Jo is a curious beast. It’s as if all the main central European TV broadcasters got together and looked enviously at the huge international success of Scandinavia’s Nordic Noir exports (from Wallander to Forbrydelsen and The Bridge all the way to political drama Borgen) and decided that they wanted some of that, too – and so collaborated on a Paris-set police procedural starring film star Jean Reno in the lead role.
The trouble is that I’m not sure that they ever had any bigger ideas over what they were trying to do, other than produce a Law and Order-esque series with featuring a morose, trouble alcoholic cop with a failed marriage, health problems and an estranged daughter to cope with alongside the day-to-day demands of solving crimes that all seem to happen at the most eye-catching tourist locations in the city (the first episode even featured a corpse found on the Eiffel Tower itself.)
The case of the week is usually perfectly decent, as you’d expect since the producers brought in one of the most experienced L&O stalwarts Rene Balcer as showrunner which is also perhaps why this show seems so familiar – and rather old-fashioned. However the show is undercut by strangely poor production values (the hand-held camera work and recorded-on-location audio might have been been polished to a fine art in its American counterpart, but here it just comes across as very amateurish) and very choppy, fragmented structure (I even wondered if the show had been intended as a 60-minute production in Europe and poorly chopped down to 45 for the UK and US).
But perhaps the weirdest thing about it is that everyone speaks English. And not just that, it’s American-accented English which isn’t limited to just the oddly-cast series co-star Jill Hennessy but also the significant proportion of the cast who are from the UK like Sean Pertwee and Reno’s main partner Tom Austen. Reno himself is properly French-tinged but then he always was even in US blockbuster films; and then there’s the occasional guest star like Adrian Dunbar who just can’t be bothered with the whole accent thing and therefore sticks to his usual Irish cadence.
The whole thing ends up as a slightly half-hearted, half-baked affair that isn’t sure what it wants to be when it grows up. If it doesn’t know itself, then small wonder it can’t convey it to the audience either. But at least in the meantime some of the location shooting in and around Paris is a suitably distracting delight.
The eight-part first season of Jo airs in the UK at 9pm on Sunday’s the FOX channel. It will be available on DVD on August 5, 2013.