The Diva of French Television
BY Amy Huntington
June 30 2009 12:00 AM ET
I'm sitting in an 18th-century castle in the small French city of Saintes, surrounded by paintings hung on ancient paneling, beneath a crystal chandelier the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, and sipping champagne out of a Baccarat flute. The room's monumental doors swing open to reveal a handsome young Frenchman in a feathered hat, thickly brocaded jacket and velvet under-the-knee breeches. "Do you love it, darling? I bought it from the archives of the Paris Opera. Don Giovanni, 1960s."â€¨â€¨
I pinch my arm to remind myself I'm not on the set of a Dangerous Liaisons remake.
I'm in the living room of Nicolas Mercier, the creative powerhouse who is changing the face of French television. He's the hot young screenwriter who has made gay OK for millions of French viewers. In the industry, he's called "The Diva of French Television." As he should be. He certainly has the right wardrobe.â€¨
Advocate.com:Nicolas, your television series Clara Sheller offered French prime-time viewers all of the urban chic of Sex and the City with a plot line reminiscent of a pre-whitewashed Will & Grace -- that is, if Will got Grace pregnant and then stole her boyfriend. The series not only rocked the gay world in France, but it was watched in record-breaking numbers by the general viewing public and showered with kudos and awards by the critics. Why do you think it was so popular?Mercier: Have you seen French TV?â€¨
I try to avoid it.â€¨ [ Laughing ] Exactly. One of the reasons that Six Feet Under and Desperate Housewives are so popular here is because no French shows are as original. All you see on prime time is cop shows and bad reality TV. So I thought that by introducing these young Parisian characters who are just trying to find love while making the mistakes we all make, and showing the humor and tragedy of their humanity, people would respond to it.â€¨
Even if you include, oh, I don't know ... a two-boy, one-girl make-out session, unwanted pregnancy and subsequent abortion, and people "switching teams" any time the fancy suits them?â€¨ Even if. People are just people. Someone's sexuality shouldn't be more important than his story.