Series Mania: 10 Highlights or Trends to Track

From U.S gems to U.K. hits, ‘Marseille,’ ‘Midnight Sun,’ France, but also Belgian Noir, Caribbean Noir and Africa

Variety profiles highlights and trends at
Courtesy of Netflix

10 highlights, or trends, at this year’s 7th Series Mania, which kicked off Friday in Paris:


From the U.S., David Chase, Cuba Gooding Jr. Harlan Coben, Frank Spotnitz and “Dexter” showrunner Clyde Phillips attend the Paris TV fest. Series Mania also showcases a clutch of Variety’s best-reviewed U.S. series of the year: “Mr. Robot,” “The Man in the High Castle,” “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” and “American Crime,” Season 2, which proves that Season One, Variety wrote, was no one-trick pony. One hell of a U.S. TV fix.


“Midnight Sun,” unveiling in world premiere its two first episodes at Series Mania April 19. A high-end crime thriller backed by Canal Plus and Sweden’s SVT packing a singular setting, high-concept – Sami ritual killings in Arctic Circle Sweden – and a high-end budget. After Vivendi’s purchase of Mediaset Premium, as Sky, Canal Plus and Telefonica face off with Netflix, HBO Go and Amazon, it will not just be easier to make high-end event dramas: They’ll be much more in demand.


“Marseille.” Series Mania hosts a world premiere of first images of France’s first original series. To date, Netflix has ordered seven original series in Europe: Marseille, Italy’s “Suburra,” Germany’s “Dark,” an untitled women’s period drama from Spain’s Bambu Producciones and “The Crown,” “Our Planet” and Black Mirror season 3 from the U.K. Premiering  May 5, “Marseilles” will be the first to see the light of day, and a chance to gauge the ambition of Netflix’s series ambitions in Europe, which look to be, as Netflix’s Eric Barmack put it, in “an expansive phase.”


Belgium’s film industry is driving into TV production, winning awards – “Public Enemy” at MipDrama Screenings, timeslots – “The Break” punched 22.5% on pubcaster RTBF – and an International Competition slot at Series Mania for “Beau Sejour,” the Lagardere-sold, Arte-backed fantasy whodunit, the strangest of them all, and unseen. Belgium used to make mostly soaps. No more.


Bowing Stateside on AMC next Tuesday, “The Night Manager” is on everybody’s radar. Buolding the U.K.’s case to still have the biggest strength in depth in Europe’s TV industry, and all screening at Series Mania, and all from the BBC, “London Spy” scored great reviews, Variety praising its “spare, off kilter intensity”; “Thirteen,” a teen life-after abduction drama from on-the-rise creator Marnie Dickins is another BBC hit.


Just as, from the turn of the century, movie sales executives exiting Canal Plus in France drove into the sales of art-house and upscale world cinema, France looks as if it is beginning to shape what looks like an alternative European TV drama industry to Hollywood. Of Series Mania’s eight competition titles, all from different countries, Lagardere Studios sells Belgium’s “Belle Sejour” and France’s “Cannabis,” Studiocanal Harlen Coben’s U.K.-produced “The Five,” and “Midnight Sun,” originated by Sweden’s SVT, but co-produced by Lagardere’s Atlantique Productions. “Four Seasons in Havana” is  sold by Wild Bunch TV. Federation Ent. produced “Marseilles.” Of these companies, two launched in the last two years – Federation Ent. and Wild Bunch TV. A third, Studiocanal, only entered TV in early 2012. Lagardere Studios has vigorously upgraded its drama production ambitions. All this comes as Canal Plus owner Vivendi took control last week of Mediaset pay-TV operation and this week French company Mediawan launched on the Paris stock exchange aiming to invest up to €1.5 billion ($1.7 billion) in European contents.


Maybe it’s the zeitgeist: People just don’t believe other people are a nice as they once did. Or skepticism about authorities, noir’s DNA. But overseas noir, reborn in Denmark and Sweden, now pan-Scandi, has hit Spain (“Plastic Sea,” from Lagardere-owned Boomerang TV), even the Caribbean. Just how Cuba-set “Four Seasons in Havana” squares a noir ethos with one of the most colorful countries in the world can be seen at its April 21 world premiere, at Series Mania’s Co-Production Forum.


“More and more TV series have literary bases,” said Series Mania founder Laurence Herszberg. The pay off worka a two-way street. Just as Yellow Bird’s 2009 “Millennium” trilogy introduced international audiences to the fiction of Swedish writer Steig Larsson and the plight of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Sagafilm hope their Co-Production Form entry will facilitate the first English-language translations of the crime-thriller novels of Stella Blomkvist. So far only published in Czech and German, the Icelandic author’s true identity and gender has been a closely guarded secret for nearly 20 years, and in a twist worthy of a Nordic noir, even a former (male) Prime Minister of Iceland has been named as a suspect.


Two more building forces in international scripted. Sold by “Marseille” producer Federation Ent., “Bordertown” impressed at a work-in-progress screening at MipTV, now bows world preems its first two episodes in Paris. Argentina, thanks to a funding push by Argentina’s INCAA film-TV institute, has two series in Paris, both backed by is TV Publica, eco-thriller “Cromo” from Lucia and Nicolas Puenzo and Pablo Fendrik, and the buzzed-up “Marginal,” the only non-European series to make the International Competition cut, Great talent, as Hollywood learnt some time ago regarding film, can come from anywhere.


Africa. With 350 million smartphones connected by 2017, and 60% of the population under 24, Africa already reps a growth driver for Vivendi. Lagardere bought a majority stakes in pan-African rights company Diffa, last May, aiming to drive up production. One of Series Mania’s most intriguing Co-Production panels focuses April 21 on African TV Series: An Emerging Market for Europe.