A Very Secret Service

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A Very Secret Service
GenreComedy, drama
Created byJean-François Halin
Written by
Directed byAlexandre Courtès
Starring
Theme music composerNicolas Godin
Country of originFrance
Original languageFrench
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes24 (list of episodes)
Production
ProducerAlexandre Courtès
Running time21-31 minutes
Production companyMandarin TV
Release
Original networkArte
Original releaseOctober 29, 2015 (2015-10-29) –
July 19, 2018 (2018-07-19)
External links
Au service de la France

A Very Secret Service (French: Au service de la France) is a French comedy-drama series created by Jean-François Halin and produced by Gilles de Verdière.[1]

Premise[edit]

In 1960, young André Merlaux eagerly accepts a cryptic summons to take a position as a trainee officer with the French Secret Services (based on the Service de Documentation Extérieure et de Contre-Espionnage). He will be watched over by the operations director Moïse, and reluctantly mentored by senior colleagues Moulinier (in charge of African affairs), Jacquard (Algeria), and Calot (Eastern Bloc). It is the height of the Cold War and the position of France as a Great Power is in crisis, faced with independence challenges from the colonies of French West Africa, above all the fight over the independence of Algeria. French society is changing at home as well, with a rising counterculture exemplified by growing feminism and New Wave cinema.

Cast and characters[edit]

Main cast[edit]

  • Hugo Becker as André Merlaux
  • Wilfred Benaïche as Colonel Maurice Mercaillon
  • Christophe Kourotchkine as Georges Préjean "Moïse"
  • Mathilde Warnier as Sophie Mercaillon
  • Karim Barras as Jacky Jacquard
  • Bruno Paviot as Roger Moulinier
  • Jean-Édouard Bodziak as Jean-René Calot
  • Marie-Julie Baup as Marie-Jo Cotin

Secondary characters[edit]

  • Joséphine de La Baume as Miss Clayborn
  • Antoine Gouy as Henri Lechiot / Hervé Gomez / Schmid
  • Philippe Resimont as Father Jean
  • Julie Farenc as Nathalie
  • Khalid Maadour as Moktar
  • Stéphanie Fatout as Irène Mercaillon
  • Axelle Simon as Marthe
  • Baptiste Sornin as Planton, reception desk employee

Development[edit]

Principal photography for the first series took place between October 2014 and February 2015 in Île-de-France and Morocco.[2]

The series recalls OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies in style and tone, although it is slightly more serious (writer Halin was also credited for the screenplay of both OSS 117 films, and one of the three Les Guignols authors).[3] The show uses historical events as background or foreground for its action, similar to Mad Men (such as the Algerian war of independence and the first French nuclear test, Gerboise Bleue).

Arte's president of fiction, Olivier Wotling, confirmed a second season to Le Figaro's TV Magazine on July 3, 2016.[4]

In a March 2019 interview with the French language outlet PureMédias, Hugo Becker expressed doubt regarding the likelihood of a third season, stating that the series had reached "the end of the arc," and adding that while "there might be material... the story is complete and I think that's fine."[5]

Episodes[edit]

Season 1 (2015)[edit]

