Anyone who has ever spent more than half an hour in the company of a French TV set can say, without fear of much contradiction, that it’s a godawful blend of deadly serious discussion shows, American imports and meaningless game shows. Heck, The Price Is Right is still going strong in France. It may even be nightmarishly possible that, if you tune in at the wrong time, you could see a French Roy Walker, complete with shiny suit, drag his face into a grin to tell another hapless Phrase de Catch contestant: “C’est bon… mais c’est pas vrai.” Not that British telly can sit back and feels smug – just look at the state of the ITV schedules as they flog to death one decent show after another. It’s taken the rise of relatively new genre ‘Scandinavian noir’ for France and England to see the light, join forces and create drama thriller series The Tunnel.
You may have already seen the odd trailer for it, and wondered what all the fuss is about (Sky Atlantic has been working itself into a frenzy for a while now, and to be fair, I’ve not been far behind them). Well, let me elaborate…
Clémence Poésy (you remember her – she played Fleur Delacour in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) heads the cast as singular French detective Elise, who is forced to team up with equally quirky (but in an eccentric, English way) cop Karl, played by Stephen Dillane, of Game of Thrones fame when a body is found at the exact mid-point between Blighty and France in the Channel Tunnel.
However, making life even more tricky for the chalk-and-cheese ‘tecs is the fact there are not one, but two victims. Weird, huh? It turns out the killer has some preaching to do, and plans to bump off more victims in equally grim and strange ways. Add into the mix some interesting sub-plots involving an enigmatic good Samaritan who may or may not be as nice as he seems, and a French businessman whose murky past is coming back to bite him in the bum, and we have all the makings of a gripping series.
It won’t come as any great surprise to viewers and lovers of The Bridge, the twisty, murky Scandinavian drama which inspired The Tunnel, but what intrigues me most is how deftly the action can be transplanted for this Anglo-French version. Just because it worked for The Killing doesn’t mean it will be the same seamless transition here. Luckily I’ve no such concerns about the leading cast. I’ve seen Poésy in a few movies, both French and English, and she’s proved herself to be a fine actress, while the always effortless Dillane is simply one of the best in the business.
So, if the story punches its weight and the cast live up to expectations, who knows? A story about a murder in the Chunnel could be one of the very best things to hit the box this year. How’s that for an entente cordiale?
Contributed by Scheenagh Harrington
The Tunnel starts at 9.00pm on Wednesday 16th October on Sky Atlantic.