Judge P.S. Colbert is currently adapting this material for an American TV show called Diagnosis: Merlot.
Our review of Blood of the Vine: Season 1, published June 14th, 2013, is also available.
"If you don't mind, I'd rather begin by smelling your vines."
Ah Oui: It's Benjamin Lebel (Pierre Arditi), at your service. As France's premier enologist, Lebel can raise less than half a snifter to his snoot, and within seconds, pronounce whether or not the contents of the glass contain "elegant aromas," and if so, whether or not they've been "stripped down," as a result of "time taking its toll."
What's more, his highly educated nose is equally adept at picking up the scent of a murder mystery. Thus, Blood of the Vine: Season 2, a French-Belgian television production, based on the "Winemaker Detective Series" novels by Jean Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen.
I suppose that unless one is a world-class expert, all vineyards tend to look pretty much the same. Perhaps it's simply that they're shooting from different angles, but always in the same orchard, for scenes featuring characters engaged in badinage while strolling amongst the grapes. At any rate—watching the four episodes presented in this two-disc set—I got the feeling that I'd seen much of this before.
True, I've reviewed the first season, but there's more to it than that. One big problem is this program seems to have painted itself into a corner, whereby each story trajectory is basically the same. Lebel finds himself investigating a murder or two on a storied estate. The drama almost invariably revolves around bickering relatives, or an evil corporate takeover scheme, and sometimes, a combination of the two. The number of murder victims usually increases along the way (effectively whittling down the list of murder suspects), and generally speaking, great sums of money, power, and prestige hang in the balance.
If you're squeamish or especially sensitive to profanity, fear not. Though classified as adult fare, Blood of the Vine normally contains a modicum of actual blood-letting—these are definitely low-impact thrillers at best.
For the record, I'm not saying any of this necessarily makes for inferior entertainment; au contraire! The handsome Arditi brings a distinguished gray, boundless charm, and gravitas to his portrayal of Lebel, and obviously high production value makes these mysteries very easy on the eyes (though your eyes may be a bit taxed by the voluminous subtitles in these dialog-driven tales). Additionally, those high production values come through beautifully (in terms of picture and sound) on these fine DVD transfers from MHz Networks. Sorry, no extras are included.
Although I'm not a wine drinker, I suppose my own blasé attitude toward this show ultimately comes from another sort of snobbery. As an unabashed Franco-cinefile, I'm profoundly saddened to see the land of Renoir, Resnais, Varda, Truffaut, and Godard now reduced to producing the Gallic equivalent to Murder, She Wrote and Matlock.
Again, I'm no winer, though I'd be lying if I said that reviewing Blood of the Vine: Season 2 hasn't make me thirsty for a bit of Welchs' Sparkling Cider. Red or white? That's no matter, but I do prefer mine served chilled.
Guilty…but that's Agatha Christie's problem, not mine.
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