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.

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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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