With the arrival of streaming media platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, Disney and Apple TV, people have yet another reason to not make eye contact on public transport.
Watching comedies, dramas, thrillers, adventure movies or sometimes just binging baking shows is a fine way to silence your inner demons. Therapy is also an option.
Watching TV series in French (with or without subtitles) will not only help you improve your listening skills, but you will also begin to recognize the huge array of accents, dialects and registers the French language has to offer. Your vocabulary gains will also be off the charts, bro. Bear in mind that TV should be used as additional learning material and is not a replacement for exercise or social interaction
Without further ado, here are 5 French TV series that will inspire you to dust off your berets and practice your existential angsty faces in the mirrors.
1) Dix pour cent (2015 – ongoing)
Get up close and personal with some of France’s most renowned actors whilst learning about life in a Parisian ad agency. Dix pour cent, known as Call my agent! in English, is a popular TV show first aired in 2015 on France 2. Each episode showcases a French movie star and reviews their careers, which is ideal for those curious about French celebrity culture. The Cannes specific episode will take you behind the scenes of France’s biggest and most flamboyant film festival. The eagerly-awaited season 4 is on its way. Patience, SVP.
Pro tip: English subtitles are available on Netflix. Andréa, Gabriel, Arlette, Matthias and Camille will surely help you improve your listening skills and teach you some new French expressions and idioms. From a cultural point of view, you’ll learn about French movie stars, new and old.
2) Fais pas ci, fais pas ça (2007 – 2017)
“Don’t do this, don’t do that”: how many times have we heard that before? Truth be told: Fais pas ci, fais pas ça is an efficient way to learn French passively. The series follows the daily life of two neighboring families: the liberal Bouley family and the conservative Lepic family. Their main point of contention is the way they choose to raise their children.
Pro tip: Whether you’re beginning to learn French or have a more advanced level, this mockumentary is perfect if you want to expand your vocabulary and work on your pronunciation.
3) Un Village français (2009 – 2017)
This period drama is set in WW2 France and chronicles the life of a fictional village in the Jura region under Nazi occupation. The show was a huge sensation, but what made it so special is that it thoroughly analyzes the reasons why some people collaborated with the Germans and others resisted, all of this without judgment and without falling into easy generalizations. Each season covers one year, from the German invasion in 1940 to the liberation in 1945 and its aftermath. A riveting, traumatizing, and addictive show, according to some. Up to you to see if it lives up to the hype.
Pro tip: Natural, natural French is present all throughout the 7 seasons, making the show easy to follow and to fathom. Over and beyond the language side of things, the documentary-like attention to historical details is mindblowing, and will help you know more about France’s painful past – in French of course.
4) Bref (2011-2012)
Broadcast by Canal Plus between 2011 and 2012, this short, skillfully produced series featured short episodes (around 2 minutes each) and quickly became a phenomenon online and off in France and abroad. Selected episodes reached 2.5 million views. The series is based upon the adventures of a thirty-something Parisian bachelor, played by actor and creator Kyan Khojandi. We follow him as he navigates situations such as taking the metro every morning, trying to flirt at a party, and even sending a text message.
Pro tip: Bref is no linguistic picnic – we would recommend very advanced learners of French to give it a go, as the actor speaks at a very fast pace, making some words/episodes difficult to understand. However, the very short episodes make these bite-sized French lessons an excellent way to brush up on modern, everyday French.
5) Engrenages (2005 – ongoing)
Known as “Spiral” overseas, Engrenages is a TV series with a total of 76 episodes through 7 seasons. The proof of its success is that it has been exported in more than 70 countries, making it one of the most popular French shows of all time. Engrenages gives viewers an insight into French society, and more specifically on the French legal system through the eyes of six major characters: a police captain, two lieutenants, a judge, a prosecutor and a lawyer. It was nominated in the Best Drama category at the BAFTA, awards and won Best Series at the 2015 International Emmy Awards. Why are you still reading this? All cops are bad.
Pro tip: If you want to enhance your knowledge about the French legal system, this series is a must. Beware though – the language may get intricate sometimes, and the characters often use fast and colloquial speech.
Bonus: Irresponsable (2015 – 2019)
31-year-old and single, Julian returns home to live with his mother as a result of financial difficulties. Luckily, he meets an old flame, Marie who happens to have a 15-year-old son called Jacques. Little does Julian know that Jacques is his own son. Spoilers maybe?
Pro tip: Each episode lasts about 25 minutes, an ideal episode length to hear and retain the clear French spoken in the series. Irresponsable a great point of entry to the French language, ideal for beginners, and the story is fun and light-hearted.