Tag Archives: tvN

Pack mentality

Actor and singer Daniela Vega leads the cast of Chilean drama La Jauría (The Pack), which follows a team of investigators tracking a missing woman. The star, showrunner Lucia Puenzo and producers Pablo Larrain and Juan de Dios Larrain discuss making the Spanish-language thriller.

The Chilean star and producers of Oscar-winning film Una Mujer Fantástica (A Fantastic Woman) have reunited for a drama that follows the members of a police force that specialises in gender-related crimes.

La Jauría (The Pack) features Daniela Vega alongside Antonia Zegers and María Gracia Omegna, who together investigate the strange disappearance of a young woman.

The drama unfolds after Blanca Ibarra, a student and leader of a feminist movement, vanishes during a protest by a group of schoolgirls against a sexually abusive teacher. Hours later, a recording of Blanca being raped by a group of unidentifiable men goes viral, beginning the frantic search for Blanca and those responsible.

Lucia Puenzo

The investigators – police commissioner Olivia Fernandez (Zegers), corporal Carla Farias (Omegna) and homicide detective Elisa Murillo (Vega) – soon discover that all the suspects belong to a chat group called La Jauría, a front for a gruesome game that involves a teacher, a priest, a psychologist and perhaps even Blanca’s father.

Vega was on board the project from the beginning, keen to reunite with brothers Pablo Larrain and Juan de Dios Larraín of producer Fabula following their Oscar triumph for best foreign-language film last year. She had previously filmed Netflix’s upcoming English-language series Tales of the City, but La Jauría marks her first Spanish-language TV drama.

“She’s a very strong woman. She’s a leader, so for me it was very interesting to jump into this character,” Vega says of Elisa, noting the difference between her and A Fantastic Woman’s Marina Vidal, a young transgender woman whose life is thrown into turmoil by the death of her boyfriend. “Elisa is a different kind of woman. She’s trying to find bad people. This is not good people against bad people; this is not men against women, nor women against men. This is about the relationship between us as humanity.

“The challenge was trying to find the key to opening my mind to those kinds of feelings and trying to be a detective with justice in her hands. It’s very common, when you’re a police officer or detective, to abuse power. She’s against every kind of abuse, so she’s trying to find the balance in between. It’s always a good opportunity for me to work with Fabula because they are friends of mine, and our relationship is about confidence. When they offered this character to me, I accepted immediately because I have trust in these brothers.”

Despite Fabula’s film background, La Jauría was always destined to become the company’s first television series, Larrain says, adding that the show was inspired by worldwide hits such as HBO’s The Night Of and Danish crime drama Forbrydelsen (The Killing).

Antonia Zegers as the leader of a police force investigating gender-related crimes

“What they have in common is the narrative structure, the idea that someone is guilty and then we find out they’re not,” he says. “Throughout the season, the show gives you false clues so you don’t know which way it’s going to go. That’s the basic rule of a crime thriller.”

Behind the camera, Larrain and de Dios Larrain were keen to work with lead director and showrunner Lucia Puenzo (Ignobernable). Having been acquainted with Puenzo for years, the pair say she knows the “rhythm” of TV. When she accepted their offer, the outline of the story had already been laid out and the showrunner teamed up with the writers to continue developing the series.

“The plot of the young women was what we were most interested in, because of what has happened in the last few years,” Puenzo says, pointing to global campaigns such as the #MeToo movement. “We wanted to send these young women to the front of the story and see them grow as much as the leading policewomen.

“We were also interested to see these three leading policewomen not simply as professionals but also as women who have very different personal lives. Some have young daughters, others have older sons; one has a partner, the other is alone – they are in different stages of their lives and fighting to lead their personal lives as well as their professional lives.”

La Jauría comes from Fabula, the prodco run by brothers Pablo Larrain and Juan de Dios Larraín

Vega says that while there has been some rehearsal involved, the series hasn’t been a slave to structure. “This is art, there isn’t a formula,” she explains. “To me as an artist, I’m trying to give questions to the audience. We are not trying to give answers, we are questioning everything. What does it means to be a man or a woman? Can we build something together, or are we against each other? For me as an artist, the answer is the question. Viewers have the right or the opportunity to respond to those questions.”

