Global TV hones its edge

Series Mania a showcase for international skeins

While a slew of hit U.S. TV shows continue to drive ratings in many overseas markets, the production of daring and innovative local drama series is booming around the world.

The second edition of Series Mania, a Paris-based fest showcasing international skeins, underscores a trend towards edgy, contempo TV dramas and dark comedies in France, the U.K., Australia and Israel.

Many broadcasters have been focusing their resources on developing high-profile local series, and have tweaked their programing strategy to sked them on primetime, explains Laurence Herszberg, general director of Paris’ cultural center Forum des Images and organizer of Series Mania.

Franco-German net Arte and pubcaster France Televisions have followed Canal Plus’ lead and have greenlit a raft of sophisticated Gallic TV dramas to bolster the image of their nets and attract younger audiences, although France remains the only country in Europe where U.S. skeins take a bigger market share than local series.

Indeed, French and German broadcasters are desperate to attract the younger adult demo that has been lured by U.S. shows, says Lorene Nowicki at Eurodata TV Worldwide.

“We want to develop fiction dramas that are more modern in terms of form, rhythm treatment, and visual identity, with characters who are grounded in today’s French culture and have a strong point of view on our society,” explained Thierry Sorel, co-topper of fiction for France 3, one of France Televisions’ channels, during a debate organized by the Gallic authors’ society SACD.

“Tony’s Revenge,” a crime drama that recently bowed on France Televisions fits that mandate.

“Revenge,” which comprises eight one-hour episodes, tells the tale of an old-time gangster who escapes prison with a younger North African delinquent from one of Paris’ underprivileged suburbs.

Arte has “Xanadu,” a contemporary drama about a dysfunctional family inheriting a adult film empire. Both “Xanadu” and “Tony’s Revenge” are backed by high-profile French producers, Haut et Court (“Xanadu”) and Fidelite Films’ shingle, Lincoln TV (“Revenge”).

Europe’s strongest producer of TV series, the U.K., boasts Peter Kosminsky’s “The Promise,” a four-part drama produced by Channel 4 about a British teenager who travels to Israel on the trail of her grandfather who served as a British soldier in Palestine in the 1940s.

Meanwhile, Israel, which keeps attracting U.S. producers looking for the next hit, delivers some of the most colorful and audacious shows, notably Eytan Fox’s “Mary-Lou,” a musical dramedy about a gay man searching for his biological mother in Tel Aviv, and “Arab Labor,” a comedy turning on a Palestinian-Israeli journalist who lives in Israel and develops an identity crisis.

In Australia, where U.S. series dominate the ratings, broadcaster SBS has been lining up high-profile local shows, notably “East West 101,” a crime drama following a hot-headed cop on Sydney’s major crime squad who happens to be a devout Muslim.

Producers and broadcasters are also increasingly looking at the web to dig out innovative concepts, points out Herszberg.

Lisa Kudrow’s “Web Therapy” is being adapted for the smallscreen by Showtime, and in France, “La Chanson du Dimanche,” launched by two guys who play music and post their songs on various web platforms, inspired the satellite channel Comedy! to create a spinoff sitcom toplining the two musicians.

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