“American Gods,” David Lindelof, Denmark’s SAM Productions, Dutch drama, French sci-fi, series zeitgeist, and other highlights from this year’s Series Mania.
1. “AMERICAN GODS”: THE AMAZON GROWTH PAD
In 2016, Netflix and Canal Plus dominated Series Mania proceedings. This year, at least fro international markets, it may be Amazon with “American Gods” as FremantleMedia’s long-anticipated adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel rolls out in overseas market on the U.S. streaming service. Amazon Prime Video’s” worldwide launch coincided with “Grand Tour.”
“American Gods” should be the series that helps power up subs overseas at Amazon. Starz instituted a review embargo at SXSW, where the show premiered. This Sunday’s Paris screening may help to gauge audience reaction where Gaiman fantasy is not quite as well known as in the U.S. before Starz’s April 30 bow. The Series Mania is, very predictably, totally sold out.
2. OTHER U.S. ATTRACTIONS
World premiering at Sundance and a “tool of the matriarchal revolution,” director Jill Soloway told Variety, “I Love Dick” also screens in competition at Paris, as does “I’m Dying Up Here,” seen at SXSW, an ensemble drama set on L.A’s ‘70s stand-up comedy scene with Melissa Leo, co-written by Jim Carrey. FX half-hour “Atlanta,” rated a “gem” by Variety, also play Paris, as do Netflix romcom half-hour “Master of None,” HBO’s limited season “Big Little Lies,” with Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, and FX superhero mind trip “Legion.”
3. DAVID LINDELOF PREDICTS THE END OF THE WORLD
The co-creator of “Lost” and “The Leftovers” heads the Series Mania jury, received a rousing applause on Thursday when he took to the stage with Justin Theroux, Christopher Ecclestone and series composer Max Richter to introduce the first two episodes of “The Leftovers” Season 3 at Series Mania’s opening night gala. Lindelof delivers an already-sold-out masterclass this Saturday at Series Mania. He hinted on Thursday that the third and final season is “about the end of the world. For thousands of years every generation alive has the narcissism to believe that the world is going to end while they’re alive. We thought it was only fitting to end the world on the show.” If “The Leftovers” proves true to perform, the end of the world would never form part of any grand design, or prove an anticlimax, but just how it happens, if it even does, remains to be seen.
4. DENMARK’S HOUR OF TRUTH
“Borgen” and “The Killing” helped launch a TV revolution – of audiences worldwide watching shows out of international, often in foreign languages. Now the creators of “Borgen” and “The Killing,” Adam Price and Soren Sveistrup at SAM productions, the company they launched with “Melancholia” producer Meta Louise Foldager, face their biggest test yet as Sam’s first shows hit Danish and international TV fest/market screens. Created and lead-written by Price, “Ride Upon the Storm” world premieres at Series Mania. Produced by SAM, “Below the Surface” screens in Paris. A third show, rock ’n roll period dramedy “Something’s Rockin’” plays the fest’s comedy section. So far, ratings in Denmark for “Surface” and “Rockin’” have been standout. Shown in a 15-minute scene assembly, “Below the Storm” was the biggest prize winner at the MipDrama Screenings last week – good if insufficient omen of its international attraction.
5. OUTSCALING THE OPPOSITION
“American Gods” plays at Series Mania. At a Variety Summit on April 20 that forms part of Series Mania’s Co-Production Forum, Beta’s Jan Mojto can be expected to present a teaser of “Babylon Berlin” which blew an industry and press audience away at MipTV with its spectacular noir thriller take on Weimar Germany night-life decadence and rising extremism. In a market of global competition, one way to stand apart in the crowd is to deliver drama of a scale not seen before, at least in domestic markets.
6. A TV DRAMA FEEDING FEVER
Series Mania delegate numbers shot up 107% to 892 this year, vs. 430 in 2016. Applications to pitch at its Co-production Forum surged 62% from 193 to 312. The volume of TV drama production in the U.S., Europe and Latin America plateau-ed in 2016, according to estimates by The Wit. What certainly shows no signs of checking, however, is a feeding fever for key drama creators and an interest in its co-production.
