Every year in April, the international TV industry meets in Cannes, France to try to sell TV shows during a week-long event called MIPTV. As TV becomes increasingly international, this trade show is becoming more relevant to the American viewing audience.
This year, the festival launched a pre-MIPTV program called MIPDrama Screenings in which 12 new TV dramas from around the world were shown to prospective international buyers, and one crowned the best of this year’s market (yes, this entire event is very business-geared, but that doesn’t mean us fans interested in the nerdy, narrative side of things can’t still geek out about it).
MIPDrama Screenings’ inaugural program represented just a fraction of the high-end TV dramas up for international sale. It’s basically a crystal ball for what could become some of the biggest TV projects over the next few years. From America’s own Rootsto Poland’s drama about a silent film star, here are 13 high-end TV dramas you should probably start getting excited about…
Bodotells the story of Bodo Eugeniusz, one of the country’s biggest silent film and cabaret stars, active during the interwar period, who would go on to die in a Siberian labor camp. Eugeniusz is still well-known in Poland for his films, music, and scandals.
Bodo just started airing on Polish TV, so it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting a version with English subtitles anytime soon, but I will start a countdown whenever we get word of that happening. The Polish-language trailer for this TV show is gorgeous, stylish, and filled with period details from a country that generally doesn’t get that much play in the world of international TV.
Wolf Creek (Australia)
If you’re a fan of the Australian horror film franchise Wolf Creek,then you’re in for a treat: the two films are getting a spinoff series. When 19-year-old Eve’s family is murdered while they are on vacation in Australia, the American teenager (played by Vampire Academyactress Lucy Fry) heads into the outback to seek revenge — for her family and for the other backpackers who have gone missing. I am a sucker for female-centric revenge stories, and this show looks awesome.
Public Enemy (Belgium)
Belgium’s Public Enemy is the story of how a small community reacts when a just-released-from-prison ex-killer moves to town. When a string of child murders occurs, the town starts to turn on the ex-convict. Viewers are led through the story by a female detective who lost her own sister when she was young, adding a layer of police procedural to the series.
Public Enemy seems like heavy, complicated stuff, but the dramatook home the Buyer’s Choice Award at the inaugural MIPDrama Screenings, which means it was the favorite of the 12 dramas screened.
The Collection (U.K.)
The Collection is Amazon UK’s first original drama, and it certainly has the pizazz and pedigree to become an international hit. Set in the fashion industry of 1940s Paris during the rise of haute culture, The Collectiontells the story of two brothers trying to run the family business (presumably, of the fashion variety?) It boasts Ugly Bettyshowrunner Oliver Goldstick as creator and Mammie Gummer (The Good Wife)in a leading role.
The original Rootsminiseries, adapted from the best-selling book by Alex Haley, aired on ABC in 1977 and boasts the second most-watched TV series finale in television history with roughly 100 million people watching. (Um, that was almost half the then current population of America.) Starring Levar Burton, it told the story of generations of the same family from their original home in West Africa to their lives in America afer being sold into slavery.
The History Channel is doing an eight-hour remake of the landmark miniseries, set to air on The History Channel, A&E, and Lifetime later this month (starting on Memorial Day). The remake stars Forest Whittaker, Laurence Fishburne, Mekhi Phifer, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and Anna Paquin.
Descendants of the Sun (Korea)
Welcome to the Korean drama that has been viewed over one billion times in China. Descendants of the Suntells the story of a surgeon who falls in love with a military man, and must deal with the angst of never knowing if he will make it home OK. The 19-part series was filmed on location in Greece, has a very popular soundtrack, and boasts some stellar production values (which makes sense, given that it cost more than $10 million to produce). Interestingly, it is also the first project series star Song Joong-ki did following his mandatory two-year service in the South Korean military.
K-dramas have long been popular on the international scale (especially within Asia), but could Descendants of the Sunbe the Korean drama that breaks into the American mainstream? Hard to say. Despite it’s high-end values, I’m not sure if the larger American viewing public is ready for the sentimental sensibilities of the k-drama. Unfortunately.
Descendants of the Sunhas been sold to 27 countries, including the U.K.
Ku’damm 56 — Rebel With A Cause (Germany)
From the Berlin-based production company that made Deutschland 83 and Generation War comes the latest potential German TV export: Ku’damm 56, a female-centric period drama about life at a Berlin dance school in the 1950s. Come for the Mad Men-like aesthetic, stay for a feminist tale of life in the burgeoning German rock n’ roll scene.
Versaillesis a French TV show (well, technically a French-Canadian co-production) produced entirely in English, a bid to make the drama more attractive on the international stage. Will it work? Canal Plus, the major French company behind the TV show, seems to think so. It ordered a second season of the drama before the first season even debuted. Filmed in the Palace of Versailles, as well as other castles around France, this tale of a 28-year-old Louis XIV and the courtly machinations his imposed royal move from Paris to Versailles incurred, certainly has the shine to attract an international audience.
Versailles’streaming rightshave been bought by Netflix, with its U.S. broadcast rights scooped up by Ovation TV, to debut in October 2016.
Mathilde tells the story of the tragic love between Tsar Nicholas II and ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska. Kschessinska was born into poverty, but, as a ballerina, rose to enjoy a life of luxury in the years preceding the Russian revolution. She would barely escape with her life, living out the rest of her (nearly 100) years as a Parisian ballet teacher.
The four-part TV series cost $30 million to make, featuring over 7,000 costumes and involving the building of replica of the Kremlin’s Assumption Cathedral for the elaborate production. Mathilde is scheduled to air in Russia in 2017.
Medici: Masters of Florence (Italy/U.K./U.S.)
Starring Dustin Hoffman and Richard Madden (Game of Thrones), Medici: Masters of Florenceis an eight-part TV series from Frank Spotnitz (The Man in the High Castle)that will tell the story of the Medici family’s rise to power in Renaissance-era Florence. Filming in Italy included unprecedented access to Palazzo Vecchio, the Basilica di San Lorenzo, and the Duomo. Between those filming locations, that cast, and the showrunner behind the camera, Medici seems poised to make a splash.
Speaking of international co-productions, Victoria,a royal TV series starring Doctor Who‘sJenna Coleman, has to be one of the most eagerly-anticipated of 2017. Pairing familiar co-production partners ITV and PBS, Victoriawill tell the story of the young queen starting from her ascension to the crown in 1837 through to her courtship and marriage to Prince Albert. (A similar plot was portrayed in 2009’s The Young Victoria.) After that last season of Doctor Who,I will follow Jenna Coleman anywhere.
Section Zero (France)
Set in 2024, Section Zerois a dystopian police thriller that sounds like a cross between Mr. Robotand Continuum — which is to say, awesome. Writer/creator Olivier Marchal is an ex-cop himself, and has a history of bringing police noir to the screen. Here, he throws some science fiction into the mix, telling the story of a brutal future where multinational companies govern Europe with their mercenary militias. Hopefully, this one makes it stateside.
The A Word (U.K.)
The A Wordtells the story of one extended family in the period immediately following the revelation that five-year-old Joe is autistic. The six-episode drama stars Doctor Who‘s Christopher Eccleston and is filmed in England’s Lake District, which makes for stunning visuals. The story is adapted from an Israeli TV series on the same subject. It has been picked up in the U.S. by SundanceTV.