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
1"Le Tsèt"
"The Tsèt"
Alexandre CourtèsJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles28 October 2015 (2015-10-28)
André Merlaux, 23, is hired as a trainee in the French secret service. Under the watchful eye of Moïse, the director of operations, three elite agents train him to become a spy: Moulinier, in charge of African affairs; Jacquard, who deals with Algeria; and Calot, a specialist in Eastern Europe. Merlaux is surprised to discover the service headed by the intimidating Colonel Mercaillon.
2"Il y a Allemand et Allemand"
"There's German and German"
Alexandre CourtèsJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles28 October 2015 (2015-10-28)
Moulinier and Jacquard succeed in capturing a former Nazi. Unfortunately for them, the time is ripe for Franco-German friendship. Disappointed, they will do everything to keep their "Nazi bonus"... even if it means creating a diplomatic incident. Merlaux, on the other hand, meets the beautiful Sophie.
3"Un peu de soleil"
"A Bit of Sun"
Alexandre CourtèsJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles28 October 2015 (2015-10-28)
Three emissaries from the future African state of Dahomey come to the Service. Their request: independence! Moulinier is charged with bringing them to their senses, but he fails. Moïse entrusts the file to Merlaux. Merlaux takes it up with enthusiasm.
4"L'Algérie, c'est la France"
"Algeria, it's France"
Alexandre CourtèsJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles28 October 2015 (2015-10-28)
The FLN threatens the French authority in Algeria: Jacquard and Merlaux are sent there to solve the problem. As a good student, Merlaux prepares his mission by identifying two potential targets. He soon realises that Jacquard's interests in Algiers are not only patriotic... Listening only to his duty, he focuses on the enemy, and is confronted for the first time with the harsh reality of a spy's work.
5"Le Prunier"
"The Plum Tree"
Alexandre CourtèsJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles5 November 2015 (2015-11-05)
Merlaux is on a mission in Moscow with Calot. In an attempt to show him the ropes, Calot makes a clumsy move and causes an incident with the CIA. In love, Merlaux prefers to go see Breathless with Sophie.
6"Une Femme moderne"
"A Modern Woman"
Alexandre CourtèsJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles5 November 2015 (2015-11-05)
Colonel Mercaillon decides to create a post of deputy director. Moulinier, Jacquard and Calot will (really) try everything to get the job. Merlaux, for his part, is unsettled by Sophie and her desire to be a "modern woman". A term he hardly understands...
7"VG 42"
"VG 42"
Alexandre CourtèsJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles5 November 2015 (2015-11-05)
The agents learn that the VG42, a surcharge inherited from the Vichy regime, is being abolished, calling into question their social benefits. Outraged, Moulinier, Jacquard and Calot go on strike. The colonel forbids Merlaux to see his daughter Sophie.
8"Mission Monôme"
"Mission Monôme"
Alexandre CourtèsJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles5 November 2015 (2015-11-05)
The colonel learns that Merlaux is still seeing Sophie. To dissuade him, he sets a trap with a Lebanese arms dealer. Merlaux ends up in bed with Clayborn and is filmed without his knowledge.
9"Plume Invisible"
"Invisible Plume"
Alexandre CourtèsJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles12 November 2015 (2015-11-12)
Moulinier, Jacquard and Calot prepare a mission of the utmost importance: to go incognito to the United Kingdom to attend the France-Wales rugby match. Unfortunately, Moïse sends them to Algiers to arrest a terrorist. The colonel reveals to Merlaux that he set him up during his "Monôme mission", before realising that he himself is under threat: someone in the Service seems to be digging into his past.
10"Le Code Taupe"
"Code Name Mole"
Alexandre CourtèsJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles12 November 2015 (2015-11-12)
There is a mole in the Service! To flush him out, Moses is lent a lie detector by Mossad. Merlaux fears that the colonel will find out from this new machine that he is still seeing Sophie. The colonel fears for his reputation: the results of the detector cast doubt on the nature of his activities during the German occupation.
11"Le Plan Quinquennal"
"The Five-Year Plan"
Alexandre CourtèsJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles12 November 2015 (2015-11-12)
The hunt for the mole stimulates Calot's paranoid tendencies. What if the culprit was none other than himself? He informs his colleagues. Meanwhile, the colonel's suspicions are confirmed: Moïse digs into his past as a collaborator. Merlaux welcomes Sophie into his home and tells her the story of an orphan raised by a priest. A priest that the colonel seems to know very well.
12"Au Service de ma France"
"In the Service of My France"
Alexandre CourtèsJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles12 November 2015 (2015-11-12)
The colonel wants to put an end to Merlaux: he sends him to Algiers with instructions to eliminate the mole. A mission that he also entrusts to Moïse... While Calot loses himself in his questions about his identity and Jacquard foments an attack against General de Gaulle to preserve his real estate interests in Algiers, the colonel's ploy succeeds: Moïse returns to France after having eliminated Merlaux, a traitor to the nation. Buried, his file joins the dusty archives of the Service. Unless?

