glamour. The Arte web series can be watched in its entirety for free on Youtube.
Director Damien Chazelle, famed for Academy-award winning movies like La La Land and Whiplash, has just tried his hand at a new Netflix series. Except that The Eddy strays away from the all-American landscape of his previous musical films, taking us down into the Paris’s underbelly for a grittier vision of the French capital. The Eddy tells the story of Elliot, a New York jazz pianist who has opened a jazz club in Paris, by the name of "The Eddy". The only problem: he’s missing an audience. Things get complicated when Elliot's daughter arrives from the US and his relationship with his girlfriend, Maja, lead singer of the jazz band, becomes increasingly turbulent. Added to this is Farid's involvement with Paris’ gangs, which jeopardises the safety of the musicians. They’re already beginning to tire of the insatiable Elliot. This series is a true love letter to jazz music, a perfect metaphor for the sometimes complicated, messy but beautiful lives of its musicians. The series is multilingual, with characters switching between languages in the middle of a sentence. The result is a raw but real picture of a Paris in which multiculturalism and music flourish, with characters that communicate in their one common language: jazz. Framed by two magnificent musical moments, the series combines art house cinema with gripping police thriller... We’ll say no more! Discover the series for yourself on Netflix! After watching the series, you'll only want to do one thing: go to a jazz concert in the vibrant atmosphere of Paris’ Sunset Sunside jazz club or the Baiser Salé.
©Rémy Grandroques - Tetra Media Fiction - Canal+
PARIS POLICE 1900
This TV series made a remarkable arrival on Canal + at the beginning of 2021, depicting the tense climate of Parisian life at the turn of the 20th century. President Félix Faure has just died, the Third Republic is on the verge of exploding and the Dreyfus Affair will soon divide the French public. All those tensions are in the air as we follow Inspector Jouin, who has been asked to investigate a mysterious murder case. Stories criss-cross and overlap, with characters played by new names in French theatre as well as old hands, like the great Christian Hecq of the Comédie-Française and Anne Benoît, who starred in Lupin. This series highlights the oppressive atmosphere and the darker side of the Belle Époque, a period more often heavily romanticized in both literature and film. Stunning sets and costumes only enhance the characters’ beauty. The series was filmed in Paris and offers a fascinating insight into the French capital as we see it transported back in time. A series that is as theatrical as it is thrilling; watch on Canal +.
EMILY IN PARIS
Now here is a title that has certainly made a name for itself. The hit American series, which received two Golden Globe nominations, continues to divide opinions online. But what’s with all the excitement? Let's break down the Netflix phenomenon Emily in Paris. The series follows Emily, a young American who moves to Paris to bring an American perspective to a Parisian marketing company. The young woman discovers a postcard-perfect Paris where everything is good and beautiful: the food, the red wine, the boys and the cobblestone streets. Emily's marketing approaches and positivity have an effect on everything she touches. In her Paris, anything is possible, just as long as you seize the moment. The series is far from the most subtle and makes no attempt to avoid Parisian clichés. Yet we can’t help but be enticed by Emily's joie de vivre, which saves the day in many an awkward moment, even when it’s Emily who is the source of the problem in the first place. Regardless, Emily in Paris is the kind of show you either love to hate, or hate to love. Whilst we were all dreaming of fresh air during lockdown, the series made us fall hopelessly in love with Paris again through its picture-perfect presentation of the City of Lights. Think many a sumptuous long-shot of the Place de l'Estrapade, the Jardin du Palais-Royal, the Café de l'Homme, the Palais Garnier, La Monnaie de Paris... the list goes on! So many museums, cafés and theatres we can't wait to return to. Emily in Paris returns for a second season at the end of 2021 on Netflix!
© Denis Manin / Quad TV / TF1
THE BONFIRE OF DESTINY
Co-produced by Netflix and French channel TF1, the tv show The Bonfire of Destiny is inspired by history, taking us along on some of the incredible adventures of the Parisian aristocracy at the end of the 19th century. In April 1897 in Paris, high society has gathered at the Bazar de la Charité for a charity sale. When a fire breaks out, men do not hesitate to push past women to escape the flames, and more than 125 people die. It’s against this tragic backdrop that three young women rise from the ashes to begin a whole new life. The series follows the destiny of these three young women in their quest for emancipation, freedom and love. The roles are played by three great French actresses, well-known on the Parisian stage: Audrey Fleurot, Camille Lou and Rose Rivière. This bold and decidedly feminist series offers unexpected and captivating storylines. Discover a breath-taking Paris with scenes in our favourite Parc Monceau, complete with exceptional costumes and the intrigues of the aristocracy. This series is guaranteed to fascinate anyone with a passion for winding plots and thrilling melodramas! Available in full on Netflix and TF1.
Photo Jean-Claude Lother / ©Lagadère Studios Distribution
This French series created by Marine Gacem made a dazzling breakthrough on the small screen, despite dividing the critics. Released back in 2019, Philharmonia plunges us into the fascinating world of classical music. It follows the talented musician Hélène Barizet, who is appointed conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra after the sudden death of her predecessor. As the first woman to be appointed this role, she must battle with the snobbery of her fellow musicians. Luckily, she can count on the talent of the young violinist Selena Rivière to breathe new life into a faltering orchestra. That is, until a family illness comes back to haunt the conductor… Philharmonia is a vivid immersion in the world of classical music. We witness an orchestra becoming a hierarchal society of its own, containing within itself a oh so finely balanced ecosystem. The symphonic pieces throughout were composed by Etienne Perruchon and all of the actors in the series are musicians, guaranteeing breath-taking performances. In fact, the concert scenes were filmed in the auditorium of the world-famous Philarmonie de Paris! But beware, behind lilting classical melodies lies a gripping psychological thriller. Following its resounding success in France, the series is soon to arrive in the UK and US. For now, watch it in full on France Télévision.
Translated from the French by Anna Livesey