Puenzo says she attends all the table readings, where she can watch and listen as the actors read the scripts and begin to understand the dynamics of their characters. Then on set, she tries to organise a quick rehearsal so the actors can prepare to work with the camera, “unless we have sequences with many effects or that are very technical, where sometimes the actor has less freedom because there is already a floor map and a stricter design of the staging,” she says.

“But if possible, the ideal for me is to give freedom to the actor. It soon reaches a point where it is clear who the character is – the way he speaks, the way he looks and moves – and what is out of that order is quickly taken out.”

Filming for the series began in January this year, with most of the action taking place in the Chilean capital, Santiago. Working with her brother Nicolás (Los Invisibles) – the show’s DOP and also director on some episodes – Puenzo imagined La Jauría not as a classic police series but as a personal and subjective journey made by the main characters. Sergio Castro (La Mujer de Barro) and Marialy Rivas (Young & Wild) also direct.

The series has been made for Chilean broadcaster TVN

“We were interested in showing the very personal lives of each of these protagonists,” she explains. “For example, we used many close-ups contrasted with large general shots. We wanted to have a [filming] language that did not always move in medium shots, as is usual in series and soap operas, but that went to the extremes.

Puenzo praises Fabula, which produces the series alongside Kapow for Chilean broadcaster TVN, for affording her the freedom to create the drama as she imagined. “La Jauría is a series that is very well written,” she adds. “It has a lot of texture in its dialogue, a lot of depth in its characters, a lot of complexity.

The series also serves as a chance for Chilean filmmakers to send their voice around the world, with coproducer Fremantle distributing the series internationally. “What’s going on in the show is going on everywhere. It’s universal,” he says of the themes at the heart of La Jauría. “That’s what we’ve been trying to do in cinema and that’s what we’re now trying to do in TV.”

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Six of the Best: Oriana Kujawka

The head of series development at Polish broadcaster TVN reveals her top half-dozen dramas, including a childhood favourite, an Israeli thriller and some award-winning US series.

4 Alternatywy Street
This is one of my childhood memories. There were only two programmes on TV and the whole family watched them – nobody had even dreamt of Netflix. A wonderful series from Stanislaw Bareja, 4 Alternatywy Street is a portrait of Poland in the 1980s, shown in a distorting mirror, but at the same time a hilarious metaphor for the world of that time. It’s about a block of flats and the people living in it, all different and distrustful of each other, and a janitor who becomes the self-proclaimed king of the whole building. When it was on, the streets of the cities were empty and fragments of dialogues entered the colloquial language. It is still repeated on various TV channels and continues to be funny.

Your Honor
It was a real shock to me when I watched this outstanding Israeli series at the Séries Mania Festival in Paris. Each scene was better than the last. I am sure that I will never forget it. A teenage son of a respected judge causes an accident and after only 15 minutes we know perfectly well that he’s in big trouble, and whatever he or his father does makes the situation even worse. There seems to be no good choice or solution for them. There is astonishing storytelling discipline, with not a single unnecessary shot, nor a single unnecessary word. Thrills guaranteed.

The Night Of
A crime story with a balance of humour and drama, The Night Of was thorough at picturing people. It keeps the viewer present and waiting until the very last scene, although it has quite a reasonable pace. You will remember the details of the scenes even after many years. There is no rush, just enough time to move away from the intrigue for a moment so that the viewer can stay with one of the characters outside the main plot, understand who they are and what drives them – a great inspiration for thinking about the motivations of characters.

Big Little Lies
Take everyday life, mix it with male aggression and a woman’s powerlessness, add problems with bringing up children and unfulfilled professional ambitions and you have what you need: a world-class series that keeps your attention from the first to the last shot. However, you’ll only be able to see the whole picture after watching every episode. Each female character has a beautiful coat, devoted partner and wise children. But underneath, there is a whole lot of poignancy, fighting among the parents and the worst secrets ever – a punishment for being a woman.

Curb Your Enthusiasm
There are no limits for Larry David’s jokes. What’s more, they are really great. Curb Your Enthusiasm has now aired for nine seasons, with a 10th on the way. And that, I hope, is not the last. It makes me laugh to tears – Larry and his friends who always offer advice and, of course, only plunge him deeper into trouble. I’m impressed with the precision of the scripts, as although much of the dialogue is improvised, I can see the iron structure of each episode and the whole series.

Politics with the beautiful smile of Julia Louis-Dreyfus. I love this weird world, full of awkwardness and the realistic streams of dialogues. How well it is done! And although it is so close to us, it still maintains this perfect distance. Absurd life in a nutshell. An outstanding series.

