THE strength of television drama isn’t confined to Australia and US pay-TV.
European television, particularly in Scandinavia, is a hotbed of brilliant stuff at the moment. Of course, we’ve all sampled the Swedish cop drama The Killing, which has led many to taste more European television.
Two families I stayed with during the summer break had DVDs of the Danish political drama Borgen sitting on their coffee tables, for instance. That may say more about my pretentious friends than the cultural pervasiveness of Scandinavia, of course, even if this week The Economist noted: ‘‘One of the world’s blandest regions has become one of its most creative.’’
And if we’re not seeing European television in the original version, we’ll see the US remakes (the producer of Homeland — itself a rejig of Israel’s Hatufim / Prisoners of War — is working on a remake of Scandinavian crime series The Bridge, this time set on the TexasMexico border).
Access has changed dramatically. Who would have imagined five years ago we could see the cracking new Italian mafia series drama Romanzo Criminale on subscription television? (It begins on Showcase next week.)
Everyone’s banging on about the merits of American pay-TV, but we’re living in a time of rich global TV content.
I wouldn’t dismiss TV with subtitles at the moment. And I would be working harder at SBS to program one or two nights a week as solid foreign TV drama schedules (although I appreciate the commercial constraints).
One such program released on DVD this week is Braquo (series two), a muscular police drama from France.
France is not shy about making bruising cop and crime films. Actually, that country’s not shy about making anything.
But I’ve particularly enjoyed films such as 36 Quai des Orfevres, Mesrine: Public Enemy #1, A Prophet and even the slightly bloated The Crimson Rivers.
Braquo is created by former flic, or cop, Olivier Marchal, an actor who has become something of an expert in crime drama. He has directed some (including 36 Quai des Orfevres, Mr 73 and Gangsters) and written many.
The two characteristics binding all French crime and cop dramas are that they are uncompromising and humourless.
That’s not such a bad thing, particularly in Braquo, which doesn’t outstay its welcome in its two eight- episode series. Braquo (seasons one and two available, MA15+, Beyond, 337min, $36.99) isn’t your traditional procedural drama either. Much of the action — and it is largely all action — turns on the corruption and malfeasance of the high-strung, four-person police team led by Eddy Caplan (played by Jean-Hugues Anglade, better known as Betty’s lover in the film Betty Blue), not so much the crimes themselves.
Braquo is very violent and very good. My only qualm is it’s another slab of worthy international television I must find time for.
(MA15+) Transmission (109min, $34.95)
(M) Madman (97min, $29.99)