From ‘The Crown’ to ‘Franklin,’ How France Has Become TV’s New Sought-After Backdrop

France has never had trouble getting people to fall in love with its many pleasures: the Eiffel Tower, the Palace of Versailles, the Louvre, and the island majesty of Mont Saint-Michel. It sells itself, which is probably why it is such a sought-after backdrop for television series.

But in the last year, France has been shown even more love than usual, as more than half a dozen shows, all vying for Emmy attention this season, explored the country through the ages. And no, this wasn’t some elaborate promotion for the upcoming 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

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From the 1600s to the modern day to a post-zombie apocalypse future, no cultural stone went unturned on TV this year, giving viewers even more reason to book their next (hopefully zombie-free) vacation.

This list of shows doesn’t even include the second seasons of Netflix’s teen romance “Heartstopper” (eligible for Children’s & Family Emmy Awards), which took a pivotal class trip to Paris; or AMC’s “Interview With the Vampire” (eligible for the 2024-2025 Emmys), which finishes out Anne Rice’s book with its famously Parisian third act.

Here’s how TV staged its own Tour de France this season.

“Mary & George”

While much of Starz’s lusty lesson in palace intrigue takes place in England, the series begins with a pivotal trip to the French countryside in 1612. A teenage George (Nicholas Galitzine) is sent away by his calculating mother Mary (Julianne Moore) to be trained in the ways of etiquette and royalty, as a means of weaseling their family’s way into a place of importance among the court of King James I (Tony Curran). This is a fateful encounter with France’s amorous legacy for George, as he is educated in the quietly accepted sexual fluidity of the time. In the embrace of aristocrats, his first taste of experimenting with men is intoxicating, not just for the pleasure but for the power it can offer him in James’ bed. The landmark staples of France may not make an appearance on his trip, but the aura of the country offers him something home just couldn’t — the freedom to find himself.


Benjamin Franklin (Michael Douglas) is universally known for his contributions to the birth of America, but some might not know much of his work during the American Revolution was done navigating the minefield of diplomacy in France. Franklin spent seven years in and around Versailles, delicately convincing France’s leaders to financially back the Patriot cause in its revolt against the British. Ultimately, French support, thanks to Franklin, helped secure the American victory. Apple TV+’s limited series documents his hard-fought efforts, a time when Franklin’s intellect was as voracious as his libido. The series shot in and around Versailles shows off one of France’s greatest wonders.

“All the Light We Cannot See”

All the Light We Cannot See. Episode 103 of All the Light We Cannot See. Cr. Doane Gregory/Netflix © 2023
All the Light We Cannot See. Episode 103 of All the Light We Cannot See. Cr. Doane Gregory/Netflix © 2023

The first of the three World War II series to feature France during one of its darkest chapters is largely confined to the walled city of Saint-Malo, which became the battleground for a 1944 months-long fight between the Allies and Germany. Netflix’s adaptation of Anthony Doerr’s novel, which was shot in the city, features breathtaking views of the fortress and some idea of the occupied world of its main character, Marie-Laure (Aria Mia Loberti), a blind French girl who broadcasts secret messages for the French resistance.

“We Were the Lucky Ones”

We Were the Lucky Ones -- Season 1 -- Based on Georgia Hunter’s New York Times bestselling novel, the television adaptation of “We Were the Lucky Ones” is a limited series inspired by the incredible true story of one Jewish family separated at the start of World War II, determined to survive and reunite. “We Were the Lucky Ones” demonstrates how in the face of the twentieth century’s darkest moment, the human spirit can endure and even thrive. The series is a tribute to the triumph of hope and love against all odds. Addy (Logan Lerman), shown. (Courtesy of Hulu)

Hulu’s World War II entry this season hops all over Europe as it charts the miraculous journey and survival of the Kurc family, who lived in Poland at the start of the war. In early episodes of the series, Addy (Logan Lerman), one of the family’s male siblings, is living in Paris working as an aspiring musician. He is celebrating his first radio hit when war breaks out and news of his scattered family trickles in. With the threat of German forces pushing into the country, Addy tries desperately to flee the City of Love as so many real Parisians did. While the French days of the series are frontloaded, Addy’s story is a great reminder of the cultural scene in Paris that was disrupted but not silenced by war. Speaking of…

“The New Look”

The fashion giants of Christian Dior (Ben Mendelsohn) and Coco Chanel (Juliette Binoche) have very different World War II experiences in Apple TV+’s tale of the cost of creativity in the midst of war. The series’s exploration of Chanel’s ties to the Nazis during the war received plenty of press as episodes rolled out earlier this year. But the real spectacle is creator Todd A. Kessler’s focus on what happened after the war was over, as the residents of a wounded France came to terms with the scope of its loss. As traumatized and emaciated people got off trains to meet their families, the long-term effects of war began to sink in, and it defined the next decades of recovery for cities like Paris. It also fueled creative stories of people like Dior, who found beauty and innovation in the aftermath.

“The Crown”


A trip to France was inevitable for Netflix’s seminal portrait of the royal family during its sixth season. The series’s final episodes rely heavily on the last days of Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki), following her with an almost voyeuristic intent of understanding who she was at the end. The photorealistic recreation starts out with Diana’s infamous 1997 holiday in Saint-Tropez with her sons, where she was photographed sitting lonely on the end of a diving board on the stern of a yacht. The media firestorm surrounding her over the last two months of her life turned the world’s attention to Paris, where she was killed in a car accident, which punctuated the first part of show’s swan-song season.

“The Veil”

"THE VEIL" -- Pictured:  Elisabeth Moss as Imogen Salter.  CR: FX
"THE VEIL" -- Pictured: Elisabeth Moss as Imogen Salter. CR: FX

Elisabeth Moss and FX’s new spy thriller is a globe-trotting adventure that makes no attempt to hide its destination with key art that situates Moss under the recognizable arches of the Eiffel Tower. In the series, Moss’ chameleon-like MI6 operative adopts the character of Imogen to coax intel out of a potential high-ranking ISIS commander named Adilah (Yumna Marwan), whom she takes on a road trip across Siberia and Istanbul. Ultimately bound for Paris, Adilah reunites with her young daughter, and Imogen connects with her partners in the French DGSE (Directorate-General for External Security). The James Bond-esque series relies heavily on the electricity of modern-day Paris, recognizing there is plenty of beauty and danger around every corner.

“The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon”

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon _ Season 1 - Photo Credit: Emmanuel Guimier/AMC
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon _ Season 1 - Photo Credit: Emmanuel Guimier/AMC

The first spinoff in “The Walking Dead” universe isn’t likely to inspire any tourism campaigns for France. Having managed to survive the flagship series, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) finds himself washed ashore in France, the patient-zero country for the zombie apocalypse that single-handedly revolutionized the genre on television. But in its dystopian future, “Daryl Dixon” actually pays France quite a compliment. Perhaps more than any show on the list, this one revels in every chance to show off the hallmarks of France and remind viewers why they are sturdy enough to survive the apocalypse. From the island-bound abbey at Mont Saint-Michel to the Place du Panthéon in Paris’ Latin Quarter, the road-trip series imaginatively dresses the country for destruction.

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