Gort vs the French: We take a look at Continental cop show Engrenages

Commander's log, Stardate 09082013.2:

The air was so thick with tension you could have sliced it with a hot knife. I had gathered everyone together in the Mothership's living area to finally solve the mystery and accuse the killer. Gort, Helen Cox of New Empress Magazine, Admiral Moon from the Hypnogoria Cluster, Gavin Johnson, Chris Johnson, Commander Manning and Steve were all present and eyeing each other with suspicion. Finally, the scene was set and I was ready to arrest the guilty party.

"Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick," I declared.

"Go fish," Gort answered.

"You're still not really getting this game are you?"

We love us a sordid, gritty crime drama and leave it to the French to do gritty and sordid better than anyone else. In the French legal system, apparently, criminal cases are supervised by a prosecuting judge while they are ongoing. This allows Canal+ show Engrenages (known as Spiral in English, but literally meaning 'gears' or 'cogs') to be a Continental version of Law and Order, with an interplay between police procedure and courtroom drama.

Even better, while subplots and minor cases spice up the sauce, each season of the show has focused on just one murder investigation. This allows it to explore all the angles and really ramp up the tension for the final showdown with the suspect. So far, we've had serial killers, sex trafficking, arms dealing, international gangsters and terrorists all being uncovered while pursuing that season's killer.

"Being French, all the characters are constantly having sex with one another, taking drugs or being corrupt"

Meanwhile, being French, all the characters are constantly having sex with one another, taking drugs or being corrupt. Still, while every recurring character on the show is a deeply flawed individual, they all have redeeming features or changes of heart that have you on their side, even when they're breaking the rules.

The show focuses on a central quartet of Parisian law enforcers. We have Laure Berthaud, the hard-as-nails leader of an elite team of cops whose impulsiveness leads her into constant drama, either through bending the rules to catch the bad guy or hopping into bed with the wrong person. Then there's Pierre Clement, an idealistic young prosecutor whose ethics are constantly getting in the way of his ambition to progress in the politically driven legal system. His counterpoint is the stunning redhead femme fatale, Josephine Karlsson, who lands herself in endless trouble despite being completely unencumbered by any ethics at all. Last of all, we have the eccentric judge Francois Roban, a bastion of legal integrity and the bane of anyone who does not adhere to the very letter of the law.

Four series in and Engrenages is still throwing heart-dropping twists at the plot and emotional torment at its characters. It is simply one of the best shows on TV and, if you're not watching it, you should be. BBC Four ran the first season just after it aired in France and its ratings were so good, the Beeb now invest in the show and appear in the credits. Keep an eye out in the BBC Four late-night schedules.

Stay tuned for the announcement of the winner of our TV competition later today!