The series, Alexandra Ehle, came from a joint desire between producer Christophe Carmona (CARMA) and Elsa Marpeau to create a medical examiner character who is as gifted as she is quirky, and who operates within the macabre world of a provincial forensic medicine institute. The project quickly came together around the heroine’s original personality and the colorful supporting characters. The idea was to create a family of characters that are a little different, a departure from the usual characters we see in police drama and, to see serious stories told by people who are anything but.
Interview with Christophe Carmona, producer at Carma Films and Marie Laure Hébrard, CEO at Film & Picture.
TV France: Alexandra Ehle, a colorful character, straight from the imagination of writer Elsa Marpeau
Christophe Carmona: Elsa Marpeau writes detective novels for Gallimard’s Série Noire and is also a TV screenwriter and series creator. That explains both the richness of the characters she creates as well as the fact that her plots are both original and carefully constructed. Before Alexandra Ehle, she previously created and developed Captaine Marleau for France 3, which was a resounding success, and also the Mystères à… (Mysteries in…) series for France télévisions, and Le secret d’Elise (Marchlands) for TF1. Now, she’s tackling a different genre entirely with this slightly offbeat detective comedy.
TV France: Alexandra Ehle is played by the wonderful actress Julie Depardieu
Christophe Carmona: Julie Depardieu is a high-class actress of international renown whose career began on the big screen. She brings her talent, freshness and natural sympathy to the series, along with her particular quirkiness. Like her character, she is both slightly offbeat and completely “normal”, which is very rare. The character originally had a very different energy from Julie, but right from the first test shots, it was clear that she could take the character of Alexandra Ehle to places no-one else would. It very quickly became obvious that she would be involved in the series.
TV France: Every episode is a huge audience success for France 3, (21.5% for the broadcast on Feb 2, according to Mediamétrie). How do explain that?
Christophe Carmona: The series found its audience straight away, probably thanks to the balance between its detective and comic aspects. Alexandra Ehle is entertainment that is original for its mix of styles as the series is at once surprising, even disturbing (with strange crimes and a morbid setting) and funny and quite fantastic in terms of both its characters and actors. That alchemy was particular enough for the public to recognize its value quickly and grow attached to it over the course of several episodes.
We’re targeting a family audience, and the series has several key factors that allow it to address a wide base. Firstly, there is a family at the heart of the series’ narrative. Alexandra Ehle usually works with the same investigator, Antoine Doisneau, who, it turns out, is also her brother. Their family and professional roles cross constantly, which strengthens their characters’ relatability for audiences. Second, we’re in a world that is female and feminist. In her lab, Alexandra Ehle is supported by a 100% female team (save for her young assistant who is – unhappily – in love with his boss). These women have energy, solidarity and a closeness that is very special. The series includes certain obligatory passages, like the traditional opening of each episode with a very “girly” scene but – beyond these kinds of gimmicks – it depicts a trio of strong and brilliant women, spearheaded by Alexandra. Lastly, the stories maintain surprise and tension throughout each episode (comedy and originality never get in the way of the effectiveness of the plotlines), and also keep at their heart family intrigues with all their secrets and unspoken tensions. While the setting may be quite special, the stories depicted are family tales that everyone can identify with and understand. And that leads to some really lovely emotional moments.
TV France: It’s an interesting positioning: a forensic series that isn’t 100% a detective show. What reaction have you had from international buyers?
Marie Laure Hébrard: Detective comedy is a unique genre and quite specific to France. That’s what foreign buyers are looking for – original work that can only be found in France and which stands out from the vast quantity of series out there that have a forensic medical examiner as the main character.
In the 2020s, we all need something fresh to escape from the current rather dark reality. That is exactly what Alexandra Ehle offers. Similarly, its feminine side is often a recipe for audience success, and buyers saw that straight away. The fact that everyone that bought it is currently waiting impatiently for the latest episodes confirms the choice.
TV France: A success beyond France’s borders, then?
Marie Laure Hébrard: We’ve seen a very good audience response – they quickly took to the series. Although there have been very few episodes for the moment (seven), Italy very quickly decided to buy the series and saw excellent results. In addition, Giallo, a channel within the Discovery group, wishes to buy new episodes as soon as they are produced. Equally, in Spain, NBC Universal has acquired the Pay TV rights with a holdback on Free TV for its Calle 13 channel (the Spanish equivalent of France’s 13ème Rue). It goes without saying that the Spanish Free TV channel will buy the series as soon as the Pay TV holdback expires.
The American SVOD platform MHZ wants to include Alexandra Ehle at the heart of its fall 2021 line-up and is going to bring the series out on DVD/VOD in the States.
The series has also been sold to an SVOD platform in south-east Asia, a sign that it has real cross-cultural appeal. And as soon as the series reaches 12 episodes, the equivalent of a season, sales will multiply.
Regarding the second French market, the series has been available on Salto since its launch in September 2020. Due to the large audience numbers recorded, the platform has lined up to buy new episodes as soon as they are ready.
TV France: And soon, we’ll see two new episodes…
Marie Laure Hébrard: We’re filming episodes 8 and 9 in April, May and June 2021. They will be ready for distribution on November 15. For the moment, it’s too early to confirm their broadcast date on France 3.