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Korea opportunities

Korean dramas provided the basis for two US series this year, with ABC shows Somewhere Between and The Good Doctor both taking their inspiration from a country that is prolific in its output of scripted content. Here, DQ picks out some new Korean series that are also ripe for acquisition and adaptation.

Emergency Couple
A divorced couple reignite their feelings for each other when they become interns at the same hospital years later. Produced by Dragon Studio for tvN and distributed by CJ E&M.

Why were you interested in telling this story?
Director Chul-gyu Kim: I chose the story because it added a pleasant romantic comedy element to a medical drama genre that could turn out to be a heavy and serious story. The story seemed like one that could give audiences balanced enjoyment.

How was Emergency Couple developed for the network?
At the time, tvN was oriented mostly towards young and active people. The network was embarking on a strategy to broaden its demographic, and our story fitted in well with that strategy in that it can appeal to all audiences.

The show switches between two timelines – how did you tackle that?
For the scenes in the past when the couple were together, we focused on their emotions. For the present, social environments, roles and positions were added on top of their emotions and they were harmoniously depicted.

How would you describe the writing process?
We carried out thorough research and tried our best to reflect reality in the hospital. We collected as much medical information as possible and also gathered diverse ideas from people who work in the industry.

Why were Song Ji-Hyo and Choi Jin-Hyuk picked to star in the show?
Both are talents who can express earnestness and brightness, which are important to starring in a melodrama.

A thriller in which a prosecutor who is unable to feel emotion begins to uncover corruption within his office. Produced by Dragon Studio for tvN and distributed by CJ E&M.

Why did you want the lead character, Shi-Mok (Cho Seung-woo), to lack emotion?
Producer Jae-hyun So: Being unable to feel any sort of emotion is a big flaw and is abnormal. We wanted to contrast this with the other ‘normal’ characters in the story. Doctors who save lives, prosecutors who convict criminals – they need to have an underlying love for humanity. However, we set up a character without emotions because we wanted to portray someone who would pursue the truth and not be swayed by personal greed, not to mention justice or love for humanity.

Tell us about the show’s visual style.
In the development stage, our camera, art and casting teams came together and decided to make the show look cold and emotionless. We shot tight angles, getting very close to the actors to better capture their emotions. The actors’ expressions seemed much more real this way.

Where was Stranger filmed and what does this bring to the show?
We filmed the show in Incheon, South Korea, but the story was inspired by the Seobu District Prosecution Office. All the houses, bathrooms and crime scenes were all filmed on set. We tried our best to make it look real. The prosecution office on the set was built after tours of real-life offices and we referred to videos and documentaries about how the prosecution operates.

What were the biggest challenges in development or production?
As the whole drama was made before it began airing, there were limitations to receiving viewer feedback. However, we could elevate the perfection in post-production with editing, mixing, CGI and music.

How is K-drama evolving and what new stories are you able to tell?
Audiences now seem to prefer dramas with a unique concept – storylines that are different from any others, regardless of the genre. In addition, successful shows reflect Korean sentiment and social atmosphere.

Band of Sisters
A ‘womance’ that depicts the friendship between a group of women out for revenge after they each lose something following a car crash. Produced by SBS and FNC Add Culture for SBS and distributed by SBS International.

How would you describe the writing process?
Producer Younghoon Choi: Traditionally, Korean weekend drama series feature the story of an extended family. However, I wanted to introduce some fresh and dramatic devices and settings, with younger main characters and three villains. I emphasised the confrontation between good and evil and abandoned the clichés of a Cinderella story or a success story. I wanted to have characters attack each other and defend themselves in each episode, like a game, and I upgraded the clichés of a birth secret, false romance, betrayal and conspiracy, and utilised them colourfully.

How did you create the style of the series?
I wanted something between American soap operas and cinematic TV series. It was difficult to keep it low budget and high quality while producing and directing a 50-episode series. So for the first 10 episodes, I shot at 24fps to maintain the cinematic look and later I shot at 30fps. Also, I used three cameras for every episode to reduce the shooting time and capture various shots.

What were the biggest challenges in production?
The overwhelming volume – 50 70-minute episodes – was the most burdensome. It was challenging to control the rhythm of the story from the beginning until the end. I tried to make the scene transition quick, but at the same time tried to make the story flow naturally. I constantly interacted with the actors while shooting, and held enough rehearsals before shooting so they could act smoothly. I enjoyed experimenting with various genres – this series has elements of comedy, thriller, action, romance and even horror.

