mon 17/06/2024

Witnesses, Channel 4 | reviews, news & interviews

Witnesses, Channel 4

Witnesses, Channel 4

Gloomy French crime drama needs a shot of adrenalin

Witnesses: French drama needs to fling away that walking stick

Shall we blame The Bridge? The Swedish-Danish cop show opened for business with a scenario of outlandish gruesomeness: two halves of two corpses straddling the border between two countries. How to grab the viewer by the lapels, lesson one: hook them with a crazy, wacky, weird murder scene, so bonkers they’ll just have to hang around to find out what’s what.

Witnesses is reading the same playbook. We began with three bodies strewn around a show home, and it was swiftly revealed that these bodies had nothing to do with one another and had been dug up from a variety of cemeteries. Precisely how weird is that (although technically they weren't murdered)?

Known as Les Témoins on French and Belgian TV, and already on Netflix, Witnesses is set somewhere very gloomy in north-eastern France. It may as well be Sweden. Don’t go there on your hols if blue skies are your thing. The only person who seems remotely pleased to be there is Sandra Winckler (Marie Dompnier), a detective with a keen nose for rats, fishiness and other suspicious odours. Winckler by name, winkler by nature. While her buffoonish sidekick Justin (Jan Hammenecker) shrugs and joshes, she has soon worked out that there was something of the poisson about former local top cop Paul Maisonneuve (Thierry Lhermitte).

His framed photograph is found at the scene of the crime. The show home used to be his, it spookily turns out, but for two years he has lived in a rehabilitation centre after a car crash in which his wife was killed. Or was she? What’s his link to two random trios of disinterred bodies (making six in all)? And what about that surname, which may as well translate as “show home”? Also, does anyone care? Questions for later.

There are five more episodes of this and the pace is going to need to accelerate sharply. Created by Marc Herpoux and Hervé Hadmar, Witnesses so far seems to be hobbling about with a walking stick, a bit like Maisonneuve, who is super-dull. (Retired French cops with a gammy leg are very much the flavour of the season what with that old codger copper in The Missing.) One’s pulse broke into a brief trot when Winckler and Maisonneuve, both suffering from insomnia, went round to the crime scene in the middle of the night in order to give the script a shot in the arm. There’s a bit of stuff about gender politics – can the female detective with a scrummy kid at home really have it all? Unfortunately, on this occasion je m’en fiche. Tell me I’m wrong if or when it picks up.


Witnesses is set somewhere very gloomy in north-eastern France. It may as well be Sweden


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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