‘The Team’

People have been getting very excited about this new euro drama, picked up by MHz Choice in America, Walter Presents of Channel 4 and out now on DVD in the UK. It’s designed very much with the new and surprisingly ravenous appetite for Euro drama in mind, bringing us together like happy clappy Eurovision. It’s supported by about 9 production companies and the ‘with thanks’ list is in big letters at the very start, and is very long. It’s an entire European industrial zone.

The Team of the title is the Europol network, bringing detectives together from Denmark, Belgium, Germany. The lead is Harald Bjorn, played by Lars Mikkelsen who is familiar to viewers as mayoral candidate Troels Hartmann in The Killing, and a sinister villain in a pretty poor Sherlock episode.

Right-wing losers the UK Independence Party don’t like it, which is reason enough for me to give it a try. Also, who knew UKIP had a culture spokesman? You would have thought they were very anti-culture, what with so many foreigners mixed up in it. Wasn’t culture  invented in ancient Greece? It’s enough to make a racist shudder.

Well The Team ought to suit those who distrust foreigners; when it comes to language skills it’s not exactly taxing. It’s entry-level subtitles with plenty of spoken English to break up all that reading. Everyone we come across, from brothels to board rooms, speaks an enviable variety of European languages.

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‘Witnesses’ – Series 2

As you may have noticed I’m still waiting on the next big Euro drama to cross my path. All the Scandi stuff recently has me feeling a bit flat, with fairly promising starts leading to confused middles and ‘meh’ endings. It’s fine to have a beautiful backdrop of lakes and mountains, but you need to populate it with original characters leading interesting lives. The story needs to be multi-layered, but not too complicated; zoning out and playing with your phone is the absolute death knell for a subtitled drama. Both the good guys and the bad guys need to have clear motivations that we can relate to.

So with a Gallic shrug it might well be time to bid au revoir to the northernmost corners of Europe and see what France might have to offer; after all, the daddy of the noir resurgence in the past decade has been the Emmy award-winning and much loved Spiral. The most memorable dramas I’ve watched recently have been French, or part French; the balls-out action heros in Braquo, stylish super spies in The Bureau and the best character in Midnight Sun was the deeply troubled French detective.

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‘Public Enemy’

Sky Atlantic are really stepping up when it comes to interesting Euro imports, and really competing with the big boys Walter Presents on Channel 4 and good old BBC4. Midnight Sun from Sweden was seriously amazing. Their latest offering is a dark drama that was hugely successful in its home territory of Belgium, and it soon becomes clear why.  When a convicted child killer Guy Beranger (Angelo Bison) is released from prison on probation, the monks of Vielsart Abbey offer him sanctuary in a small village in Belgium’s Ardennes Forest. Creepy Guy is placed under the protection of a young Federal Police inspector, Chloé Muller (Stéphanie Blanchoud), who is herself haunted by nightmares of childhood trauma. Despite clearly not being mentally fit enough for this duty young Chloé is to be his babysitter.

Creepy Guy was convicted of five murders in 1990s. These were extremely high profile killings, mainly it seems of children, and he’s not been forgotten. On the way into the up into the forest we’re greeted with angry protests from Vielsart villagers and quite a few of the abbey monks. Father Abbot is on side, all about the Christian charity and forgiveness. Even among his own brothers he’s not made a popular decision. Will he be ousted because of this or will he teach his brothers that forgiveness isn’t easy but is always necessary?

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‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

If you’ve not yet heard anything about the The Handmaid’s Tale, let me give you a hand getting out from under that rock where you’ve been hiding. This is an MGM production being show on Hulu in America. They seem to be a good 7 episodes ahead of us. Sadly, even in 2017, sometimes America is ahead of us in tv land. It’s great to have synchronised start dates, but it’s still not the norm. Avoiding spoilers for this much talked-about show is going to be a killer.

A few weeks after starting in the USA this 10 part drama series has been picked up by Channel 4 in the UK, which, as the young, intelligent, and left-leaning political channel is a really good fit for their brand and a bit of a coup. The series is based on a novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood and despite its startlingly relevant content was actually written in 1985. So this dystopian future Atwood envisaged is 30 years closer than we’d have hoped for, and none of her themes are any less relevant or possibilities presented any less realistic. In interviews Atwood says that none of these war crimes in the fictional Republic of Gilead are entirely made up – all have happened somewhere on the globe. This really is extremely dark stuff. Do we as the audience have the stamina to get through it?

The handmaids distinctive uniforms at a ceremony


The series opening is distressing, as our heroine Offred is violently parted from her husband and daughter, but it’s not a tense escape. We know she’ll get caught. The rippling tension comes from her social position at her new posting with the Commander (Joseph Feinnes) and his wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski).

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The Border – On the Box

From HBO Europe (which is a thing, it turns out, and no bad thing either) may I present the first Polish drama ever to be shown in the UK, on Channel 4. Somewhat bravely it was shown late in June, a couple of days before he UK’s fairly disastrous referendum on leaving Europe.

It’s a timely story torn from the headlines surrounding the current European immigration crisis. The Border is a six part drama set in the lush rural Bieszczady Mountains, on the Ukrainian-Polish border. In Polish the title is ‘Wataha’, meaning the pack. You can see why the name change for the international version, given the animalistic rhetoric around this ongoing heated debate. We are introduced to the Polish Border Guard, protecting the “wildest EU border”.

So far, so stereotyped – the guys are drinking, singing and shagging in an isolated hunters cabin. These macho guards are celebrating a retirement in time-honoured fashion. And boom – a bomb goes off, killing everyone inside. Well, that sure got my attention.

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‘Eurotrash’ – On the Box

Hello my British chums! Quelle surprise! Last Friday Channel 4 resurrected 90’s classic Eurotrash for a one-off EU Referendum special – a compilation of their best bits, some new bits and of course, rude bits.

It’s hard to describe to the young’uns but in a world before the internet, before QI, this was easily a contender for weirdest thing on tv. It taught us all about freaky fetishes, strange local customs and beliefs, and put stuff on terrestrial telly that you’d clear out of your browsing history rapidement these days!

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‘The Eurovision Song Contest’ – On the Box

The sad truth is I’ve been looking forward to Eurovision for months. It’s the one night a year where I really embrace silly pop music. Instead of suffering through a whole series of The X-Factor or Britain’s Got Talent I shovel all the cheesy Europop into my face in one massive glitter cannon blast. And then go back to my usual cynical self the very next day.

My friends have much better taste than me, so I have no sexy Euro parties to attend. But Twitter has revolutionized how we watch live events. My feed goes crazy, with humour, love and snark from around the globe. It’s like a cacophony of opinions from about a million people, and it makes the evening brilliant.

Here are a few choice moments from last night:

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