CANNES — China’s “Princess Agents,” Scandinavia’s “Match” and the U.K.’s “Hard Sun” (pictured) will be sneak-peaked at Mipcom’s Fresh TV Fiction showcase, as its presenter, The Wit’s Virginia Mouseler, focuses on three trends now coursing through international TV: The rise of Asia, led by China; a dilution of Nordic Noir; consolidation of social-issue-edged drama.
“There may be a lot of buzz at this year’s Mipcom about international co-production and big new SVOD series. But there are no major creative trends or big new program genres,” anticipated The Wit’s Bertrand Villegas.
What The Wit will capture, however, in several series, and industry moves, is how the international scripted industry is caught at a multiple-exit cross-roads. As foreign-language drama’s move into higher-end TV shows little sign of abating, it is attempting to satisfy both new experiments in web series and upscale drama innovation with the needs of more traditional markets, linear broadcasters and audiences. The last, in local markets at least, are reacting at times much more positively to more traditional narratives than boldly creative fare.
If not suggesting any major creative change, 2017 Mipcom looks set to underscore, as November’s American Film Market with movies, the emergence of Asia as most definitely a territory to track. This cuts several ways. One is China. The Wit will highlight China’s “Princess Agents,” aired from June 5 on Hunan TV, and now said to be the most-watched TV drama of all time in China, with 50 billion views on streaming sights. Based on an online novel, and set during the Northern Wei period of 386 to 534, “Princess Agents” has been webbed on YouTube for free “to conquer the world as Korea did in the past,” Villegas said.
He added: “Even if not so many companies are yet buying Chinese series, and they are not so innovative from a writing pint of view, they’re growing online for Asian communities around the world. I think in years to come they will manage to go mainstream.”
South Korea may be further down that road, already selling to Turkey and now Mexico (such as with Televise remake “My Husband Got a Family”). It had now seen extraordinary U.S. broadcast network success in the medical drama “The Good Doctor,” a remake of a Korean original from “House’s” David Shore which bowed on Sept. 25 to become ABC’s most-watched Monday night drama in 21 years. “This could be a turning point meaning more and more buyers will be on the lookout for the Koran style, a kind of soft realistic fantasy,” Villegas told Variety.
R.I.P. Nordic Noir? Over the years, Fresh Fiction has provided first glimpses of upcoming Nordic Noir down to “Midnight Sun” and “Bordertown.” No more.
“Nordic Noir is diluted, everywhere so nowhere. Thrillers in every market seem to be influenced by dark settings,” Villegas argued.
In Nordic Noir’s stead, Mouseler will screen an excerpt from French copycat serial killer thriller “The Mantis,” starring a commanding Carol Bouquet, which has just bowed out on TF1 with an above-channel 23% share.
From Scandinavia, The Wit will profile “Match,” broadcast on Norwegian pubcaster NRK next year, a 20-part short-format series about a 20-year-old guy whose every move – bathetic attempts to get laid, have a girlfriend, and so on – are the subject of sports commentary-style analysis. “It’s a crazy situation, very original,” Villegas commented.
Also featured: “The Restaurant,” a down-the-decades family saga running for two seasons over at least 1945-62, produced by Sweden’s SVT and SVOD service Viaplay in an unusual tie-up, which hit an excellent 46% share on SVT1 when premiered Oct. 2.
Post-cult teen web series “Skam” (Shame), howe¡ver, some of Scandinavia’s TV creativity is now being plowed into short-format web series linking to linear broadcasts. In Norway’s “Where is Thea”?, simulcast on TV2 and TV2 Zulu in Denmark,
a five-to-six minute webcast appears daily on the channels’ website, and then becomes part of a weekly compilation. Spain’s RTVE, with “Si fueras tu” – web shorts collected as a TV movie – and Portugal’s RTP Play, sourcing a BeActive show, are also experimenting with mixed broadcast, as The Wit will illustrate.
Under a banner of Dystopia Now, five Wit series home in on political corruption (Russian comedy “House Arrest,” for TNT ), A.I. (“”Better than US,” again from Russia,) fake news (Korea’s “Argon,” from CJ E&M, aired on TNT) and immigration (Australia’s SBS four-part “The Sunshine Kings,” sold by FremantleMedia, which opened Melbourne’s Series Mania in July).
What really works in international may be of course a matter of individual series as much as program trend. September saw BBC One’s “Rellik,” a crime story told backwards, facing off with ITV’s “The Liar,” highlighted at Fresh TV Fiction, also created by “The Missing’s” Harry and Jack Williams, but “a more traditional classic style thriller,” noted The Wit’s Villegas.
The highest-rating late primetime show in five years in Brazil, Globo’s “Under Pressure,” also at Fresh TV Fiction, and which screened this summer, marks a bold move by the Brazilian behemoth into limited-episode social drama. Its huge audience of 40-plus million suggests that it and other series grappling with red-hot social issues in Brazil may bid fair to touch a social nerve.
Other program types may enjoy a tailwind. Two bio series will be featured at The Wit: Michael Radford’s Andrea Bocelli portrait “The Music of Silence,” co-starring Antonio Banderas, and “The Goddess,” from Colombia’s Caracol, about the unhappy-in-love Vallenato singer Patricia Teheran.
“In an era where people need popular heroes and real-event-based drama, bio-series are highly effective for popular markets, including in the U.S., turn on strong brands, and the scripts are practically written,” said Villegas.
Punching a first-night 36.1% share on Caracol on Sept. 28, wasting the timeslot opposition, “The Goddess” also encapsulates many of the trends, gains and tensions now driving drama production around the world.
Produced by CMO Producciones, a former movie company, its production levels are way above Colombian TV production just a few years ago. Vallenato is one of the most traditional of Colombian music forms, performed almost entirely by men. Teheran is played by the voluptuous María Elisa Camarago. But her Vallenato stardom and onstage exhortations to her mostly women audience are acts of sock-it-to-them proto-feminism with a very contemporary edge.
Having conquered fast- modernizing audience sensibilities in Colombia, the series, one of Caracol’s flagships at Mipcom, has now to prove its international legs.