“There is a man who’s dedicated his life to seeking out the most compelling drama from around the world. He’s a man of impeccable taste. So when he finds it, you can be sure it’s the best. Dramas that are thrilling, provocative, funny and explosive. His name . . . is Walter.” – Walter Presents introductory video
One year ago today, UK viewers were given a great gift in the online streaming service Walter Presents, the Netflix of international dramas. Truly, it has given us some of the very best TV of the year, at least in my case and for many others on Twitter, and it has certainly made TV so much more exciting.
I remember back when it was first being advertised, even in the cinema at one point, and I thought that the idea of bringing all of these shows together under the banner of this, what I assumed to be a, character was a very clever idea and in all honesty, I probably wouldn’t have given it the time of day otherwise. I liked the idea of this character in a darkened room with the blinds lowered, watching all of these shows, furiously making lists and charts in his effort to research the very best shows. Of course later on, I discovered that Walter was actually a real person (he’s Walter Iuzzolino, the Italian television producer who picks the content) and I definitely exclaimed “Wait, you’re real?!” Still, it’s all an innovative and exciting concept.
So even though I’ve yet to watch some of the more popular ones, compared to other viewers I’ve definitely fallen behind, I got to watch some amazing programmes on the service this year and these are five of my favourites.
5. The Border
Amazingly, this was the first Polish series to be shown on UK TV and, as one of the shorter series on offer at just six episodes, it is visually amazing, with cinematography that would be the envy of many a filmmaker, I was even lucky enough to see the first episode in HD. It also has a mature, relevant, intelligent story and a great character in prosecutor Iga Dobosz.
Far from the real world thrillers found elsewhere, it was nice to be treated to some pure fantasy, courtesy of this Danish series. All about two cursed vampiric siblings (though with their need to suck the life energy out of people, they’re actually more akin to Dementors . . .) who find themselves at a mysterious old boarding school and must find a way to break their affliction. And to find love, obviously. Curses, prophecies, vampires, witches, magical abilities: this is a darkly entertaining series with exquisite style, a great story and wonderful performances.
3. The Out-Laws
Centred around four sisters who conspire to do away with their awful brother-in-law, this delightfully wicked Belgian black comedy series has humour as dark as the finest Belgian chocolate and the characters are uniquely fascinating: the four sisters are great together and Jean-Claude Delcorps is a wonderfully nasty, hissable baddie. And the opening theme is pretty great.
2. Locked Up
Spain’s answer to Orange is the New Black, only with far less humour and tons more drama, Locked Up is a consistently exciting and dramatic series with fascinating, well thought out characters, including some of the best villainous characters of the whole year. It barely puts a foot wrong, as it is continually engaging and exciting.
1. Magnifica 70
And on to Brazil’s answer to both Breaking Bad and Boogie Nights, this wonderful series has everything you could ever want in a drama series; it has a thrilling story, impressive 70s style cinematography, great music, an affection for moviemaking and a generous host of colourful, well developed characters, chief among them being Dora Dumar, played magnificently by Simone Spoladore. It is consistent, entertaining and just all round amazing.
And of course, a word or two about the best of the rest:
Deutschland 83: The show that first introduced us to Walter Presents, this German spy series has a very interesting story and plenty of humour, particularly when our protagonist discovers the sheer joy of this new thing called a “walkman” and when the military is left flummoxed by a strange, hi-tech device called a “floppy disk”. Although, my Cold War history is sadly lacking, so a lot of the plot went over my head but with a new series on the horizon, I may give this one a rewatch. Oh, and there’s an awesome soundtrack.
Blue Eyes: Another pretty consistent series, this Swedish political drama had an excellent story about the growing worry of right-wing politics and was at its best when focusing on the young woman who gets involved with a neo-nazi terrorist group. The other side of the story, which had the main protagonist uncovering a conspiracy relating to her Chief of Staff predecessor, was a bit hard to follow, though. REVIEW
10: There was style in abundance with this Swiss series centred around a high stakes poker game. It had a super cool opening theme and a fascinating central mystery, leaving the audience desperate to know just who was who. It’s a shame that the finale was so disappointing though. REVIEW
And finally, a brief mention of the ones that I started, but decided not to stick with: Argentina’s Pure Evil, Czech Republic’s The Lens and France’s Mafiosa.
So plenty of amazing shows there, the vast majority of it so much better than the things that were found on terrestrial telly this year! I will definitely make an effort to catch up in the great ones that I missed and I eagerly anticipate the new ones that will be coming soon!