Why would this series appeal to international viewers?
Band of Sisters features a clear confrontation between good and evil. The story development is fast and the situation changes quickly, not allowing the viewers to feel bored. Moreover, romantic scenes and touching family stories are a bonus.

Questionable Victory
A wrongly convicted death row inmate escapes from prison to save the life of his friend’s sister. Produced by SBS and RaemongRaein for SBS and distributed by SBS International.

Where did the story come from?
Producer Kyungsoo Shin (pictured): I was interested in stories about people who waste their youth in prison after being falsely accused of a crime. In 2000, a taxi driver was stabbed to death and the first witness, a 15-year-old delivery boy, was accused of murder. He was recently released from prison at the age of 32, after his innocence was proved in a retrial and the real perpetrator emerged. Nothing can compensate the time such people spend in prison. I wanted to make a story where the wrongly charged individual solves the case by himself. The writing began in 2016 and the casting began this July. Pre-production kicked off in August and shooting is now underway.

How would you describe the show’s tone?
This is close to a serious drama, but I’m adding some humour at some points so it doesn’t become too serious. Unexpected, natural comedy or a funny situation will prevent the series from becoming too serious.

What makes Questionable Victory stand out from other Korean dramas?
I try not to make emotional scenes too deep or too long. Questionable Victory will stand out because it gives a light touch to such scenes. But to find out if this difference becomes a strength, I’ll have to wait until the editing finishes.

Why would this series appeal to international viewers?
The story is easily approachable even for foreign viewers. A story of a falsely charged man trying to solve his problem by himself, about jailbreak and a detective, is easy to understand. Also, the main character is humble and has his faults, so viewers will feel comfortable with him.

An action drama about two brothers and the ill-fated choices they make, due to air in November. Produced by Drama House and Kim Jong Hak Productions for JTBC and distributed by JTBC Content Hub.

What did you find appealing about Untouchable?
Producer Cho Jun Hyoung: It’s not just a tale of two brothers, but a complex family story. Initially, it may seem like [main character] Joon’s journey to avenge his wife’s death is the central plot, but his internal struggle is the real arc of the story. As he faces the disgraceful history of his family, his deep hatred for his monstrous father and brother grows. But he is conflicted by the desire to forgive them because they are his family. Audiences today can connect with this complicated and delicately told father-son conflict, magnified through dramatic settings. It is directed by the charismatic Cho Nam Gook and written by Choi Jin Won, known for his dense writing style.

Why would this series appeal to international viewers?
It may sound weird to say that this is a story about family when a brother is seeking revenge for his wife’s death and the plot includes a struggle against immense power. But as you get into the story, you will see that it’s something we can relate to, because we all experience life as a family in some way. We are telling a story that can draw the sympathy of not only people living in Korea but around the world.

How would you describe the state of Korean drama?
The K-drama industry is enjoying an increased number of networks and timeslots. Correspondingly, there is a flood of new shows being produced, and many of the major networks are preparing to open a new slot for drama. The result is a more competitive environment for us. JTBC is home to a diverse genre of stories such as Woman of Dignity, Strong Girl, Man X Man and Hello, My Twenties!. Our main priority is to discover and deliver fresh stories and subject matter.

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Belle tolls for TVN

Polish broadcaster TVN made history with Belle Époque, its first ever costume drama. The network’s programming director Edward Miszczak and exec producer Michał Kwieciński tell DQ about bringing this crime-focused period series to screen.

Polish broadcaster TVN transported viewers to a world of flamboyant love affairs, lavish balls and violent crimes with its first ever costume drama.

Inspired by real murder cases that took place in Kraków and other cities in Poland, Belle Époque sees Jan Edigey-Korycki (played by Pawel Malaszynski) return to his hometown in 1908 to unravel the shocking murder of his mother.

Forced to leave Kraków 10 years earlier after being accused of killing his fiancée’s brother, he decides to stay and join forces with two old friends and forensic pioneers – Henry (Eryk Lubos) and Veronica (Anna Próchniak) – to find out who committed the crime. Jan’s unmatched intuition and impeccable understanding of human nature soon make him indispensable to the local police.

The series, produced by Akson Studio and distributed by TVN Distribution, premiered in February and drew nearly three million viewers and a 23% share among 16- to 49-year-olds.

