Au Service de la France ('A very Secret Service' in English) is a 2015 French comedy-drama series created by Jean-Francois Halin and distributed by Arte - eventually it got distributed worldwide by Netflix in 2016.
Based in Paris during the early 1960s, the series centres on André Merlaux (Hugo Becker), a young recruit hired by the French Secret Services as a trainee officer who undergoes a series of tests and assignment under the watchful eye of operations manager Moïse. Merlaux is also reluctantly supported through his training by the three 'best' agents in the company: Roger Moulinier, who oversees African affairs; Jacky Jacquard, who is in charge of Algeria; and Jean-René Calot, representative for the eastern bloc.
As well as being a parody of spy dramas, much of the show's humour derives from a satirical portrayal of french society and politics, particularly France's relationship with other countries - however, the show is also quite accurate in these portrayals despite the surreal and over-the-top jokes.
In 2018, Au Service de la France was renewed for a second series.
This show contains examples of:
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Always make sure your forms are stamped.
- Been There, Shaped History:
- Thanks to their inexperience behind the Iron Curtain, Jacquard and Moulinier are indirectly responsible for the construction of the Berlin Wall.
- After being discovered to be a former nazi collaborator by the Mossad, Mercaillon revealed them the identity and location of Adolf Eichmann in exchange for their silence.
- The Casanova: Moulinier has fathered quite a number of children in the line of duty.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Calot, who grows weirder and weirder over time.
- Comically Missing the Point: The CIA tries to explain that they will derail JFK's presidential campaign by revealing his infidelities; the French agents can't understand how that's going to work.
- Coming-Out Story: Constrasting with the mostly comical storylines of the show, it is played for drama for Moïse, as befitting the series setting in conservative circles of 60's France. After his sexual orientation is discovered by Mercaillon, he is being blackmailed and humiliated by him. Moïse then tried to come out to his colleagues twice (first under duress, second time on his own volition) but is each time interrupted or overstaged by some more important events. At the end of season 2, it is still unclear if his colleagues are aware of his sexual orientation.
- Cunning Linguist: When the CIA comes calling, Merlaux surprises his mentors by revealing that he speaks English. It's not that he's a linguistic genius; they seem more surprised that anyone would bother learning such an insignificant language.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: all the sexism, racism, homophobia, and national chauvinism of the era is on full display.
- Fish out of Water: Most of the first season, as Merlaux struggles to learn the job and earn his colleagues' respect.
- Genre Throwback: See especially the title sequences for the two series.
- Historical In-Joke: Basically the whole series. At one point one of the spies has a nightmare about France's waning influence: "I dreamt that the Chinese were in Africa and I was driving a Japanese car..." He and his buddies have a good laugh at such a ludicrous vision.
- Another instance is provided by the CIA agents who decide to not trust the French Secret Service to secure President Kennedy's visit in Paris. Because apparently, he would be safer being driven around into a convertible American car with an escort of American soldiers...
- Insane Troll Logic: This seems to be the essence of French bureaucracy, not to mention Soviet life in general.
- Meet Cute: Merlaux and Sophie.
- National Stereotypes: Many.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: The whole secret service administration.
- Only Sane Man: Nominally, Merlaux, but Clayborn, Marie-Jo, and Gomez all take turns as well.
- Product Placement: Gitanes, Citroën cars, Air France...
- Red Scare: CIA agents are tasked with organizing the visit of President Kennedy with the French Secret Service. They are completely obsessed about hypothetical communists agents and accused various French governemental bodies of being infiltrated.
- Serious Business: The agency's attitude toward stamps.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The French Secret Service goes through accountants at an amazing rate. Fortunately, they're all played by the same actor.
- Title Drop:
- Twin Threesome Fantasy: Calot with the cute East-German Anna and Maria. Or maybe they are just one person, Anna-Maria. It is not clear.