The 2023 London Screenings, which unfold Feb. 27 to March 3, take place in an increasingly crowded international TV calendar. The event kicks off just days after the Berlinale Series Market, overlaps with the BBC Studios Showcase and precedes Series Mania and MipTV.
The week-long showcase has established itself as a key place to acquire the best of British and international programming. All major global TV distributors, spanning 26 companies, have a plethora of content to offer across genres and formats, and a series of screenings, meetings and events have been lined up.
To help you cut through the slates, Variety has surveyed the goods from key international distributors. Here are our picks of 15 shows that will whet buyers’ appetites.
A Body That Works
An intense triangle involving love, jealousy, desire and selflessness sees a childless couple enlist the help of a surrogate to conceive. At the heart of the story are two women: one longs to be a mother, but can’t carry a pregnancy to full term, while another, in desperate financial need, is able to grant the gift of life on the other’s behalf. Their hopelessness unites them. The series also aims to unravel the link between masculinity and fatherhood and the enormous amount of societal pressure placed on all parents. It stars Lior Raz (“Fauda”), alongside Rotem Sela (“The Baker and the Beauty”) and Yehuda Levi (“Fire Dancer”) plus emerging talent Gal Malaka. “A Body That Works” is also at Series Mania.
Abdulla Khan (Arian Nik, “The Bay”), a mid-twenties British-Pakistani Muslim doctor, is stuck in an identity crisis, caught between his religious mother and his secular, hedonistic friends. But when Abdulla is bitten by a vampire (Jaime Winstone, “Four Lives”) he suddenly becomes the outsider’s outsider. The comedy series is written by Kaamil Shah (“Sparks”) and directed by Asim Abbasi, director of acclaimed Pakistan-set “Churails” and “Barzakh,” which is debuting at Series Mania.
Everyone Else Burns
(NBCUniversal Global Distribution)
This comedy is about a Manchester family who are members of a Christian cult that believes the apocalypse is upon them. It follows patriarchal David Lewis who aspires to ascend the church ranks and become an Elder, his dutiful wife Fiona who adheres to a dogmatic moral compass, their naïve 17-year-old daughter Rachel who wants to be allowed to go to university, and 12-year-old son Aaron who can’t fend off his secular bullies. It is written by Dillon Mapletoft and Oliver Taylor and the cast includes Simon Bird (“The Inbetweeners”), Kate O’Flynn (“Death in Paradise”), Amy James-Kelly (“Blood, Sex & Royalty”) and newcomer Harry Connor.
A he said/she said drama set behind the scenes of the world of Grand Slam tennis, the series deals with timely themes about consent and sexual power dynamics. It follows Justine Pearce (Ella Lily Hyland, “Intruder”), a rising star whose sudden success at 17 took her and her coach Glenn Lapthorn (Aidan Turner, “Leonardo”) to the quarterfinals of the French Open. It is created by “The Essex Serpent” writer Hania Elkington and is directed by Eva Riley (“Perfect 10”) and Toby Macdonald (“Horizon”).
The Man Who Stole The Scream
(Abacus Media Rights)
Executive produced by Asif Kapadia (“Senna,” “Amy,” “Diego Maradona”), the documentary tells the story of the theft of one of the most iconic paintings in history, Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” Stolen during the 1994 Winter Olympics in Norway, it was a bold art heist that triggered a cat-and-mouse caper, involving the Norwegian authorities, the global media and Scotland Yard’s specialist art squad. Only one man was ever convicted of the crime – former professional soccer player Pål Enger. The documentary examines why he did it and what really happened. It is directed by Sunshine Jackson (“Dead Asleep”) and Nigel Levy (“The Da Vinci Detective”).
(Hat Trick International)
From “Line of Duty” creator Jed Mercurio’s HTM Television and written by Debbie O’Malley (“All Creatures Great and Small,” “Call The Midwife”), the series follows Lexie Noble (Morven Christie, “The Bay”), an ordinary wife and mother whose perfect family world comes to an abrupt end when she finds herself embroiled in a police operation to topple a crime lord, Cal Morris (Peter Mullan, “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power”). Lexie is unaware that her husband, Jared, has been laundering Cal’s illegal earnings on a vast scale and his every move is being monitored by financial investigators Jibran Khan (Prasanna Puwanarajah, “The Crown”) and Adam Guthrie (Derek Riddell, “Happy Valley”), who are determined to use the Noble family to bring Cal to justice.
The Queen of Crypto: Visionary, Victim or Villain
Dr. Ruja Ignatova is the only scammer who is on both the FBI and Interpol’s 2022 Ten Most Wanted Lists. She exploited the Cryptocurrency boom for a fortune and then disappeared without a trace – along with billions of dollars. In the true-crime docuseries, writer and director team Rudolph Herzog and Raid Sabbah gain exclusive access to whistle-blowers, victims and high-level experts and in a deep dive into Ignatova’s life, uncover leaked documents and shed new light on her past, unveiling the corruption, money laundering, death threats and greed in the unregulated sector of international finance.