[6]

Season 2 (2018)[edit]

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
13"Tétanos et Fièvre Jaune"
"Tetanus and Yellow Fever"
Alexis CharrierJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles28 June 2018 (2018-06-28)
Calot, Jacquard and Moulinier leave for Cuba on a secret rescue mission: agent Clayborn is held hostage there. She refuses to return with them, being pregnant with a Cuban Revolutionary’s child. The 3 agents are arrested by the Revolutionaries, then saved by a mysterious man wearing a black suit. All the while, the Colonel sets a trap for Moïse.
14"Autodéterminés"
"Self-Driven"
Alexis CharrierJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles28 June 2018 (2018-06-28)
January the 8th of 1961 is the date of the referendum on Algeria’s status. Jacquard, helped by Moktar, blows up his houses in Algiers, accusing the National Liberation Front, for the insurance money. André tries to free Moïse while Sophie introduces her fiance to her family.
15"Quand l'eau est à 12 degrés, on doit s'attendre à ce qu'elle soit froide"
"When the Water's at 12 Degrees, Expect It to be Cold"
Alexis CharrierJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles28 June 2018 (2018-06-28)
Quebec’s independentists pay a visit to the agency, begging for assistance. Calot, Jacquard and Moulinier welcome them but they look down on their language, the Quebec French, that they only part understand. The visitors are offended and decide to seek assistance from the National Liberation Front. The Quebec’s independentists call themselves the Front de Libération du Québec. The Colonel orders his henchmen to kill André.
16"Le singe est dans la fusée"
"The Monkey Is in the Rocket"
Alexis CharrierJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles12 July 2018 (2018-07-12)
André discovers that his parents were communists and fought for the French Resistance during the war. As André is about to kill Mercaillon, the latter tells André: “I am your father”. André decides to look for his mother. In the meanwhile, Calot lays out the new geopolitical context of the Cold War to the service, making everybody laugh at him. Moulinier is sent to Berlin instead of Calot to take part in a meeting gathering the four Berlin’s Occupying Forces. He is overly suspicious because of an intercepted note.
17"Le Pouche"
"The Coup"
Alexis CharrierJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles12 July 2018 (2018-07-12)
André tries to join the KGB. General de Gaulle asks of Mercaillon that he negotiated Algeria’s independence. However, his wife Irène left him all alone and he is totally depressed. He gives way to every request of the National Liberation Front and totally lets go of French Algeria. Marie-Jo notifies Moïse of the nuclear risk in Algeria concerning the Gerboise Verte weapon and he asks Jacquard, who is in Algeria with Mercaillon, to retrieve it. Mercaillon’s neglect of Algeria strongly disappoints Jacquard. He decides to inspire French Retired Generals in Algeria into a coup. Marie-Jo (finally) becomes an agent.
18"Elle est pas verte, Gerboise Verte"
"The Green Gerbil Isn't So Green"
Alexis CharrierJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles12 July 2018 (2018-07-12)
Jacquard, Moktar and Mercaillon take Gerboise Verte, the French atomic bomb, on an epic 2CV trip from Algiers to Reggane crossing the desert. Back in France, Moulinier falls in love with Irène, while André undergoes KGB’s tests.
19"Quel rapport avec l'Afrique ?"
"What's Africa Got to Do With It?"
Alexis CharrierJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles19 July 2018 (2018-07-19)
Moulinier is tasked to select the future president of a newly independent African country and to decide the score of the election. Deeply in love, he picks a poet who moved him, out of the four candidates. The poet is murdered soon after his election.
20"John, Jacky, Yvonne et le Général"
"John, Jacky, Yvonne and the General"
Alexis CharrierJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles19 July 2018 (2018-07-19)
Two CIA agents visit the agency on a mission to plan the visit of John and Jackie Kennedy in Paris. The Americans are obsessed with communists and claim that a French agent is a KGB mole. Moïse asks Marie-Jo to track André. The colonel follows Moïse and discovers that he is homosexual.
21"Tovaritch Merlaux"
"Tovaritch Merlaux"
Alexis CharrierJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles19 July 2018 (2018-07-19)
Mercaillon blackmails Moïse: if he doesn’t hand over André, Mercaillon will reveal to the whole Service the fact that Moïse loves men. Jacquard, Moulinier and Calot go to Moscow for a “To the East module” where they discover the local customs. André enters the KGB and accesses its archives in order to learn more about his parents.
22"C'est beau la Pologne"
"Poland Is a Lovely Place"
Alexis CharrierJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles26 July 2018 (2018-07-26)
Calot, Jacquard and Moulinier arrest André in Moscow Airport. They drive back to Paris. They stop by Berlin for the night and meet twin sisters that Calot knows and seems interested in. They wake up to see a wall erected in the middle of the city. André saves them by showing his KGB agent card, enabling them to leave Berlin. Sophie tells her mother she is in love with Yamine, an algerian independentist.
23"Non mort de la taupe morte"
"The Non-Death of the Dead Mole"
Alexis CharrierJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles26 July 2018 (2018-07-26)
Everybody is back in Paris. The colonel wants André to be executed for treachery against the nation. The real KGB mole tries to kill André. Mercaillon releases André to enable his henchmen to put him down.
24"Code étendu en Algérie"
"Code Extended to Algeria"
Alexis CharrierJean-François Halin, Claire Lemaréchal & Jean-André Yerles26 July 2018 (2018-07-26)
Tracking Yannick’s lead, André goes to Algeria. Colonel Mercaillon sends Moulinier, Calot and Jacquard after André. Marie-Jo joins them and they meet the KGB headhunter on a train, dressed as a loukoum seller. They arrive at the monastery where Yannick is supposed to be. Mercaillon is firmly determined to kill André and they all meet up at the monastery.