Edward Miszczak, TVN’s programming director, and executive producer Michał Kwieciński, founder of Akson Studio, tell DQ why TVN sought its first costume drama and reveal the challenges they faced during production.

Edward Miszczak

Tell us about the story of Belle Epoque.
Edward Miszczak: First and foremost, we wanted to cater to the needs of our viewers, who are becoming more and more fascinated by criminal plots and intrigue. We wanted to give them something new, a series like no other in Poland. We mixed the beauty of Belle Époque [the period in Europe preceding the First World War] with its darker side, which until now was not widely known. This clash of those two worlds proved to be really intriguing. The series’ debut exceeded our expectations – nearly three million viewers watched the first episode.

What are the origins of the series?
Michał Kwieciński: The idea came from Marek Bukowski and Maciej Dancewicz, scriptwriters who fell in love with the beautiful era of the 1900s. They researched a lot of old crime stories that happened in Poland and Europe, all of which are extremely interesting cases. This is a story about the beginnings of forensics as well, as back in those days this science was just being born. This is how it all started. Later, when work on the script gained momentum, we invited Igor Brejdygant, an experienced crime scriptwriter, to join the team.

How was the show developed for TVN?
Miszczak: It all sparked from passion and fascination. For more than two years, our scriptwriters researched real crimes that took place in Kraków and other Polish cities in the early 20th century. It turned out that in the era of industrial revolution, the development of science and culture and a period of lavish balls, mankind had also a dark side. It was both petrifying and fascinating, which made an excellent basis for an intriguing plot. People have been committing crimes for the same reasons for ages – love, passion, money or superstition. As soon as I heard this idea, I knew we should produce this series.
The key element and biggest challenge was to reflect the spirit of those times. This is why we decided to film mostly in Kraków, one of the most beautiful cities in Poland. We also used original costumes from that period. Viewers can also familiarise themselves with the beginnings of Polish forensics. We built a laboratory of forensic medicine especially for the show. It’s the largest production hall in the history of the Polish cinematography.

Belle Époque is inspired by real murders committed in Poland

What was the appeal of having the first ever costume drama on TVN?
Miszczak: TVN is a pioneer in the Polish media market. We are not afraid of challenges and we always try to provide our viewers with the best entertainment. We were the first to introduce reality shows on the market; we started the fad for culinary, dance and talent shows. By following global trends, we decided to take one step further – to produce a costume and crime series. No other production in Poland has been made on such a big scale.

What research did you do for the show?
Kwieciński: Each episode required extensive research and documentation. The writers studied collections of famous cases, books and press materials from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Set designer Anna Wunderlich and her team, costume designer Małgorzata Zacharska and make-up and hair artist Alina Janerka also had to review countless materials and footage for their own purposes. As a result, we gathered a lot of insight into customs and morals at that time. And, above all, we managed to document old and contemporary forensic methods.

How would you describe the writing process?
Kwieciński: Out of the dozens of crime cases from that period, we picked the most interesting and distinct ones. We then juxtaposed them against one another in each episode. Not all genuine stories, even the most compelling, will prove successful in a script. This is why it was a challenge for the writers to create full-blown characters when relying solely on plain facts. Apart from the crime cases, we also had to expand on other parts of the plot, like the personal lives of our main characters.

Michał Kwieciński

How did the writer(s) and director(s) work together to create the visual style of the show?
Kwieciński: It’s not always possible to fully bring to life what has been written in a script, as one has to work on a given location within a particular set design. At times the director had to adapt what had been written to the actual filming location.

Who are the lead cast members and what do they bring to the series?
Miszczak: The cast includes not only television actors, but also names known from top-notch theatre or film productions. Paweł Małaszyński plays Jan Edigey-Korycki, who returns to Kraków after many years of travel when he hears about his mother’s murder and starts investigating crimes.
Magdalena Cielecka is one of the most talented and award-winning Polish actresses. She plays Konstancja Morawiecka, a wealthy noblewoman who was Jan’s fiancée before he was forced to leave. We also cast some promising young actors, such as Anna Próchniak, Eryk Kulm and Vanessa Aleksander.

