Catalan pubcaster diversifies into cop, detective shows

BARCELONA — Catalan pubcaster TV3, the most powerful and successful of Spain’s regional broadcasters, is diversifying its fiction production, plowing into cop and detective shows.

First up are “Gran Nord” and “Kubala, Moreno and Manchon.” Neither are ordinary procedurals.

A romantic dramedy set in Catalonia’s high Pyrenees, “Gran Nord” turns on an over-achieving femme police inspector, an expert in urban crime, who’s dispatched to the region’s deep north after a confrontation with higher-ranking officers.

“A series with singular characters who find their place in the world,” and bearing passing resemblance to “Northern Exposure,” according to “Nord’s” vet director Jesus Font (“Gavilans”), “Nord” is produced by TV3, Portocabo and Barcelona-based Veranda TV, part of Boomerang TV Group (GBTV). It will air on TV3 in 2012. GBTV shares international rights with TV3.

Another dramedy, but shot in a more docu-style, “Kubala” turns on three private detectives confronted by increasingly surreal cases. Kiko Ruiz (“Porca miseria”) directs. TV3 co-produces with Diagonal TV, a prolific producer of TV hits such as long-running daytime soap “Love in Difficult Times.”

Broadcasting to Catalonia, Spain’s richest big region, plus Mallorca, TV3 boasts the highest audience share of any regional state TV in Spain: 14.2% for core channel TV3 in 2011, vs. 6.6% for TeleMadrid.

TV3 has recently punched spectacular ratings with a brace of two-part historical minis: set between 1017-1057, “Ermessenda” (22.3%), about the all-powerful Countess of Barcelona, grabbed 22.3%; “The Voices of the Panamo” a post-Civil War tale of vengeance, murder and historical distortion, averaged 21.4%; and “Serrallonga,” a Robin Hood-ish Catalan bandit romp, 20.4%.

This “significant ratings advantage” over Spanish channels is “the reason we can discuss and defend our ideal of public television. Otherwise, it would be extremely difficult,” said Victor Carrera, TV3 head of international relations.

“Nord” and “Kubala” respond, however, to a policy of “diversification,” according to Jordi Roure, TV3 head of drama.

He adds: “Traditionally, TV3 has been stronger in ‘costumbrismo’,” daily shows that recreate the familiar foibles and habits of Catalans. “We have had difficulties competing in genre.”

Another instance of diversification, “Polseres Vermelles” (The Red Band Society), a TV3 drama series, has just been optioned for a U.S. remake by ABC.

Marta Kauffman, “Friends” co-creator, will write and showrun for DreamWorks TV, which pitched ABC.

Sergio Aguero brought the original to WME, Kauffman’s agency.

Created by Albert Espinosa, based on his play and subsequent Spanish feature film “The 4th Floor,” and produced by Julio and Carlos Fernandez’s Filmax, “Band” turns on young patients in a cancer ward.

ABC would like to have a pilot by March, said Carrera.

The first 13-seg season took a 16%-17% share in Catalonia. TV3 has now commissioned a second season, Roure added.

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