Netflix and French: 11 Shows to Help Improve Your French Language Skills

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Netflix and French: 11 Shows to Help Improve Your French Language Skills

When I find myself not in France, I always make sure to tune into a French series to keep up my listening skills. With an ever-rotating line up on Netflix, it’s easy to find a show that will not only pique your interest, but also help you retain your French listening ear all while keeping your vocabulary current and hip. I’m someone who has a very eclectic taste in foreign television, and I have compiled a list of ten completely different shows for any Francophile looking to visit France from the comfort of their couch.  

Vortex

One of the first shows I watched when coming back to the States was a show called Vortex. It’s a mini-series consisting of six episodes, making it perfect for someone who wants something on the shorter side to binge over a weekend. The show is set in 2025 along the craggy, stunning coast near Brest, in Brittany. Vortex has most consistently been compared to The Butterfly Effect, as the main character and local police captain Ludo attempts to go back in time and change the past to alter the outcome of the future. 

While in the middle of an investigation, Ludo has found a glitch in the police force’s virtual reality system. The new system allows police officers to immerse themselves into active crime scenes using virtual reality, which then reconstructs the scene from video taken by drones. While analyzing a scene where a woman has drowned and washed up on the beach, Ludo notices an image of his wife, Mélanie, on a jog in the background, despite dying at the same beach 27 years earlier. Together the two meet in the virtual world and devise a plan to try and alter the past, preventing the accident from occurring. What they soon realize, though, is that changing one event always impacts another, altering the lives of not only them, but their family and friends. The show is perfect for sci-fi, crime and thriller fans who may also be partial to Brittany’s whimsical coast. 

Off the Hook

Off The Hook is a show I found by complete accident when looking up The Hookup Plan, a light-hearted tale of two friends who decided to pay a male escort to seduce their best friend in order to help her get over an elongated stint of heartbreak. Despite it not making my list (I was trying to go for less known shows) I highly recommend it to anyone who loves romantic comedies with the beautiful arrondissements of Paris painting the scene. 

Off The Hook has the exact same vibes as The Hookup Plan, as it is light, fun, and has a young, fresh feeling to it. The show follows two cousins living in Paris as they vow to detox from the internet and give up their phones, computers and all other technology and social media for thirty days. It’s an interesting look into the addictiveness of being “plugged in” while having the viewer laugh along at the tactics employed by the two to stay in touch with the outside world without using their devices. This show is good for viewers who like keeping up with current French slang and internet trends, while keeping the mood light and fun. 

Standing Up

If you’re a fan of the French series Call My Agent, which is an absolute Netflix French-language classic, you will love the new series from that show’s creator, Standing Up. The show follows four comedians living in Paris’ 11th arrondissement who are trying to carve out a name for themselves in the competitive and ever-changing world of comedy. The aspiring comedians take us through their daily lives as they struggle with trying to financially make ends meet, grapple with writing material that keeps their audiences’ attention while not upsetting family members with the chosen topics, and deal with the self-doubt and insecurities that come with feeling like their barely treading water within their comedy careers. This show sometimes alludes to heavily sexual topics, with scenarios leaning towards adult themes, so make sure the kids are in bed before tuning into this one. 

Family Business

If you’re looking for a quick, light-hearted show, Family Business may be just what you’re looking for. The episodes are only 30 minutes long and fly by as you follow the Hazan family through their new business venture and all the off-the-rails situations that come with it. Main character and son, Joseph, is a complete disappointment to his father, with every one of his over-the-top entrepreneurial endeavors ending up in failure. His father, Gérard, wants him to come to his senses and take over the family’s struggling kosher butcher shop, but Joseph has bigger plans. While out with his best friend at a nightclub, the two run into an old friend who tips them off to news that France is about to legalize weed. Wanting to get in on the ground floor of this major change, Joseph must convince his family to give up the decades old, flailing butcher shop and transition it into France’s first ever weed cafe. As someone who has grown up in America, I found it interesting to see another culture’s ideals and attitudes towards the subject. Each episode is also short enough to get some listening practice in without feeling like you’ve wasted a whole day streaming. 

Reign Supreme

This biopic follows the French rap band Suprême NTM and DJ Dee Nasty, showing the behind-the-scenes story of bringing the genre of rap to France in the 1980’s and 90’s. As someone who would say rap is not my first style of choice, this show was incredibly interesting. Listening to all of the foreign influences on the French musicians at that time and how they morphed their music to mirror what was coming out of the U.S. allows viewers to see how the movement first took roots in France. The story gives viewers a peek into the home lives of and worlds of the singers before they discovered rap. While the story has a documentary feel, it is explained in the opening credits that the scenes in the show are fictionalized but based on true stories and testimonies by real witnesses, giving the series an extra layer of authenticity and intrigue. This is the perfect show for any Francophile looking to know more about the French music scene and how a whole genre got its start abroad.  

