Frost & Shaft

"Frost & Shaft" is a Belgian TV show produced & broadcast by RTBF public channel. It tells the story of a duo of private investigators involved in silly adventures in the Belgian city of Liège. Despite its detective setting, the show is mostly centered on humor.

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Julien Shaft is a cynical, quiet private investigator along with his associate Ingrid Frost, a psychopathic young girl. They investigate in cases about the local mafias of Liège city, in districts invaded by dealers and hookers, sometimes under the request of Commissioner Follien Gaymard, a fat and lazy police officer. Most times they solve the case by using ultra-violent methods and molesting witnesses or second-rank gangsters. Each investigation is, above all, the occasion of many actions they do just for fun.

Shaft & Frost are seconded by several highly-colored characters, almost all of them being as crazy and unusual as the two heroes. Despite Shaft & Frost are not involved in a romantic relationship together (Shaft is even married and Frost is seen with several lovers during the time of the show), they occasionally kissed deeply in some episodes, apparently just because it was suited with the climax. In one episode it is even implied they had sex the night before.

The show has been acclaimed for its unique universe, melting unusual characters with a lot of original peculiarities in a city depicted as a melting-pot of poverty and crime but with a lot of fun and friendly.

Characters

Julien Shaft - A retired freelance news writer who gave up his job after being banned from almost every newspaper in Belgium for "extreme violence towards publishing directors". In the pilot episode, he solves his first case and meets Frost, creating a P.I. agency with her.

Shaft is the quiet one in the duet. His anger is never displayed to the viewer, but only its results. Typically, we will see him quietly standing in front of a reluctant witness, and then we will see him quiet again but with the witness in blood and the room devastated. He uses a Luger gun as a weapon.

Shaft's story is almost impossible to tell, as he perpetually tells lies about himself, sometimes melted with his true story. He claimed to have participated in the Vietnam war, or to have been born in Pretoria, South Africa, or to have been the chief of a gang in Marseilles, France. Some of his claims are partly confirmed by some clues (he can speak both Afrikaans or slang French from Marseilles) but most of his stories seems to be a way to avoid giving personal information. Frost herself stated in an episode that she can't tell his true age or citizenship.

Shaft drives a modified Saab 900 with neon lights underneath and a statue of the Silver Surfer on top of the radiator. The car's inside has been stabbed everywhere by Frost, who likes to throw a knife around (and scream) while driving.

Julien lives in a flat filled with vintage stuff in the center of Liège with his wife Salomé Shaft, herself a freelance news writer. He mentions several times having a daughter "born from a Vietminh spy not long after the Tet Offensive," but she is never displayed on screen, thought he receives a phone call from her in at least one episode.

Julien Shaft has dextrocardia and monochromacy.

Ingrid Frost - Born into a family of Viking descent, she met Shaft in the pilot episode in which she and he solve their first investigation. She is known to have been a linguistic researcher in Nordic languages but had to stop when the University burned, most probably because of her. Unlike Shaft, she is single. It seems she lives in the P.I. office itself, as in some episodes she is waken up by a visitor in the office, which is depicted more as a messy bedroom than a real workplace.

She is extremely violent and nervous. She has never fired a single shot with her Makarov shotgun, but she can practically fight with anything that comes to hand. In various episodes, she has beaten opponents with a spoon, a cat food can, a staple remover, and even a corncob. She seems to favor unusual ways to make someone suffer.

Frost also seems to enjoy self-inflicted violence. One recurring event in the show involves Frost having her head drowned in cold water while her hair is held by Shaft. Then, Shaft will pull her head out of the water and asks her if she wants more, to which she will most often answer "yes, a bit, please" and get plunged again. It seems the only way to calm her. Frost is fluent in several languages and seems to learn new ones easily; she learns how to speak Estonian in a single episode. However, she is incredibly angered each time anyone tries to speak to her in Flemish. Typically, she will punch anyone speaking this language, even if she was just crossing his or her path.

Frost seems to have a family completely unaware of her violent behavior and her dangerous job. Her parents and siblings have been portrayed in some episodes, with Frost making efforts to look quiet and "normal", pretending she is a teacher, and introducing Shaft as her workmate. Every encounter with her family ends with Frost isolating herself in a room where she destroys almost anything, before reappearing as a perfect, nice lady to wave goodbye.

Commissioner Follien Gaymard - He is a typical Walloon citizen, sympathetic, lazy, and eating fries and drinking beer all day. He prefers to rely on Shaft & Frost any time a case is too complicated or dangerous. He is perfectly aware of their violent methods but backs them any time.

On a few occasions, he turned against Frost & Shaft, but withdraws after any threats by them.

Salomé Shaft - Shaft's wife is a hyperactive freelance news writer. She is remarkable for her incredibly tall height (she is far taller than Shaft himself) and her uncontrolled physical force. On several occasions she beats characters (including Shaft & Frost) with a single movement, and without even realizing it (she seems completely unaware of her own strength).

One recurring scene involves Salomé asking who Frost is, as the two girls are never together on any occasion throughout the series. However, Salomé knows that Shaft sometimes has physical contact with another girl, and seems to encourage him as if he was a kind of champion: she even bullies him because he doesn't flirt anymore with other girls, and she wants to see him being a playboy.

Although she is portrayed as nervous and always with a good reason to scream at someone, she is good-hearted. Shaft seems the only person able to calm her, simply by putting a hand on her, most times without even looking at her and while doing something else. Even if their relationship seems absurd, Shaft and Salomé are very faithful (in social terms) towards each other and their alliance saves the day on several occasions.

Serge - Not much is said about Serge but his computer nerdiness. However, it is a recurring plot trying to discover which job he really has - according to him, something completely outside of the computer world. Anyway, he helps the duet many times with his computer skills.

He is completely crazy and highly schizophrenic, playing roles all the time. Quite often, he plays the role of an old scatophilic grandmother who tells her "love for poo, the last thing that can get me excited at my age".

The Dadaist Club of Liège - A trio of guys (although it is implied that the Club is made of approximately 10 members in all) who claim to be poets and philosophers. In fact, they are mediocre and frustrated students who seduce naive girls with great words. They are no threat to society, not implied to be into drugs or prostitution. But Shaft & Frost always have a good reason to bully them. In fact, any case they investigate, they will sooner or later accuse the Club of being responsible of the crime. This results in heavy bullying of the Club members, most times with verbal abuse, and in situations eager to break their reputations as lovers and intellectuals.

As the series evolved, the Club have become real antagonists, as they plot against Frost & Shaft. They are always doomed to failure.

Controversy

The show was controversial in Belgium, mostly due to its violence and profanity. However, many Belgian artists had praised it for being in the mood of other Belgian productions involving violent scenes and stories, such as Poelvoorde's movie "Man bites dog (C'est arrivé près de chez vous)".

Feminist groups claimed that the character of Ingrid Frost is anti-feminist, as she is often beaten and molested by Shaft himself, most times at her own request.

Some Flemish political parties also criticized the portrayal of hatred of the two main protagonists for the Flemish people and Flemish language.

Current status

The show has been running for three seasons on French-speaking Belgian public television. No releases in DVD nor translations in foreign languages are scheduled.

The show was broadcast in France for two weeks and withdrawn after it flopped hard. It is, however, enormously popular in Wallonia and Brussels.


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