7. OTHER ATTRACTIONS
Of new series coming into Series Mania off strong buzz: Israel’s “Your Honor,” rolling off a U.S. remake deal; “Before We Die,” a hard-hitting cop mother-drug-victim son drama which wowed on Sweden’s SVT; “Seven Types of Ambiguity,” a multiple POV missing psychological thriller just premiered on Australia’s ABC TV.
8. DUTCH SURGE
Last year, Belgian Noir broke through at Series Mania with a trio of titles: “Beau Sejour,” “The Break” and “Public Enemy.” Now it may be Netherlands turn. The Dutch and Belgians were swept away by flood disaster series “The Swell,” in Series Mania’s Intl. Panorama. Chosen out of 324 candidates, two Dutch series, “David” and “The Faction,” made the cut to be pitched at the Co-Production Forum. Only the U.K. has as many selected Forum projects.
9. FRENCH SCI-FI
The French disdain genre. So the growth of a sci-fi/futuristic series TV scene in France is quite remarkable, though part of a larger sci-fi drama drive seen around the globe. A first episode of the economically-told mission-to-Mars thriller “Missions” impressed at MipTV, winning a Critics Jury Prize at the MipDrama Screenings. Lagardère Studios “Transfer” also screens at Series Mania, after Lagardère scored with “Trepalium,” a not-too-distant-future dystopia thriller. Set between 2016 and 2025, “Neo Paris,” from Toni Marshall’s Tabo Tabo Films, will also be pitched at Series Mania’s Co-Production Forum.
10. AFTER THE FALL
Is humanity, or its TV creators at least, laboring after a second Fall? One trend this year, if the shows screened by Variety before Series Mania’s get-go are anything to go on, is an increasing dark view of human nature, its frailty, abuse of power, multifaceted failings, the Internet gulf between parents and children. One show, disaster thriller “The Swell” even depicts the earth – well Rotterdam and environs – assailed by a flood. Golden Age TV may be many things. If Series Mania is an indication, escapist entertainment it is not.
SERIES MANIA 2017
‘4 BLOCKS’ (Marvin Kren, Wiedemann & Berg TV, TNT Serie Germany)
One instance of TNT’s local production drive worldwide, a mobster drama thriller from Germany’s TNT Serie, “4 Blocks” has had larger fest/mart play than most any other series in Europe this early 2017: A world premiere as a Berlinale Special Screening, profile as one of MipTV’s five international screenings, now hits Series Mania. Billed as a German “Gomorrah,” which may be stretching the comparison, “4 Blocks” stars Kida Kohr Ramadan as the head of a Berlin-Neukolln mob who wants to go straight but, after his hot-hed brother is arrested in a police raid, is forced to take up the reins of the family business: Prostitution, drugs and money laundering. The new face of German TV. Sales: TBS Europe.
‘BORN TO KILL’ (Tracey Malone, Kate Ashfield, World Productions, Great Point Media, Channel 4, U.K.)
A portrait of a serial killer as a young man, Sam, 16, is in the full flower of adolescence, experiencing first love with fellow teen Chrissy, as well as the first psychopathic urges to kill. A four-part limited series for Channel 4 from “Line of Duty” producers World Productions which marks a first commission for writing duo Tracey Malone (“Rillington Place”) and first-time TV writer and BIFA-nominated actress Kate Ashfield, “Born to Kill,” which co-stars Romola Garai (“The Hour,” “Suffragette”) as Sam’s mother, “offer us a unique insight into the genesis of one young man’s psychopathy,” said Simon Maxwell, head of intl. drama, Channel 4 Daniel Mays (“Line of Duty,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”) co-stars. A Series Mania work premiere.
‘BROKEN’ (Jimmy McGovern, Shaun Duggan, Ciolette Kane, Nick Leather, LA Productions, BBC, U.K. )
Sean Bean (“Game of Thrones”) and Anna Friel (“Marcella”) head the cast of this BBC One primetime drama, but the show really belongs to famed co-writer Jimmy McGovern (“Cracker,” “Accused” ), on of the most redolent voices in U.K. drama. Here , Bean plays Father Michael Kerrigan, a Catholic priest struggling with his own past and the problems of his parishioners’, whose broken lives he can’t always mend. Shot on location in McGovern’s native Liverpool, expect a gritty drama whose outcomes deliver social comment on the state of the working class in contemporary Britain. Sales: BBC Worldwide.
