Witnesses: Gripping French Drama

by | Jul 23, 2015 | All, Reviews

If you follow me on twitter, and I’d recommend you do, you’ll be aware I’ve been heavily praising Channel 4 this year. It’s the only channel outside of BBC Three I’ve watched consistently this year. I’m loving Humans, I adored Catastrophe, learnt a lot from The Tribe and was sucked in by Cyberbully. The latest show I’m impressed by is a new acquisition from France.

French crime drama Witnesses isn’t your average crime drama. It’s slick, it’s fast paced with an original premise and a touch of Nordic Noir. In the overnight ratings it was unable to perform as well as the channel’s previous French acquisition The Returned. I don’t find that to be a reflection on the drama, but more a reflection on the late night timeslot it was given and a bad lead in from One Born Every Minute. 

The premise, sees detectives called in when bodies are dug up, and placed in a show homes to look like the perfect family. If that weren’t bizarre enough, the story takes a more interesting when the picture of a retired policemen is displayed on the bedside table of one of the victims. The detective in question is Paul Maisonneuve played by Thierry Lhermitte. Lhermitte, who recently played the French version of Doc Martin (feel free to use that bit of trivia to impress friends and family) Paul Maisonneuve is an interesting character. At first we’re led to believe he’s still grieving for his wife who was a passenger in a brutal car crash. He is beloved by colleagues who admire him, but appreciate he can be a “pain in the arse”. When his framed photo turns up on the bedside table of the most recent victims, new detective  Sandra Winckler who remembers Maisonneuve from her training.

Winckler looks into Maisonneuve’s past and discovers that the car crash that led to death of his wife, and put him into a rehabilitation centre, may not have even happened.  Winckler has secrets of her own as Maisonneuve remembers a strange confrontation between them both during her training.

I was a late comer to subtitled drama, but this was superb! Much like The Killing, The Bridge and The Returned this was incredibly atmospheric. Not a second of its 53 minutes was wasted.  I was hooked and immediately intrigued. Channel 4 are absolutely on fire at the moment. They’re a channel that really seem to know their audience and what they want. There are five episodes of Witnesses left and I’ll be with it to the end. If I had one criticism, it would be the 10pm timeslot. The Returned was given the primetime slot when that aired and I’d’ve loved to have seen this get the Sunday 9pm slot when Humans had come to an end.

If you like intense and atmospheric drama, this is absolutely for you. There’s very little drama around at the moment, and what is isn’t really worth your time, this is worth your time. If you’re not sucked in by this opening episode you’ll need to contact your GP.

Witnesses Continues Wednesday at 10pm on Channel 4 

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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