JO Season One (2013)
Reno's Central Performance8
Structure and Tone5
Jean Reno makes his return to TV for the first time since the 1980’s as troubled detective Jo St-Clair in the latest European crime thriller from Arrow Video.
In this Parisian set detective show, Jean Reno stars alongside Orla Brady and Jill Hennessey in an amalgamation of European style and American pacing. Each episode opens with a crime scene, usually a murder, which has taken place at one of Paris’ most iconic landmarks. Jo is a hard living outsider, buried in his work, but one of the most effective men on the force. His diverse and multinational team of assistants and coworkers are wary, but respectful of him, for he is a man who gets results.
JO is a unique series in that it has been pieced together by a group of different directors, most of whom are well versed in the televisual crime genre (The Killing’s Charlotte Sieling, for example), and this does create a sense of variety to the show. St-Clair’s personal life becomes a concurrent theme, with his attempts to curb his drink and drug addled existence in the hope of reconnecting with his estranged daughter, who shadows many of his flaws.
For a first run, there is plenty to enjoy within the eight feature length episodes. The show aired on Fox in the US and it’c quite evident that there have been tonal and structural allowances made to allow the show to fit into an American construct. Things tend to be discovered, dealt with and wrapped up within the opening and closing credits, leaving fragmented segments for St-Clair’s story to unravel. It also may seem strange that the majority of people involved with the cases all seem to be either English or American citizens living in Paris.
These are minor issues, for it has been well documented that the European and American television structures are incredibly different. The meandering and brooding atmosphere of Forbrydelsen (The Killing) was somewhat lost when it made the transatlantic leap and was given an English language adaptation. That is not to say that JO isn’t entertaining, for it manages to be wonderfully engrossing and thrilling, with lavish set pieces and beautiful shots of Paris utilized throughout.
The city is shown in both its glory and its decay, with each area and suburb ventured into with great panache and creativity. We’ve possibly been spoilt by European crime drama so much of late that it’s difficult to make the transition back to the American format, which seems somewhat cut and dry in comparison. The show is carried by a marvellous central performance by Reno, who is at his surly and cantankerous best. The fact that US networks are making the most of European directors, stars and locations is definitely a step in the right direction.
For fans of House, CSI and Law and Order: SVU.
JO is now available from Arrow Films’ official website.
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