The Best French TV Shows of All Time

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France is known around the world as the birthplace of cinema (thanks to the inventive Lumière Brothers), and for continuing to produce films of the highest artistic merit. Despite this, French forays into television have proved to be mostly bland and unsatisfying, generating little interest at home or abroad. Until recently. Within the last few years, French TV has had a renaissance, thanks in part to streaming, with major players like Netflix, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime investing in quality French-language productions with a global distribution. (You can read more about how French TV evolved to get where it is today in this explainer I wrote for Frenchly.)

French TV is getting better and better, as French studios learn how to successfully tell uniquely French stories that also have mass market appeal. We are past the pandemic TV era when the appeal of armchair traveling was enough to make us enjoy solidly mid series because they were set against gorgeous Parisian backdrops. (Sorry, Emily.) Now, French TV needs to be funny, sexy, or gripping enough to cut through the noise. Luckily, some of it is.

French TV shows tend to be much shorter than American shows, often with only six episodes in a season, which makes them easy to binge without committing weeks or even months to finishing them. So to give you a low-commitment opportunity to pick up a little French language and culture, we’ve rounded up some of the best French TV shows for you to enjoy, and where to watch them.

The 9 Best French TV Shows to Watch Now

1. Escort Boys

A show about French cowboys doing sex work to save the bees might sound like an odd concept, but in the case of Escort Boys, it’s just crazy enough to work. This fresh debut from Amazon Prime follows Ben (Guillaume Labbé), a struggling actor who returns to his family’s apiary in the Camargue region of France when his father dies. Tasked with taking care of his 17-year-old sister, Charly, and finding money to pay off his family’s debts and save the apiary, Ben and his friends Zack and Ludo turn to sex work to pull in some extra cash. The Camargue, with its farmhands in cowboy hats (quite a departure from the stereotypical beret) traipsing through marshes on horseback, offers a rougher side of France than is normally seen on TV. And the show presents a diverse, working class set of characters who all have their own motives for seeking fulfillment outside the bounds of demanding blue collar day jobs and familial commitments. Escort Boys is funny, sexy, and brimming with pathos, and presents a world where men and women alike are given the opportunity to grow and evolve through their relationships with one another, transactional though they may be.

Where to watch Escort Boys: Amazon Prime

2. Represent (En Place)

Fans of Parks and Rec and VEEP will devour this hilarious comedy about a youth center leader in the impoverished banlieues of Paris who accidentally ends up campaigning to be the next president of France. Starring and co-written by Jean-Pascal Zadi, Represent is a show for lovers of French comedy, with big names in standup like Fary and Fadily Camara in prime roles. With a quirky and diverse set of characters, this show sets out to ask whether France could ever truly be united as one nation of equals.

Where to watch Represent: Netflix

3. The Forest (Le Forêt)

In the tiny French village of Montfaucon where The Forest takes place, nothing is as it appears. This mini-series follows the hunt for a missing 16-year-old girl that leads to shocking revelations within a close-knit community where everyone has their secrets. The show stars Samuel Labarthe as Captain Gaspard Decker, a by-the-book detective and newcomer to the town, and Suzanne Clément as Lieutenant Virginie Musso, a hotheaded hometown cop. Decker and Musso clash as the investigation heats up, and their interpersonal disputes and struggles in the line of duty become exacerbated by the involvement of an eccentric local school teacher.

Where to watch The Forest: Netflix

4. Lupin

It’s hard to talk about French TV without mentioning Lupin, likely the most-watched French TV show globally. Based on the Arsène Lupin books by Maurice Le Blanc (contemporaneous with, and just as popular in France, as Sherlock Holmes), this is the show that put French TV on the map in the U.S. It stars the inimitable Omar Sy (Les Intouchables) in the role of Assane Diop, a “gentleman burglar,” whose glamorous heists provide a window into both the highs and lows of Parisian society. Sy brings charisma and sophistication to the character, who styles himself after the Le Blanc’s Lupin and uses the character as a sort of alter ego. Diop/”Lupin” evades both evil business tycoons and sympathetic detectives as he struggles to get rich off of France’s upper crust without sacrificing his family in the process. You’ll manage to watch the six episodes of Part 1 in under a weekend, though by Part 3 the show starts to lose direction a bit. Here’s hoping for some improvement in Part 4.