Into The Night

Set in Belgium but in the French language, this post-apocalyptic thriller was the first original Belgian release for Netflix. The show follows a group of passengers as they prepare to take off on a red-eye flight leaving Brussels and heading to Russia. Before the flight can fully be boarded and cleared for takeoff, a man claiming to be a NATO soldier hijacks the plane, forcing the co-pilot to take off in the opposite direction. The few passengers who were already on board are told that the world is in the middle of a catastrophic disaster and that the sun is killing everyone in its path. Instructing the pilot to keep flying away from the sun, low fuel and resources soon ground the plane, leaving the group to work together in order to keep themselves in the dark and out of the light. As someone who usually doesn’t go for post-apocalyptic sci-fi shows, the creators do an incredible job of getting you hooked and wanting to know what will happen next. If you’re someone who enjoys a bit of suspense with your language learning, make sure to check out Into the Night. 

The Ultimatum-France

Take six couples on completely different pages in their relationship, sprinkle in an ultimatum (marry or move on), add a dash of partner swapping and you have the hit reality tv series The Ultimatum-France edition. Originally an American show, the concept features couples where one person is ready for that next big step while the other is not ready or willing to get married. Each couple “breaks up” and is forced to date and ultimately cohabitate with another “single” person from the experiment for three weeks. Afterwards, the couples are reunited and must figure out what is next for their relationship. Is marriage in their future? Are they going to choose to move on? Or have they found that the past three weeks with their new partner was exactly what they needed? This series has eight, 40-minute episodes, making it the perfect show to watch with a glass of wine after a long day at work.  

Nailed it – France

If you follow my blog, I’m sure you’ve noticed that a good 85% of the things I write about centers around food, so it’s no surprise that at least one food series ended up on the list. Nailed It-France Edition takes amateur contestants known for their lack of skills in the kitchen and challenges them to recreate culinary wonders and works of art. As you can imagine, the results are disastrously hilarious as each person attempts to not be the worst and win the 5,000-euro prize pot. A rotation of guest celebrity judges takes the stage, broadening your French-culture knowledge while sharpening your culinary vocabulary list.  

Black Butterflies 

Looking for the perfect noir thriller to get lost in? Black Butterflies is it! Author Adrien is looking for a subject for his next book. His first made the best sellers list, leaving him feeling the pressure to have his second book follow suit. Enter Albert, a dying man living in a rural part of France who has commissioned Adrien to write his memoir for him. As Albert reveals more of his story, however, Adrien begins to see this may not be the normal tale of a dying man that he was expecting. The show intersects Adrian and Albert’s time together with Adrien’s own storyline, keeping the viewer guessing as to how the two stories intertwine by the end. This show is intense and intriguing but has been flagged for some scenes containing graphic violence and sextual encounters.  

Inhuman Resources

Showcasing ageism and the ever-changing landscape of France’s unemployment scene, Inhuman Resources follows Alain, a senior executive who lost his job six years ago due to the purging of older employees within the company. Viewers follow Alain as he hops from one low paying part-time job to another, barely scraping by and on the brink of losing his family’s apartment. In between scenes of Alain’s abysmal circumstances, we meet the president of the failing company Exxya, who is trying to find the perfect candidate to take over the human resources role in a plant up north in Beauvais. The person selected will have to fire 1,000+ employees and will need to be a strong, fast acting leader in order to deal with the eruption of riots and protests that are expected to follow. To find the perfect candidate, a plan is devised to have the company’s executives partake in a hostage scenario without telling them it’s staged, hoping the stressful situation will help separate those who are loyal to the company or those who do not deal well under the high pressure and chaos of the circumstances. Because of his experience as an executive, Alain is hired for the role of interrogator in the fake hostage situation, hopefully applying the pressure needed to narrow down the “hostages” until the most capable is left standing. When Alain discovers the full scope of the role he plays in the company’s deranged plot, however, he decides to take matters into his own hands, creating a real hostage situation that will change his life forever. 

Lead photo credit : © Shutterstock

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Rachel is a 30-something freelance writer who spends her time split between her holiday home in Provence and her busy life in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. On her blog, www.wheninprovenceblog.com, she shares her musings about settling into her French life.

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  • Evy Journey
    2024-02-15 08:21:44
    Evy Journey
    Why not Lupin with Omar Sy, a modern takeoff on a popular character in classic French genre fiction, Arsène Lupin?

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