‘I LOVE DICK’ (Jill Soloway, Sarah Gubbins, Amazon Studios, Topple Productions, U.S.)
World premiering at Sundance and a “tool of the matriarchal revolution,” director Jill Soloway (“Transparent”) told Variety, Amazon’s “I Love Dick” has the eponymous Dick, a sculptor (Kevin Bacon), becoming an object of desire and obsession for a filmmaker (Kathryn Hahn) and her academic husband (Griffin Dunne) who settle in the artistic community of Marfa, Texas. “It’s about taking women who have been the object and turning them into the subject,” star Hahn told Variety Studio. Variety itself found “I Love Dick ” as a “treasure trove of charged moments, an intriguing dance of provocation, creation, and self-reflection” that “digs to the roots of desire with unflinching curiosity.” An anticipated Paris screening. Distribution: Amazon Prime Video.
‘I’M DYING UP HERE’ (David Flebotte, Showtime, U.S.)
The jury still looks largely out on “I’m Dying Up Here,” the new Showtime Original co-exec produced by Jim Carrey, and a comedy infused drama set on L.A.’s stand-up comedy scene in 1973, a place where in real life David Letterman and Jay Leno exchanged notes on each other’s routines, and The Comedy Store was a launchpad for “Carson.” Centering on a motley crew of stand-up hopefuls at a comedy club, “I’m Dying Up Here” world premiered at South by Southwest on March 15, with reviews to date skewing more positive than negative. Backed by an ensemble cast led by Melissa Leo, “I’m Dying Up Here” promises a series which portrays how the comedy scene began mixing with sex, drugs and rock-and-roll as well as the psychology that drove young stand-ups to success, series creator David Flebotte (“Masters of Sex,” “Desperate Housewives”) has said. Series Mania also screens the pilot. Sales: CBS Studios Intl.
‘KIM KONG’ (Simon Jablonka, Alexis Le Sec, Arte, France)
The sole straight French show in competition, but the FremantleMedia pickup and Arte backing should signal some market potential for the absurdist farce of and love letter to cinema as an esteemed French filmmaker, Mathieu Stannis, is abducted by a Kim Jong-un-style dictator distraught at the low standards of his national cinema who attaches Stannis to direct a new King Kong movie from the monarch’s own screenplay. Sales: FremantleMedia Intl.
‘MONSTER’ (Hans Christian Storresten, Anne Sewitsky, NRK Drama, Rein Film, SVT, DR) Sales: NRK
A new slice of Nordic Noir from three of its broadcast network mainstays, Norway’s NRK, Sweden’s SVT and Denmark’s DR, a brooding procedural which sees cop Hedda Gilbert dispatched to northern Norway to investigate the disappearance of among girl in a benighted community. She also has her own demons to deal with. A Series Mania world premiere. Sales: DRG
‘RIDE UPON THE STORM’ (Adam Price, DR Drama, Arte France, Sam Le Français; Denmark-France)
On paper, maybe Series Mania’s hottest ticket, Adam Price’s follow-up series to “Borgen.” A 15-minute first-look scene assembly wowed an industry audience at the April 2’s MipDrama Screening’s with its big themes, big canvas and a tearaway performance from Lars Mikkelsen (“House of Cards”) as a firebrand God-like Minister of the Church of Denmark whose love for his sons proves crushing, forcing one to become an army chaplain in a Middle East battle zone, the other to back-pack in the Himalaya, so as to find himself. Winner of the MipDrama Screenings TV Critics Award and Buyers Coup de Coeur Prize. Series Mania world premieres its first two episodes on April 19.