Where to watch Lupin: Netflix

5. The Hook Up Plan (Plan Cœur)

One of Netflix’s earliest investments into French-language TV, The Hook Up Plan might not be as glitzy as Lupin, as whip-smart as Call My Agent, or as sexy as Escort Boys, but there is an undeniable charm to this unlikely romantic comedy. When Elsa is unable to get over her ex of several years, her friends decide to hire a male escort to take her on a date, thinking it will show her that there are other fish in the sea. But Elsa and the escort, Jules, end up falling for one another. Will their relationship survive the deception that started it? You’ll have to watch to find out. (But if you’re watching all the way through, I’d recommend skipping the cringey bonus COVID special between seasons 2 and 3… and, honestly, skipping season 3.)

Where to watch The Hook Up Plan: Netflix

6. Drops of God

Drops of God is a show for anyone who loves French wine, Japanese manga, and family drama. Based ON a manga series of the same name, this Apple TV show is set in both France and Japan, with dialogue in French, English, and Japanese. It follows the aftermath of a wine industry kingmaker’s death, and a bizarre test he set forth in his will to ascertain who will inherit his estate. The wine mogul’s estranged French daughter, Camille, is forced to become a wine expert in the span of a month in order to compete for her inheritance against her father’s Japanese protege, Issei, in a series of wine-related challenges—winner take all. Luckily, you as a viewer don’t need to know anything at all about wine in order to appreciate this juicy drama and the dark secrets it reveals.

Where to watch Drops of God: Apple TV

7. Call My Agent (Dix Pour Cent)

One of the most-watched French TV shows around the world, Call My Agent! continues to dominate Francophone television. Set in a Parisian talent agency, this workplace comedy explores the inner lives of the agents who make French cinema possible. The fabulous French actors playing these agents include Camille Cottin and Laure Calamy, both of whom became instant stars after their performances in this show. Part of the show’s charm is that each episode features at least one cameo from a famous French actor, playing themselves, as one of the agency’s clients. We’re talking Virginie Efira, Line Renaud, Isabelle Adjani, Juliette Binoche… the list goes on. But even folks with no knowledge of French cinema will fall in love with the ragtag group of agents, who made such an impression that their show was extended after what was supposed to be its fourth and final season. A fifth season and a film are in the works, though there’s little news on either as of yet. (There’s also the tired British remake of the show, which no one should bother watching.)

Where to watch Call My Agent!: Netflix

8. Family Business

Working with family can be a nightmare. But working with family to create a not-yet-legal cannabis café in the heart of Paris? Quelle horreur. When a French butcher, Joseph, catches wind that weed is soon to be legalized, he decides to turn the family butchery into a “bud-chery.” (The pun sounds better in French.) But to do so, he must deal with gangsters, chaotic heiresses, and the scariest associates of all: his own family. It takes until about the third episode of Family Business for things to start getting properly zany, but by the time you get there you won’t be able to stop watching this lighthearted stoner comedy.

Where to watch Family Business: Netflix

9. Astrid (Astrid et Raphaëlle)

If you like shows like Criminal Minds or Sherlock, you might get a kick out of Astrid. This French drama brings together an unlikely, but lovable, duo to solve criminal mysteries that the French police can’t. When Raphaëlle Coste, a vivacious yet messy police commandant, meets Astrid Nielsen, an autistic archivist with a knack for solving puzzles, the two form a professional and personal partnership that takes them both out of their comfort zones. The show does a great job at bringing viewers inside Astrid’s head, allowing us to appreciate a world in which logic and order prevail. This view through an autistic lens offers the realization that, to some, it’s the chaotic, unpredictable neurotypicals who are the weird ones.

Where to watch Astrid: PBS

Catherine Rickman is a writer, professional Francophile, and host of the Expat Horror Stories podcast. She is currently somewhere in Brooklyn with a fork in one hand and a pen in the other, and you can follow her adventures on Instagram @catrickman, or on TikTok @catinthekitchen.

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