1 9 8 5 (France)
26 x 52 minute episodes
The rich and powerful Berg family lived at La Commanderie – a sumptuous 15th-century castle on the banks of the Loire at Châteauvallon.
Billed as “Dallas-sur-Loire”, the French soap – revolving around 70-year-old newspaper tycoon Antonin Berg (Jean Davy) and his family and associates – was supposed to put JR in the shade. A staunch conservative with an undying allegiance to the late General de Gaulle, Berg professed an equal commitment to the free press.
His all-powerful newspaper, La Depeche Republicaine, unveiled graft and corruption and could make and break politicians and businessmen.
When the patriarch died in episode six, the producers of Châteauvallon wheeled out his divorcee daughter, Florence (Chantal Nobel), who bore a striking resemblance to Dallas‘s Sue-Ellen and emerged as an iron-fisted manager with personal problems on the side, most notably when her cabinet minister lover, Georges Quentin (François Perrot) committed suicide over a scandal.
More than 200 characters swilled rich wines and food as the Bergs battled with their sworn enemies, a Yugoslav emigre family called Kovalic in the most expensive series ever made for French television.
Production was halted in April 1985 when Chantal Nobel was seriously injured in a crash when a Porsche 924 Carrera GT driven by singer Sacha Distel hit a telegraph pole en route to the French stock car championships at Magny-Cours, 150 miles south of Paris. Distel escaped with slight injuries, but Nobel wound up in a coma with severe concussion.
After six weeks in a coma, Nobel recovered, but her face was seriously injured, and she was declared 80% disabled for life. She retired from public life in the South of France, ending Châteauvallon. Sacha Distel was sentenced to one year in prison for involuntary injuries.
The series – produced by the French state-owned TV network Antenne-2 – was aired twice on Channel 4 in the UK, dubbed into English and then again in the original French with English subtitles.