Spiral — Killer TV No.40

Spiral cast for series 3
Law & order French-style

2005-present, Canal+

‘I’d have sold my soul if I had one.’ – Marchard
Caroline Proust, Grégory Fitoussi, Philippe Duclos, Thierry Godard, Fred Bianconi, Audrey Fleurot
Identikit: The Parisian police and judiciary tackle crime, while internally they are riven with mistakes, corruption and careerists.


Spiral gets the nod ahead of Braquo on the basis that it is not quite as deranged as the latter. Its French title, Engrenages or gears/cogs, gives a flavour of what the series has been about in its four seasons (a fifth is being filmed). Like Law & Order, it delves into the workings of police and judiciary, but with an emphasis on the realpolitik of the legal profession and the dirty side policing. The focus is on police captain Laure Berthaud and her lieutenants, Gilou Escoffier and ‘Tintin’ Fromentin, along with Judge François Roban, prosecutor Pierre Clément and a lawyer, the glamorous and cynical Joséphine Karlsson. Laure and her team occasionally overstep the mark, using too much force or with the captain herself suspected of unlawfully shooting a suspect at the start of series 4, but they are always bound by mutual loyalty in the face of violent criminals and the incompetence and ambition of their superiors. This theme of self-serving venality carries over to the legal eagles, with Judge Roban having battles at the Palais de Justice with Prosecutor Marchard over various dodgy goings-on, and Karlsson involved in every shady opportunity to further her bank balance and her fame. Series 4 was probably the best, weaving together a gripping mix of political terrorism, police cock-ups, crime lords and snogging (Joséphine/Pierre, anarchists Sophie/Thomas, etc). The series are complex, sometimes convoluted and near silly, but Spiral‘s sophisticated characterisation and absorbing portrayal of the cynical law enforcement agencies makes it a must-see drama. A fifth series will arrive in 2014. 
Classic episode: The finale to series three had it all – the snog between Karlsson and Clément probably melted a few remote controls at home; Gilou stamping on Vlad’s balls before having an apparent heart-attack later on and making up with his boss, skipper Laure; heartbreak for Judge Roban and Isabelle; and Laure brutally killing the villain and avoiding a trial that could have exposed police procedural cock-ups, brutality, witnesses recompensed with coke and evidence fiddling. Gene Hunt would be proud.

Watercooler fact: Spiral has been a huge hit for Canal+, being sold in 70-odd countries, among them Mexico, Australia, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Italy and Croatia.

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Jeanne Tripplehorn on Criminal Minds, Sky Atlantic’s The Tunnel, Olivia Colman joins Mr Whicher

Jeanne Tripplehorn on Criminal Minds

Jeanne Tipplehorn, star of movies such as The Firm and Basic Instinct, joins the eighth series of Criminal Minds, launching on Living later this month (Monday, 28 January, 9pm). She plays linguist Alex Blake, with the season opener seeing the team tracking a prison escapee who is emulating the MO of a notorious serial killer called The Silencer. Brad Dourif (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) will also appear in a later special episode.

Sky Atlantic, which has boldly gone where few other channels dare in making feisty dramas such as Hit & Miss and Falcón, has just announced a new 10-part series inspired by The Bridge. Set on the border between the UK and France it’s called – what else? – The Tunnel, and it’s a co-production with French network Canal+. A French politician is found dead on the border and detectives Karl Roebuck and Elise Wassermann investigate on behalf of their respective countries. It’s good to see Sky Atlantic backing a 10-parter, the same length of series as The Killing 2 and 3, something the Beeb and ITV rarely do these days. But it will be interesting to see if The Tunnel‘s Elise is anything like as much fun as The Bridge‘s ice blonde Saga Norén.

• The excellent Olivia Colman, who’s equally terrific in dramas (Tyrannosaur) or comedies (Rev, Twenty Twelve), takes a serious turn again to appear in ITV1’s The Suspicions of Mr Whicher 2, alongside Paddy Considine as the Victorian detective. The first film, shown in 2011, was based on Kate Summerscale‘s superb non-fiction book recounting the incredible story of the child murder at Road Hill House in 1860. Mr Whicher was the pioneering Metropolitan police detective who investigated the case, which shook his reputation even though he was proved correct in his suspicions. The second film, which is two hours long, is written by Bafta-award-winning Neil McKay (Appropriate Adult, See No Evil: the Moors Murders) and will be filming in Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and London over the next four weeks. It’s a fictional story based on historical research into Whicher’s career, with Olivia Colman playing Susan Spencer, who employs the detective to investigate the murder of her 16-year-old niece.

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