Where was the series filmed and how do you use the locations on screen?
Kwieciński: Because the script features so many lovely places, our crew filmed the series across Poland. Most of the filming was done in Kraków, but sets were built also in Warsaw, Bytom, Otwock, Żyrardów, Tokarnia, Zaborówek, Podkowa Leśna and Konstancin-Jeziorna. We also created a set in one of our studios, with an area of more than 800 square metres. There are few places in Poland that survived the Second World War. Those that were preserved have been modernised, with replaced windows or refurbished pavements, so not every ‘old town’ street could be used as a filming location. The set designers looked for suitable backstreets, rail tracks with wooden sleepers, houses and flats, and subsequently adapted them to fit our needs. They did this with great attention to detail.

How did you create the costumes and sets worthy of a lavish period drama?
Kwieciński: We worked with the best. Małgorzata Zacharska used the world’s oldest costume ateliers, such as Barrandov Studio in Prague and Cosprop and Angels in London. Angels, for example, has provided costumes for such productions as Game of Thrones and The Great Gatsby. We also worked with film studios in Warsaw and Łódź. Some outfits were borrowed from private collectors, while others were tailor-made exclusively for us. It was not an easy task, as we had almost 150 actors and around 2,000 extras. The series features a full spectrum of society, from aristocrats to beggars.

Much of the show was filmed in the picturesque Polish city of Kraków

What were the biggest challenges you faced during production?
Miszczak: Time. We wanted to start airing the series on TVN in spring of 2017. We started shooting in autumn [2016] and it continued through winter. The weather did not make things easier, either.

How would you describe the current state of TV drama in Poland?
Miszczak: We are inspired by global trends but we need to act locally. What work best on the Polish market are local ideas and local shows. We usually develop our shows in-house or prepare them in cooperation with independent production companies. This strategy has proven successful in the last few seasons.

How will Polish drama change over the next five years?
Miszczak: It’s hard to predict the future, especially five years ahead. This is such a dynamic environment that everything can change really quickly. I believe the Polish market will develop towards international trends and we will see much more of high-budget series – great productions with beautiful images and compelling stories. But we need to remember TV is all about emotions, and that will never change. The better we are, as media companies, in identifying shows that spark emotions, the more successful we will be.

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Mercurio’s Duty calls for viewers

Line of Duty has added viewers each season
Line of Duty has added viewers each season

BBC2 in the UK is having a great year in terms of its drama output. The first part of 2016 saw a solid performance for US acquisition American Crime Story: The People vs OJ Simpson, while tomorrow sees the much-anticipated return of Peaky Blinders for season three.

Sandwiched between the two was the third season of Line of Duty, which has proven to be a huge hit for the channel. So successful, in fact, there are reports that season four, which is scheduled to air in 2017, will move to flagship channel BBC1.

As the dust settles on Line of Duty’s ratings, various claims are being made, but probably the most eye-catching is that the series is BBC2’s most successful drama in 15 years. With an average audience of just under five million per episode (live+7 day ratings), it even managed to outperform Wolf Hall, which was a strong performer in 2015 with an average audience of 4.4 million.

Line of Duty focuses on the activities of an anti-corruption unit led by superintendent Ted Hastings (played by Adrian Dunbar). It is the latest masterpiece from Jed Mercurio, widely acknowledged as one of the top talents working in British TV.

Mercurio actually started out as a doctor before breaking into the business with acclaimed medical drama Cardiac Arrest in the mid-1990s. Since then he has had pretty consistent success as a TV writer while also carving out a decent career as a novelist. Indeed, his second TV series was an adaptation of his first novel, Bodies.

He has proven particularly adept at creating procedurals with a twist. Aside from Cardiac Arrest, Bodies and Line of Duty, for example, he also created Critical, a medical drama for Sky1 set in a fictional trauma centre.

Mercurio created Critical for Sky1

He has also tried his hand at a number of other sub-genres of the scripted TV business. The Grimleys (1999-2001), for example, was a comedy drama, while Frankenstein (2007) was a modern-day re-imagination of Mary Shelley’s iconic gothic novel. He also set up Left Bank’s long-running action-adventure series Strike Back (2010) and adapted DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover for BBC1 last year.

Within the UK system, Mercurio is unusual in that he is more akin to a US showrunner than a European writer/auteur. Typically, he will write and produce his shows – sometimes directing as well. As a consequence of this level of control, Mercurio is well placed to ensure his creative vision hits the screen.

