Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX ) has been getting tons of ink and kudos lately for its original streaming programming – the Americanized version of the British dramatic series House of Cards and the rebirth of the much loved but too-little-watched comedy Arrested Development.
However, for my money, the real draw in Netflix's must-stream-TV lineup is a gritty police procedural import from France with the English title of Spiral (original title: Engrenages). There is something in this French language series (with English subtitles) that will remind American viewers of Law and Order, CSI, and, best of all, The Wire.
For Law and Order fans, the relationship between the Paris cops and the French judiciary is as arcane as it is fascinating. After asking various friends and family members in the legal profession if they could explain the workings of the French system of justice, I was still no closer to understanding. Yet that mystery has its own charms.
If one is enthralled by the glorified gore of CSI, there's plenty of gore in Spiral, but sans la gloire. In the first episode of the first season, a strategically placed clipboard finally placed by the medical examiner over a mutilated female victim's nether regions caused me to utter a sigh of relief. And I'm not a prude. Really.
And for those, like me, who think that The Wire was the best thing ever on television (yes, even better than The Sopranos), Spiral rivals the Baltimore-based HBO series in its quirky characters, police and criminal screw-ups, political shenanigans, and the ability to make viewers empathize with all the human frailties it exhibits.
Spiral was produced by Son et Lumiere and first shown on the French Canal Plus channel in 2005. A second season came in 2008, a third followed in 2010, and a fourth in 2012. Netflix started streaming the series in the summer of 2012.
Spiral has been licensed to 72 networks worldwide and is currently only seen on Netflix in the U.S., but unfortunately for Netflix, its deal to stream the series is non-exclusive. Quel dommage.