Billions stars Damian Lewis and Paul GiamattiDazzling debut: World premiere of new X-FilesMipcom gets underway in Cannes despite natural disaster
Though the seemingly endless pit of reality TV formats has always been the well from which TV’s program buyers drank, much of the chatter at the annual television market Mipcom now focuses on scripted drama.
Indeed, as programs such as House of Cards, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead have become the most valuable pieces on the programming chess board, there is an ever-present sense of hunger to find the next big scripted hit.
Many come to Mipcom, which is held annually in Cannes, France, with their eye on the big prize of international sale, but few are truly distinct enough to become “the next Game of Thrones”. Indeed even aspiring to take that mantle is fraught with risk.
But there are strong contenders in the scripted arena. And this year’s Mipcom has five shows around which there is enormous buzz. They’re all very different shows, but they all have what every show at the market is desperate for: a hook which is strong enough to slow the passing sea of program buyers and draw them in. Beowulf (ITV Studios)
Based on the epic poem of the same name, this is a 13-part miniseries which, of these five shows, is the only one which resembles Game of Thrones in visual terms. That said, it’s a vastly different beast. It sits much more closely to shows like Merlin and Robin Hood in that ITV is pitching it into a broader demographic, but it is nonetheless compelling and benefits greatly from recent leaps and bounds in the UK’s special effects world. (Thank you, Doctor Who.) It stars Kieran Bew as Beowulf, Ed Speleers as his adopted brother Slean and Joanne Whalley as Rheda, their mother, who becomes thane after the death of her husband, the beloved Hrothgar, and must battle to hold her community together, even as Hrothgar’s two sons go to war against each other.
The X-Files (20th Century Fox)
The truth is still out there? You bet it is. Due largely to the fact that both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson have other commitments (he has Aquarius, she stars in The Fall) this sequel of a sort to the iconic 1990s science fiction mystery series is returning with just six one-hour episodes. And yet the buzz is palpable. The announcement from 20th Century Fox that the series would return was met with much fanfare, but since then momentum has grown. This “limited series” return will not just feature Duchovny’s Mulder and Anderson’s Scully, but some of the show’s iconic supporting characters, including FBI boss Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) and the “smoking man” (William B. Davis).
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If the Wolf of Wall Street was somehow a treatise on Wall Street’s excess, Billions promises a much darker and disturbing treatment. All the buzz here stems from the show’s pedigree: Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti star, Brian Koppelman, David Levien and Andrew Ross Sorkin are producing, and the CBS-owned Showtime, the channel which gave us Ray Donovan, is its US broadcaster. Billions is a study in the power and politics of New York’s high finance world, and in that sense seems very timely. Perhaps off the back of Lewis’s star turn in Homeland, this is also generating enormous noise at the market.
Into The Badlands (eOne)
Think of this as the stepchild of Game of Thrones and the martial arts genre. It will also have particular resonance for ns, as it is “loosely” based on Journey Into The West, an ancient tale which was turned into the much-loved television series Monkey. The US network AMC is describing it as a “genre-bending martial arts drama”, which follows the journey of a warrior and a young boy as they journey through a dark, dangerous, feudal world in search of enlightenment. eOne has a reputation for edgy and inventive dramas – the brilliant Matador springs to mind here – and Into The Badlands looks excellent.
Twin Peaks (CBS Studios)
Where do you even begin with one of television’s most enduring masterpieces which, on the whim of a throwaway line from slain schoolgirl Laura Palmer in the original series about returning in 25 years, is poised to fulfil on that promise? David Lynch’s reboot of Twin Peaks isn’t even finished – it has only just begun filming – and yet it is one of the market’s most interesting offerings. It is not being formally launched here – that will most likely happen at next April’s MipTV or next year’s Mipcom – but as a powerful measure of its potential, buyers are already visiting the CBS stand in the Palais with a keen eye on acquiring it.