New TV on MHz Choice – Easy to choose [TELEVISION REVIEW]

Arthur Dupont, Émilie Gavois-Kahn and Chloé Chaudoye in "Agatha Christie’s Criminal Games: The ‘70s." Photo courtesy of MHz Choice.

“Agatha Christie’s Criminal Games: The 70s” 

The third season of this fun French adaptation of Agatha Christie short stories and novellas has arrived and it’s a delight. Setting these 10 episodes in the era of gogo boots, miniskirts, leather jackets and polyester shirts, Flore Kosinetz, Hélène Lombard and others have had a field day in taking the foundation of the various stories and Frenchifying them. I must confess that this series has long been on my radar but I am only just getting started with the third season. Be assured, I will now go back to the beginning and watch them all. 

Like many French television series, these episodes are more like TV movies, each 90 minutes long with the same main characters to anchor the film. The era is not just characterized by the pitch perfect outfits worn by the characters, some of which are cringe-worthy in terms of accuracy, but also by the male chauvinist attitudes that prevailed at that time. A new captain, Annie Greco, has arrived at police headquarters in Lille. Greeted disdainfully by the chief who is mortified that his station is being used for this unwanted experiment in gender promotion, she is further demeaned by the detectives in her future squad who mistake her for a prostitute and harass her. Unlike what would happen in an American counterpart in that situation, they do not buckle or apologize when their mistake is revealed to them. Instead, they dig in and refuse to cooperate. Greco has been there before and plows ahead. 

Arthur Dupont and Émilie Gavois-Kahn in “Agatha Christie’s Criminal Games: The ‘70s.” Photo courtesy of MHz Choice.

Just minutes on the job and a murder has been reported. The recalcitrant detectives have already left for the scene without checking in with the supervisor they dislike. Greco is forced to commandeer the car of a detective who has been demoted to the archives, Beretta the hot head. The murder occurred on a movie set and the victim was one of the stars, spotted earlier arguing with his co-star and former girlfriend. The remaining cast and crew, most of whom have air-tight alibis, are protective of the star, particularly her resident psychologist, Rose Bellecour. Greco is unmoved, steps on the delicate toes of all present, and proceeds interrogate suspects post haste. Maybe with a little bit too much haste because upon her return to the precinct she is reprimanded by her chief. The agent of Anna Miller, the star, has connections that go all the way up to the Ministry of Justice and Greco must keep her hands off her lead suspect. Bellecour is adamant that her patient and friend is incapable of killing anyone and makes herself an annoying presence with her theories. Having been demoted because of his uncontrollable temper, Beretta desperately wants to rejoin the detective squad. Greco arrives at a compromise and agrees provided that he start therapy with Bellecour. Talk about a recipe for disaster. But disaster or not, we’ve got our team and each will contribute to the solution of the case, or rather cases because there will be more murders (there always are in Christie novels), all under the wise, calm and gruff guidance of Greco who, even with her hands tied by the Chief, is better than the rest of them in putting the pieces together. 

Arthur Dupont as Beretta is good but lacks subtlety in his role as the punch first, ask questions later detective. Almost always yelling and/or angry, there’s no place for him to go when the upper register is already in use. Chloé Chaudoye as Rose Bellecour, the rich girl trying to prove her competence, is a bit too one note in her annoyance and delivery but she does allow room for growth toward the end when she is anointed as an independent consultant to the group. But the real reason to watch, other than the really fun stories, is Emilie Gavois-Kahn as Captain Greco. Gavois-Kahn is a nuanced actor who layers in an underlying humor with exasperation along with a wide range of expression. No victim she; there’s no time to combat the ignorant. She just does her job and does it better than anyone else. Her quiet triumph over the roadblock in front of her is as interesting as the mystery stories themselves.

Now streaming on MHz Choice.


“What Pauline Is Not Telling You” – Silence is not golden

“What Pauline Is Not Telling You” is a nerve-shattering close-up of a woman cracking under strain. It is a sensitive portrait of a woman so beaten down by the circumstances of life that every decision she comes to make after a traumatic event is absolutely, positively the wrong one.

Pauline, the mother of a toddler and a pre-teen, is recently separated from an abusive husband. He has so demoralized her that there is little left, only a shell. It took every ounce of courage to leave him and there is nothing in reserve. Wealthy, from a family with standing, Her husband Olivier continues to toy with his soon to be ex by withholding the court-mandated alimony and canceling her credit cards. When she is forced to write a bad check at the grocery store because her cupboard is bare, she explodes at him on her car phone as he laughs at her plight, indicating that he’s only just begun. With the kids in the car, she makes a sharp U-turn and heads straight for his upscale house. Leaving the kids in the car, she charges in. Damien, however, secretly leaves the car, wanting to retrieve the video console he left the last time he was there. What Damien sees will shade all the action to come — his mother standing over the bleeding body of his father. He runs back, arriving just before his mother returns and drives them home. Upon reflection, she calls 911 and recounts what she saw. Ordered to return to the scene, paramedics are loading him into the ambulance. He wasn’t dead but will soon be. Her skittish behavior and the timing of her call raise all sorts of red flags. 

Grace Seri as the Prosecutor and Ophelia Kolb as Pauline. Photo courtesy of MHz Choice.

Investigation of this case falls to the police and the judge assigned to the case. The police captain in charge indicates that the case is purely circumstantial, a probable fall from unstable scaffolding, and based almost entirely by Pauline’s nervous behavior. The judge, however, is under immense pressure. A woman of color and new to the department, she recognizes that she has been given this case in order to fail and put her in her place. This, alone, makes her fully committed to proving that Pauline murdered her husband. And of course, the nervous, abused Pauline only makes things worse for herself. Virtually every single move she makes is the wrong one. But, to a certain extent, the same can be said of the overly confident judge. As a negative portrait of the deceased begins to unfold, his parents dig in their heels to shore up his image, an image that will be critical to Pauline’s success or failure in court.

Writer/creators Julien Capron and Antoine Lacomblez, aided immensely by their director Rodolphe Tissot, have given us an outstanding character study in four episodes. Anchored by Ophélia Kolb as Pauline, the acting is hauntingly deep and highlights the complex and conflicted natures of all concerned. If there is a caveat here, it is that the disintegration of a personality is extremely difficult to watch. In other words, there are not a whole lot of yuks to be found.

Now streaming on MHZ Choice.



comments so far. Comments posted to may be reprinted in the Easy Reader print edition, which is published each Thursday.