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10 Highlights From Series Mania 2017

Variety logo Variety 4/14/2017 John Hopewell
© Provided by Variety

“American Gods,” David Lindelof, Denmark’s SAM Productions, Dutch drama, French sci-fi, series zetgeist, and other highlights from this year’s Series Mania.

1. “AMERICAN GODS”: THE AMAZON GROWTH PAD

In 2016, Netflix and Canal Plus dominated Series Mania proceedings. This year, at least fro international markets, it may be Amazon with “American Gods” as FremantleMedia’s long-anticipated adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel rolls out in overseas market on the U.S. streaming service. Amazon Prime Video’s” worldwide launch coincided with “Grand Tour.”

“American Gods” should be the series that helps power up subs overseas at Amazon. Starz instituted a review embargo at SXSW, where the show premiered. This Sunday’s Paris screening may help to gauge audience reaction where Gaiman fantasy is not quite as well known as in the U.S. before Starz’s April 30 bow. The Series Mania is, very predictably, totally sold out.

2. OTHER U.S. ATTRACTIONS

World premiering at Sundance and a “tool of the matriarchal revolution,” director Jill Soloway told Variety, “I Love Dick” also screens in competition at Paris, as does “I’m Dying Up Here,” seen at SXSW, an ensemble drama set on L.A’s ‘70s stand-up comedy scene with Melissa Leo, co-written by Jim Carrey. FX half-hour “Atlanta,” rated a “gem” by Variety, also play Paris, as do Netflix romcom half-hour “Master of None,” HBO’s limited season “Big Little  Lies,” with Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, and FX superhero mind trip “Legion.”

3. DAVID LINDELOF PREDICTS THE END OF THE WORLD

The co-creator of “Lost” and “The Leftovers” heads the Series Mania jury, received a rousing applause on Thursday when he took to the stage with Justin Theroux, Christopher Ecclestone and series composer Max Richter to introduce the first two episodes of “The Leftovers” Season 3 at Series Mania’s opening night gala. Lindelof delivers an already-sold-out masterclass this Saturday at Series Mania. He hinted on Thursday that the third and final season is “about the end of the world. For thousands of years every generation alive has the narcissism to believe that the world is going to end while they’re alive. We thought it was only fitting to end the world on the show.” If  “The Leftovers” proves true to perform, the end of the world would never form part of any grand design, or prove an anticlimax, but just how it happens, if it even does, remains to be seen.

4. DENMARK’S HOUR OF TRUTH

“Borgen” and “The Killing” helped launch a TV revolution – of audiences worldwide watching shows out of international, often in foreign languages. Now the creators of “Borgen” and “The Killing,” Adam Price and Soren Sveistrup at SAM productions, the company they launched with “Melancholia” producer Meta Louise Foldager, face their biggest test yet as Sam’s first shows hit Danish and international TV fest/market screens. Created and lead-written by Price, “Ride Upon the Storm” world premieres at Series Mania. Produced by SAM, “Below the Surface” screens in Paris. A third show, rock ’n roll period dramedy “Something’s Rockin’” plays the fest’s comedy section. So far, ratings in Denmark for “Surface” and “Rockin’” have been standout. Shown in a 15-minute scene assembly, “Below the Storm” was the biggest prize winner at the MipDrama Screenings last week – good if insufficient omen of its international attraction.

5. OUTSCALING THE OPPOSITION

“American Gods” plays at Series Mania. At a Variety Summit on April 20 that forms part of Series Mania’s Co-Production Forum, Beta’s Jan Mojto can be expected to present a teaser of “Babylon Berlin” which blew an industry and press audience away at MipTV with its spectacular noir thriller take on Weimar Germany night-life decadence and rising extremism. In a market of global competition, one way to stand apart in the crowd is to deliver drama of a scale not seen before, at least in domestic markets.

6. A TV DRAMA FEEDING FEVER

Series Mania delegate numbers shot up 107% to 892 this year, vs. 430 in 2016. Applications to pitch at its Co-production Forum surged 62% from 193 to 312. The volume of TV drama production in the U.S., Europe and Latin America plateau-ed in 2016, according to estimates by The Wit. What certainly shows no signs of checking, however, is a feeding fever for key drama creators and an interest in its co-production.

7. OTHER ATTRACTIONS

Of new series coming into Series Mania off strong buzz: Israel’s “Your Honor,” rolling off a U.S. remake deal; “Before We Die,” a hard-hitting cop mother-drug-victim son drama which wowed on Sweden’s SVT; “Seven Types of Ambiguity,” a multiple POV missing thriller just premiered on Australia’s ABC TV.