During the early 1960s, Singapore undertook a revolutionary social experiment – to rehabilitate its most feared mobsters through sheer hard work, with the help of Irish-born superintendent Daniel Dutton, on Pulau Senang, an island 13 kilometers off the country’s coast. Held without trial and tasked with building their own prison with their bare hands, soon, the detainees staged one of the biggest prison riots in history. Through dramatic reconstructions the docu-drama steps inside one of the most daring and controversial prison experiments ever undertaken.
The Royals: A History of Scandals
From medieval to the present day, the British royalty has always been at the center of scandals. Historian Suzannah Lipscomb explores what role the press, parliament and public have played in generating outrage and spreading rumours across the centuries, exploring some royal scandals that are well-known, but also many that aren’t. Meeting fellow historians and experts at the hallowed halls of historic houses and palaces where the tumultuous happenings took place, Lipscomb uncovers the truth behind the scandal to see how it impacted on the lives and fortunes of those involved and British society on the whole.
(SONY PICTURES TELEVISION)
The reality competition follows four emerging entrepreneurs who get the opportunity to redevelop and finesse their products with the help of a team of industry experts. Each season focuses on a different business area – from food products and clothing to gadgets and e-commerce. In each episode the entrepreneurs pitch their products and receive feedback to improve them across four different rounds – the pitch, product finesse, business advice and branding make-over. If they don’t excel at each stage they are eliminated. Once their product is finally market-ready, the two remaining entrepreneurs re-pitch to the judges for the chance to win a cash prize and entry into a mentorship program.
Revolving around the popular and dangerous South African motor sport of spinning, which sees cars driven at high speed with drivers performing stunts in and out of the vehicle, the show follows Ethan, a 17-year-old driver working for a local gang, run with an iron fist by Damien. Trying to support his younger brother but increasingly disgusted with this life and constantly on the edge, Ethan discovers a possible way out via spinning, an intense local sport where he could put his driving skills to use. But the looming gang war jeopardizes that hope. The cast reunites Cantona James and Chelsea Thomas from “Arendsvlei” in leading roles, along with South African Film and Television Award winner Brendon Daniels (“Zulu”) and Dillon Windvogel (“Blood & Water”).
Three Little Birds
Written by Lenny Henry, inspired by stories of his mother Winifred, with Russell T. Davies (“It’s A Sin”) serving as consultant and executive producer, the series is a celebration of Black womanhood that follows three young women – the fiery sisters Leah and Chantrelle and their God-fearing acquaintance, Hosanna – as they travel to Britain from Jamaica to build a new life. When the reality of British life in London’s Notting Hill brings them down with a bump, they make a beeline for the Midlands. The road ahead is fraught with challenges for the trio and they overcome obstacles of racism and integration and build a life in Britain.
(VIAPLAY CONTENT DISTRIBUTION)
In this psychological thriller with supernatural undertones, detective and mother of two, Veronika Gren, struggles with her complicated family life and secret pill addiction. When she suddenly sees a dead boy standing in the parking lot, she thinks she’s lost her mind. Reluctantly, Veronika is forced to accept that the boy isn’t an illusion. He’s here to stay until justice has been done, and she soon discovers that he hasn’t come alone. The cast includes Alexandra Rapaport (“Sandhamn Murders”), Tobias Santelmann (“Those Who Kill”) and Sarah Rhodin (“Mirakel”) and the director is Jonas Alexander Arnby (“War of the Worlds”).
Whale with Steve Backshall
In this natural history series, adventurer and conservationist Steve Backshall has first-hand, free-diving encounters with mighty Sperm whales and intelligent, caring humpback whales; smart but deadly Orcas; and ingenious Bottlenose Dolphins across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. Using cutting-edge technology, from diver propulsion vehicles to tiny, high-quality drone cameras and split-rig cameras to film above and below the surface simultaneously, Backshall and the team capture never-before-seen behaviors and provide an immersive experience.
(ABOUT PREMIUM CONTENT)
Based on Mo Hayder’s Jack Caffery series of novels, the crime thriller series is written and adapted by Megan Gallagher (“Borderliner”). Ukweli Roach (“The Midwich Cuckoos”) plays the lead role of DI Jack Caffery. The series follows Caffery, a young man searching for himself. Obsessed with the neighbor he believes murdered his 10-year-old brother in the 1990s, Caffery finds himself trying to right the wrongs of others. Elsewhere, in an isolated house in Monmouthshire, the wealthy Anchor-Ferrers family find themselves the victims of a psychopath’s cruel games, trapped and terrorized. When the two narratives collide, it becomes a disturbing race against time.