U.S. has growing appetite for French TV

Numerous French series to get U.S. makeovers

CANNES -- After a British invasion on stateside small screens, the Union Jack is being replaced by the French tricolore as Gallic TV programs become increasingly a la mode in the U.S.

The miniseries "XIII" proved to be a lucky number for French pay TV network Canal Plus, with the English-language drama giving the channel its highest ratings yet for a homegrown fiction series.

The $20 million, four-hour production attracted 1.1 million viewers for each of the two-part episodes, which aired Oct. 6 and Oct. 13. NBC will broadcast "XIII" in the winter, and Canal Plus is planning a sequel, depending on NBC's ratings.

The adaptation of Jean Van Hamme and William Vance's popular comic book, produced by Cipango, stars Val Kilmer and Stephen Dorff. M6 and Canal Plus put up 2 million euros ($2.7 million) each for the political thriller and Canada's Power TV and prodigy funded the remaining budget for the European majority co-production.

"We used a European quota, a bankable U.S. director and actors and filmed in Canada," Canal Plus' head of fiction Fabrice de la Patelliere said in an interview. He added, "We're really working on developing our international co-productions in the future."

U.S. producers are setting their sights on Gallic fiction, not only co-producing ambitious projects such as "XIII" but also optioning a number of French formats.

More French series may be getting U.S. makeovers in the coming months. CAA is handling negotiations for Scarlett Prods.' popular series "Clara Scheller," a dramedy about a young single woman living with her gay best friend, which aired on public TV network France 2.

Alchemy optioned the series this year. Scarlett also is shopping "A Cop in Jail" to U.S. buyers.

La Parisienne Prods.' "Doom Doom" sparked interest at Pangea, which plans to pitch a U.S. version of the series to U.S. cable networks. CAA is handling adaptation deals for the company.

"Both 'Hard' and 'Doom Doom' are very different from what viewers are used to seeing both in France and within the global TV landscape," La Parisienne topper Gilles Galud said in an interview. He added: "The day after the original French broadcast, I was already contacted."

Galud will not only sell the format stateside, but also plans to remain actively involved in the adaptation and production of the project. "Hard" also is optioned for a remake in Germany.

"For me, it's both exciting and evident," Galud said of the recent boom in interest in French fiction. He added: "French fictions are finally able to compete with U.S. series."

ABC has optioned a U.S. remake of Elephant Story's format "Don't Do This, Don't Do That" (Fais Pas ci, Fais pas ca), which premiered on France 2 in September.

Co-executive producer of "Samantha Who?" Bob Kushell plans to bring the 52-minute documentary-style comedy series to U.S. screens, for a rumored price of 40,000 euros ($53,845) plus royalties.

Endemol's recently launched fiction division has been pushing its first international co-production "Night Club Miami" during MIPCOM.

The English-language drama from young producer Romuald Boulanger's R-Lines will start shooting next year in Miami with an all-American cast.

Endemol has already been shopping the show to the U.S. major networks and is in negotiations for presales across the globe. French series are already on the guest list for the U.S. networks, but will they be allowed into club primetime?