Sunday, 21 April 2013

Jo starring Jean Reno, Fox UK PREVIEW

Jo, Bayard and Dormont in Fox's 'Jo'
Jean Reno, Tom Austen and Orla Brady in Jo. Pics: Fox
Rating: ★★★

Fox UK: starts Sunday, 19 May, 9pm

Story: When a body is found beaten and strangled under the 'Last Judgment' portal of Notre Dame, detective Jo must decode the murder.

Wow, this is a schizophrenic show. French-made, with English dialogue, spoken by a mainly British-Irish-Canadian cast, in US accents – it's as disconcerting as EastEnders in German.

More jarring still are the glaring Americanisms, so that you have the French cops 'putting out an APB', or pulling a suspect's sheet.

A little Gallic flavour is added by the presence of Jean Reno (though even the star of Léon and Godzilla
Eiffel Tower is the setting for an episode of Fox TV's Jo
The Eiffel Tower is the setting for one mystery
was born in Morocco), and each episode focuses on a Parisian landmark (Eiffel Tower, Place Vendôme, and starting at Notre Dame).

Still, it's hard to imagine anyone in France falling in love with Jo when they have fine crime series already such as Braquo and Spiral – all without the American knobs on. Those knobs will no doubt be excised later because the series is part of a trend to make French shows in English, sell them abroad and then dub them into French for the home market (in this case TF1). Whether Jo can survive the insult the French linguistic pride remains to be seen.

Jo's got a drug habit
So, the series is aimed squarely at US/English-speaking audiences. Bearing in mind that the Americans are hardly going short in the cop-show department, can Jo find a niche for itself? Well, it's more comme ci, comme ça than formidable.

Joachim 'Jo' Saint-Clair is a veteran detective, with the stress on veteran. He's a drug abuser, has an estranged daughter, Adele, from a liaison with a prostitute, and the years have taken their toll. Even the actor playing him, Jean Reno, is 64, so Jo's not too clever with the action and chase scenes.

Orla Brady(Dormont) in Fox TV's Jo
Orla Brady as Dormont
Fortunately, he has young Tom Austen (whose first big role was in E4's Beaver Falls) as Bayard alongside him, and Jill Hennessy (Law & Order) as his confidante and friend, Karyn. Orla Brady (Fringe) turns up as their boss.

Brits playing French flics with American accents
Wunmi Mosaku (Vera) and Celyn Jones (Above Suspicion) are also among the Brits making a half-hearted attempt to play French flics.

Jo needs all the support he can get (and this may explain the pharmaceuticals he uses) because he has to track the killers who commit the most shocking murders in Paris. First up, the body of a renowned organist, whose corpse is found under the 'Last Judgment' portal of Notre Dame. 'This was payback,' Jo decides, pretty much stating the obvious.

Talented he may have been, but musician Peter van Vliet was also a serial shagger who enjoyed having sex in semi-public places with married women. Hence, there's no shortage of cuckolded husbands among the suspects.



Plenty of talent, not enough originality
The mystery is a bit predictable, but if the show is to find an audience it will probably be because Jo is a
well-drawn and interesting character (the only one in the show). Desperately trying to reconnect with his daughter and fighting his addictions, he's a character on the edge.

Jo is a detective on edge in Fox TV's Jo
Detective on edge
Directors for this first season include Charlotte Sieling (The Bridge), Stefan Schwartz (Dexter) and Kristoffer Nyholm (The Killing), so Emmy-winning producer Rene Balcer (Law & Order) is throwing a lot of talent at making Jo a success. It's decent enough, but is basically a pretty routine procedural (apart from the international mashup) and is unlikely to stand out from the crowd of cop shows.

Cast: Jean Reno Jo St-Clair, Jill Hennessy Karyn, Tom Austen Bayard, Orla Brady Dormont, Heida Reed Adele, Chris Brazier Yannick Morin, Celyn Jones Normand, Wunmi Mosaku Angelique Alassane, Eriq Ebouaney Amadou, Stephen Shagov Fredric, Joe Tucker Ed Duroc