8. DUTCH SURGE

Last year, Belgian Noir broke through at Series Mania with a trio of titles: “Beau Sejour,” “The Break” and “Public Enemy.” Now it may be Netherlands turn. The Dutch and Belgians were swept away by flood disaster series “The Swell,” in Series Mania’s Intl. Panorama. Chosen out of 324 candidates, two Dutch series, “David” and  “The Faction,” made the cut to be pitched at the Co-Production Forum. Only the U.K. has as many selected Forum projects.

9. FRENCH SCI-FI

The French disdain genre. So the growth of a sci-fi/futuristic series TV scene in France is quite remarkable, though part of a larger sci-fi drama drive seen around the globe. A first episode of the economically-told mission-to-Mars thriller “Missions” impressed at MipTV, winning a Critics Jury Prize at the MipDrama Screenings. Lagardère Studios “Transfer” also screens at Series Mania, after Lagardère scored with “Trepalium,” a not-too-distant-future dystopia thriller. Set between 2016 and 2025, “Neo Paris,” from Toni Marshall’s Tabo Tabo Films, will also be pitched at Series Mania’s Co-Production Forum.

10. AFTER THE FALL

Is humanity, or its TV creators at least, laboring after a second Fall? One trend this year, if the shows screened by Variety before Series Mania’s get-go are anything to go on, is an increasing dark view of human nature, its frailty, abuse of power, multifaceted failings, the Internet gulf between parents and children. One show, disaster thriller “The Swell” even depicts the earth – well Rotterdam and environs – assailed by a flood. Golden Age TV may be many things. If Series Mania is an indication, escapist entertainment it is not.

SERIES MANIA 2017

OFFICIAL COMPETITION

“4 Blocks,” (Marvin Kren, Germany)

“Born to Kill,” (Bruce Goodison, U.K.)

“Broken,” (Ashley Pearce, Noreen Kershaw, U.K.)

“I love Dick,” (Jill Soloway, Sarah Gubbins, U.S)

“I’m Dying Up Here,” (David Flebotte, U.S.)

“Kim Kong,” (Simon Jablonka, Alexis Le Sec, France)

“Monster,” (Hans Christian Storrøsten, Norway)

“Ride Upon the Storm,” (Adam Price, Denmark)

“Seven Types of Ambiguity,” (Tony Ayres, Amanda Higgs, Australia)

“Your Honor,” (Schlomo Mashiach, Ron Ninio, Israel)

INTERNATIONAL PANORAMA

“Tempel,” (Henning Heup, Conni Lubek, Manuel Meimberg, Uwe Urbas, Germany)

“Supermax,” (Mario Segade, Virginia Martinez, Daniel Burman, Argentina)

“13 Commandements,” (Rita Bossaer, Dirk Nielandt, Lieven Scheerlinck, Ed Vanderweyden, Belgium)

“Team Chocolate,” (Marc Bryssinck, Filip Lenaerts, Belgium)

“Fatale-Station,” (Stéphane Bourguignon, Canada)

“Below the Surface,” (Kasper Barfoed, Denmark)

“Sé quién eres,” (Pau Freixas, Spain)

“Dumb,” (Bat Hen Sabag, Shay Capon, Israel)

“Juda,” (Zion Baruch, Israel)

“Heaven,” (Miyuki Miyabe, Japan)

“The Swell,” (Johan Nijenhuis, Netherlands)

“The Teach,” (Jakub Ẑulczyk, Monika Powalisz, Poland)

“Wasteland,” (Stepan Hulik, Tomás Hruby, Lukás Krokes, Pavla Kubecková, Czech Republic)

“Apple Tree Yard,” (Louise Doughty, U.K)

“Clique,” ( Jess Brittain, U.K.)

“Fleabag,” (Phoebe Waller-Bridge, U.K.)

“Better Than Us,” ( Alexander Kessel, Russia)

“Salaam, Moscou!,” (Pavel Bardine, Russia)

“Before we Die,” (Niklas Rockström, Sweden)

THE BEST OF U.S. SERIES

“American Gods,” (Bryan Fuller, Neil Gaiman)

“Atlanta,” (Donald Glover)

“Berlin Station,” (Olen Steinhauer)

“Big Little Lies,” (David E. Kelley)

“Downward Dog,” (Michael Killen, Samm Hodges)

“Legion,” (Noah Hawley)

“Search Party,” (Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers, Michael Showalter)

“The Good Fight,” (Michelle King, Robert King)

“The Leftovers,” (Damon Lindelof)

“Feud: Bette and Joan” (Ryan Murphy)

“Timeless,” (Eric Kripke, Shawn Ryan)

“When We Rise,” (Dustin Lance Black)

FRENCH SERIES

“Aurore,” (Laetitia Masson)

“The Forest,” (Delinda Jacobs)

“Missions,” (Henri Debeurme, Ami Cohen, Julien Lacombe)

“On Va S’aimer un peu….Beaucoup,” (Emmanuelle Rey-Magnan, Pascal Fontanille)

“Transfer,” (Claude Scasso, Patrick Benedek)

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