Mercurio recently gave a very insightful interview to Den of Geek in which he distinguished his work from procedurals that delve into the private lives of their protagonists. “Part of me isn’t that interested as a person and a viewer in people’s personal lives. I’m more interested in what people do in the workplace and what goals they set themselves. I guess that’s why I write a lot of precinct drama. (There’s often) an expectation, or pressure sometimes even, to feel that the way to succeed with drama is to see all sides of a character by going into their personal lives, even if you’ve got nothing to say.”

It’s interesting to note that Line of Duty’s ratings have been building across the first three seasons, giving it the feel of a show that slipped under the radar but is now attracting new swathes of fans. All of which augurs well for season four, regardless of the channel it airs on.

Liam Neeson starred in the Taken movie franchise
Liam Neeson starred in the Taken movie franchise

In the US, this is a critical time of year for the scripted business as the major networks decide which pilots to take forward to series. Most announcements will trickle through in the next few weeks, though a few new shows have already been given the go-ahead.

One of these is ABC’s Designated Survivor, which will star Kiefer Sutherland (24) and is being written by David Guggenheim (Safe House, Bad Boys 3). Another is Taken, a spin-off from the hit movie franchise. The TV version, for NBC, will be penned by Alex Cary (credits include Homeland, Lie To Me).

Not yet greenlit but looking good is Fox’s Lethal Weapon, another reboot of a movie franchise. This one is being scripted by Matt Miller, whose writing credits include ABC’s short-lived Forever.

Also, this week, DQ’s sister site C21 Media reports that long-running CBS drama The Good Wife is being adapted for the South Korean market by broadcaster TVN. The show, created by Robert and Michelle King, comes to the end of its seventh and final season in the US this week. All told, that means TVN will have 155 episodes to work with.

The Korean version of the show will be produced by Jung-Hyo Lee (I Need Romance, Heartless City) and written by Han Sang-Woon. Like the CBS original, it will centre on the complicated relationships of people in the legal system working against a backdrop of scandal and corruption.

The Good Wife is coming to an end in the US
The Good Wife is coming to an end in the US

Interestingly, this is not the first adaptation Han Sang-Woon has worked on. Last year, he wrote Spy for KBS2, based on Israeli drama The Gordin Cell. Previously, he wrote the movie My Ordinary Love Story. Commenting on the production, TVN parent company CJ E&M told C21: “For the Korean version of The Good Wife, we focused on the casting and were successful in casting Korea’s biggest actress, Jeon Do-Yeon – who has won many awards in her career, including best actress at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival – in the lead role, marking her return to television after 11 years.”

Finally, continuing the writers-as-brands theme we discussed in last week’s column, Amazon is about to air ITV period drama Doctor Thorne in the US (May 20). When it does, it will call the series Julian Fellowes Presents Doctor Thorne, another indicator of the marketing leverage that leading writers increasingly possess.

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Six of the best from Korea

International TV market Mipcom starts in a couple of weeks’ time and one of the hottest forms of content at the event will be Korean drama. Wildly popular across Asia, Korean scripted shows have also recently started to be picked up as formats in the US, with examples including Good Doctor, Nine: Nine Times Time Travel, Answer Me 1994 and My Love From Another Star.

For anyone interested in knowing the hot Korean shows to look out for, there is a handy tool known as the Contents Power Index (CPI). Released on a monthly basis, the CPI attempts to measure fan interest in a series – using factors such the number of articles written about a show, internet search popularity and activity on discussion boards to determine which shows are most popular. Consolidated data for the first half of 2015 puts the following shows out in front. So keep an eye out for them in Cannes…

producersThe Producers: Broadcast by KBS, this 12-part series aired on Friday and Saturday evenings in May and June. Popular in Korea, it tells the story of a group of young producers working in the variety department of – wait for it – KBS. The show, which stars the highly bankable Kim Soo-hyun, has already been sold to broadcasters and platforms in China, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Kazakhstan, while digital streaming rights have also been licensed to parts of Europe, the Middle East and North America. Underlining the show’s appeal, China’s online network Sohu paid US$2.4m for rights to The Producers. The programme has been nominated for a number of Korean Drama Awards, but it didn’t escape criticism, with some entertainment insiders complaining of an inaccurate portrayal of the relationship between producers and celebrities.