‘SEVEN TYPES OF AMBIGUITY’ (Tony Ayres, Amanda Higgs, Matchbox Pictures, Australia) A whydonit and psychological thriller in the literal sense, charting the motives which lead a couple to briefly abduct Sam, a chirpy seven-year-old schoolboy, and the impact that event has on six lives. These are examined one per episode, centering in the first on Sam’s self-obsessed Alpha-male stockbroker father and, in the second, on the kidnapper’s psychiatrist, undergoing divorce. An intricate instance of modern TV’s revolution in story structure, weaves a tapestry of subjectivity, solipsism and wrenching human emotions, led, Episodes 1 and 2 suggest, by disappointment in love. World premiering last week on ABC TV, Australia. Warmly received Friday in Paris. Sales: NBC Universal
‘YOUR HONOR’ (Shlomo Mashiach, Ron Nimio, Yes, Israel)
Brilliant, progressive, exemplary, Micah Alkoby, a Israeli magistrate, is first seen in “Your Honor” granting settlement rights to Bedouins. Simultaneously, his son, panicked by an asthma attack, commits a hit-and-run crime, leaving the victim, the son of a notorious mobster, in coma. And as he desperately tries to protect his son from mob vengeance, Alkoby’s life spirals out of control. A showpiece of tightly-wound Israeli screenwriting, and already the subject of U.S. remake deal, world premiering at Series Mania Saturday.
“4 Blocks,” (Marvin Kren, Germany)
“Born to Kill,” (Bruce Goodison, U.K.)
“Broken,” (Ashley Pearce, Noreen Kershaw, U.K.)
“I Love Dick,” (Jill Soloway, Sarah Gubbins, U.S)
“I’m Dying Up Here,” (David Flebotte, U.S.)
“Kim Kong,” (Simon Jablonka, Alexis Le Sec, France)
“Monster,” (Hans Christian Storrøsten, Norway)
“Ride Upon the Storm,” (Adam Price, Denmark)
“Seven Types of Ambiguity,” (Tony Ayres, Amanda Higgs, Australia)
“Your Honor,” (Schlomo Mashiach, Ron Ninio, Israel)
“Tempel,” (Henning Heup, Conni Lubek, Manuel Meimberg, Uwe Urbas, Germany)
“Supermax,” (Mario Segade, Virginia Martinez, Daniel Burman, Argentina)
“13 Commandements,” (Rita Bossaer, Dirk Nielandt, Lieven Scheerlinck, Ed Vanderweyden, Belgium)
“Team Chocolate,” (Marc Bryssinck, Filip Lenaerts, Belgium)
“Fatale-Station,” (Stéphane Bourguignon, Canada)
“Below the Surface,” (Kasper Barfoed, Denmark)
“Sé quién eres,” (Pau Freixas, Spain)
“Dumb,” (Bat Hen Sabag, Shay Capon, Israel)
“Juda,” (Zion Baruch, Israel)
“Heaven,” (Miyuki Miyabe, Japan)
“The Swell,” (Johan Nijenhuis, Netherlands)
“The Teach,” (Jakub Ẑulczyk, Monika Powalisz, Poland)
“Wasteland,” (Stepan Hulik, Tomás Hruby, Lukás Krokes, Pavla Kubecková, Czech Republic)
“Apple Tree Yard,” (Louise Doughty, U.K)
“Clique,” ( Jess Brittain, U.K.)
“Fleabag,” (Phoebe Waller-Bridge, U.K.)
“Better Than Us,” ( Alexander Kessel, Russia)
“Salaam, Moscou!,” (Pavel Bardine, Russia)
“Before we Die,” (Niklas Rockström, Sweden)
THE BEST OF U.S. SERIES
“American Gods,” (Bryan Fuller, Neil Gaiman)
“Atlanta,” (Donald Glover)
“Berlin Station,” (Olen Steinhauer)
“Big Little Lies,” (David E. Kelley)
“Downward Dog,” (Michael Killen, Samm Hodges)
“Legion,” (Noah Hawley)
“Search Party,” (Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers, Michael Showalter)
“The Good Fight,” (Michelle King, Robert King)
“The Leftovers,” (Damon Lindelof)
“Feud: Bette and Joan” (Ryan Murphy)
“Timeless,” (Eric Kripke, Shawn Ryan)
“When We Rise,” (Dustin Lance Black)
“Aurore,” (Laetitia Masson)
“The Forest,” (Delinda Jacobs)
“Missions,” (Henri Debeurme, Ami Cohen, Julien Lacombe)
“On Va S’aimer un peu….Beaucoup,” (Emmanuelle Rey-Magnan, Pascal Fontanille)
“Transfer,” (Claude Scasso, Patrick Benedek)