[7]

Release[edit]

It was commissioned by Arte, where it premiered in 2015,[8] and was later distributed worldwide by Netflix on 1 July 2016.[9] The second season appeared on Netflix in August 2018.

Reception[edit]

Steve Greene of IndieWire wrote that despite a "certain level of absurdity", the show was a "pretty well-calibrated balance between homage and parody".[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "MIPCOM Hot Pick: A Very Secret Service". TBI Vision. 21 September 2015. Retrieved 6 July 2016.
  2. ^ "" Au service de la France ", une série d'espionnage en tournage pour Arte" [A Very Secret Service, a spy series being filmed for Arte]. Arte. Retrieved 6 July 2016.
  3. ^ "Au service de la France dézingue les années de Gaulle" [A Very Secret Service takes apart the de Gaulle years]. Telerama. 29 October 2015. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  4. ^ "Au service de la France: une saison 2 sur les rails". Le Figaro télé. 3 July 2016. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  5. ^ "Hugo Becker ("Osmosis") : "Même un projet de grande ampleur peut être fait de façon artisanale"". ozap.com (in French). Retrieved 2020-09-21.
  6. ^ "A Very Secret Service (TV Series 2015–2018) - IMDb". IMDb.
  7. ^ "A Very Secret Service (TV Series 2015–2018) - IMDb". IMDb.
  8. ^ Middleton, Richard. "Mandarin's Secret Unpeeled in Belgium". C21. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  9. ^ Lawson, Richard; Busis, Hillary (27 May 2016). "What's New on Netflix in June—and What to Watch Before It Disappears". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  10. ^ Greene, Steve (2018-08-02). "'A Very Secret Service' Review: Netflix's French Spy Comedy is 'The Office' by Way of 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'". IndieWire. Retrieved 2021-01-30.

External links[edit]