sensorycouple2Sensory Couple: Also known as The Girl Who Sees Smells, Sensory Couple is a suspense/comedy/romance hybrid adapted from a webtoon of the same name. Broadcast by SBS, it has an elaborate plot that centres on a woman who sees her parents being murdered by a serial killer but is then hit by a car as she escapes from the killer. She wakes up from a coma six months later to discover that she has lost her memory – but has developed the ability to ‘see’ smells. The show, which aired in April and May, started with a modest 5-6% share but steadily rose to 12% by the end of its 16-episode run. It has been sold to channels in Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia. Last week, Singapore-based distributor Bomanbridge Media acquired the Mongolian rights.

pinocchioPinocchio: Pinocchio started airing in late 2014, running through to January 2015. A 20-episode drama on SBS, it has a typically convoluted plotline based around a conflicted romance, a hidden identity and a young man’s desire for revenge. The Pinocchio title refers to a girl who wants to be a journalist but has a syndrome that makes her hiccup when she lies (not great for a journalist). Echoing Sensory Couple, ratings grew throughout the run, starting at a 7.8% share and ending at 13.6%. The show was sold for a record US$280,000 per episode to Chinese video-sharing website Youku Tudou, where it scored huge ratings. It also sold to seven other Asian territories, the US and Israel. It was named Outstanding Korean Drama at the 10th Seoul International Drama Awards.

killmehealme2Kill Me Heal Me: An MBC drama that aired from January to March, Kill Me Heal Me is about a third-generation chaebol (corporation boss) who has memory lapses due to a traumatic childhood experience. Eventually this causes his personality to fracture into seven different identities. He is treated secretly by psychiatrist Oh Ri-jin who (surprise surprise) falls in love with him. The 20-part series reunited actors Ji Sung and Hwang Jung-eum, who previously starred together in the 2013 hit Secret Love. While Kill Me Heal Me did fairly well, it failed to hit the heights of Secret Love – despite the entertaining sight of Ji Sung playing seven characters). Nevertheless, it was licensed to markets including China, Japan, Taiwan and Thailand. In fact, local media reports claim it travelled from Korea to Japan faster than any other drama in history, airing in Japan as soon as the Korean run ended. It’s interesting to note that the market hasn’t yet moved to the kind of simultaneous transmission we now see with US shows.

Mask_(Korean_Drama)-p13Mask: A classic doppelganger story, Mask is about a sales clerk who looks identical to a congressman’s daughter. When the congressman’s daughter dies, nefarious forces blackmail the sales clerk into marrying the deceased woman’s fiancé – the heir to a huge fortune. The heir, who is unaware of the switch, had not been marrying for love, but because his family demanded it. He is pleasantly surprised by his new wife – who is nicer than he expected. The 20-part series first aired on SBS from May to July and was a consistently strong performer – airing in the same slot previously occupied by Sensory Couple. It was written by Choi Ho-chui, who had a previous hit with KBS’s Secret in 2013. International sales to date include ABS-CBN in the Philippines.

schoolWho Are You: School 2015: ‘School’ is an ongoing franchise that aired from 1999 to 2002 and was then revived in 2013. It depicts the struggles and dilemmas faced by Korean youngsters – though not in a Breakfast Club or Skins kind of way. In the latest season, for example, Lee Eun Bi (Kim So Hyun), a student at a top high school, mysteriously wakes up with amnesia. When she subsequently discovers she was once bullied, she decides to put things right by transforming herself into a popular and glamorous girl – but things aren’t as simple as they seem. Especially popular with young Koreans, this latest series of 16 episodes ran from May to June, finishing strongly with a 9.7% share. The show aired on KBS World with subtitles two weeks after its initial broadcast. It’s part of a lively genre of high-school K-dramas that stretches back years.

Other shows to appear on the CPI include Heard it Through the Grapevine; Angry Mom; Let’s Eat; Jeju Island Gatsby; Punch; Healer; Hyde, Jekyll and I; Orange Marmalade; and What’s with this Family?. One that doesn’t appear in the list but has generated a good response is tvN’s Ex-Girlfriend Club.

So what else is worth saying about Korean drama? Well, historically it has generated a lot of its international revenue from Japan. But, as the above examples show, China has become an important market. The interesting thing about China, however, is that foreign shows are banned from airing in primetime, which is why Korean dramas tend to be snapped up by online streaming services (which pay upwards of US$200,000 per episode).

In terms of staying on top of trends in the K-drama market, Drama Fever identifies the top trends in Korean drama this year. These include personality disorders, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, high-school bullying, exes and vampires – all of which sounds like the typical content of a Western drama too!

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