Tag Archives: Das Boot

Mad man

After spending the first season of German wartime drama Das Boot aboard a submarine, US star Vincent Kartheiser is back on dry land for the show’s second run. But when it comes to filming, he’s still a long way from home, DQ discovers.

Vincent Kartheiser is leaning back in the booth of a stylish American diner, looking decidedly relaxed among the 1940s-era paraphernalia. But this isn’t a retro-styled restaurant and it’s not even in the US. Instead, he’s sitting in one of the sets built for the second season of German wartime drama Das Boot, a stone’s throw from the vast, sandy beaches at Formby, Liverpool, on England’s north-west coast.

“You can’t actually shoot New York for the 1940s anymore because of all the billboards and all the signage in the streets. It’s all changed anyway,” he says. “When I did Mad Men, we shot in LA. Everything’s changed so much since the 40s that even if we went to New York, we’d have to dress the street, so Manchester [in England] looked like New York and this could be in Maine, definitely. It’s odd, I’ve flown from New York to the UK to shoot New York but it also makes sense.”

The actor returns to Das Boot to reprise his role as Samuel Greenwood, who in season one is picked up by Captain Klaus Hoffmann and his U-612 crew as part of a top-secret mission. Later, we see the lawyer back in New York, where he is sought out by Hoffmann (Rick Okon), who now finds himself stranded in the US.

Kartheiser had seen Wolfgang Petersen’s iconic 1981 film, upon which the series is based, when he was in his 20s, describing it as “not an easy watch.” Then, in preparation for the role, he leaned on a book of New York Times clippings from the Second World War, as he considered his character would have learned about the conflict from news reports. “I learned very little about how submarines worked, but you know, how much does that inform my character? Very little,” he admits.

Vincent Kartheiser plays Stephan Rabold in Das Boot

“Ultimately in films, characters, for me, are about the interpersonal relationships. What is my feeling towards these people right now? What happened with them earlier and what do I hope to get from them? So that’s what I focused on. I showed up to set and I spent two days watching these very stoic, serious German soldiers and I thought, ‘I’m [Samuel’s] just going to land like a grenade and I’m just going to chew them all up.’

“The first day we were on set, they just didn’t know what to think of it! I really liked doing that. It was like walking into a fine English afternoon tea and taking your shirt off and screaming at the top of your lungs and I felt my tonal change on the project.”

In season two – which premiered on Sky Deutschland last month – Kartheiser says Samuel is less explosive this time around, though he must go someway to remove his “slimy, shifty and secretive” attitude from season one. Now back in New York, the war seems a long way away.

“When Hoffmann comes to New York, he has no-one but me, so I’m actively saving his life by sheltering him. But it’s complicated because sometimes you’re in bed with someone but how much do you trust them? He’s a hard person to get to open up and I’m the opposite; Sam just throws a million things at you. It’s a very complicated relationship.

“Hoffmann is coming from a world where all his friends are dying, all the older men around him are dead and now he’s in a town where people are worried about their love lives and about their careers and their art and are engaged in laughter and in clubs and drinking and having fun without a care in the world. There’s this guilt that you’re able to have this life while people back in your home country are suffering. He can escape it all, it’s a way out for him, so there’s a lot of built-in conflict within him.”

Kartheiser with director Matthias Glasner (left) and actor Rick Okon on the Das Boot set

Kartheiser is best known to audiences around the world as ambitious advertising executive Pete Campbell following seven seasons and more than 90 episodes in Matthew Weiner’s awards-laden Mad Men. Since the 1960s-set New York drama ended in 2015, he has appeared in Casual, Genius: Einstein, The Path, The OA and Proven Innocent.

“Mad Men was a unique experience, so in some ways nothing can compare to that,” he says of comparing the show to working in Europe on Das Boot. “The language and the dialogue was like doing Shakespeare – you did not change it, it was not up for discussion. You read it, you interpreted it, and on other projects you change every single piece of dialogue even if they don’t want you to. With this project, there’s a straightforwardness.

“What I like is that they just come right out and say, ‘Could you do this?’ or ‘Will you do that?’ They cut through all the fluff. They’re pragmatic. I don’t need all that flattering, I find it a bit distasteful to be honest with you. When it comes to production values they’re wonderful. The production values were amazing in the first season, the first opening scene it was like a US$30m movie.”

The actor admits he was “delighted” when he heard there would be a season two, with the chance to reunite with a cast and crew he now considers friends. “One of the big X factors for me was that I didn’t know the German actors and I was blown away by them. After just the first couple of days I was like, ‘This is going to be really, really good,’” he says.

The actor played Pete Campbell in acclaimed 1960s-set drama Mad Men

“This is better than what’s coming out of America right now when it comes to young talent. It was really eye-opening. So I was very thrilled that I got to come back for a second season.”

Having now worked outside the US, is he also planning to move into writing or directing? He would, he says, “but I’m not so vain as to think everyone else would want to read it,” he jokes.

“Mostly it’s just me rewriting and rewriting and then I put it away for a year-and-a-half and then read it and go, ‘This is just rubbish.’ It goes on and on. It’s funny, I’ve actually been teaching a bit of acting and it’s an interesting thing to teach because it’s such an ethereal craft, there’s nothing substantial about it really. So it’s interesting to teach it because you’re not aware how much you know about it.

“It’s been eye-opening for me and it has led me to believe that maybe somewhere down the line I want to try my hand at a larger role in the whole scope of a project. It’s intimidating but you need those things because that’s what’s life’s about – growing, learning, failing and trying.”

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Back in deep water

On a British beach that’s doubling for the US coast during the Second World War, DQ hits the sand to watch filming for the second season of Das Boot.

On the sands of Formby beach, north of Liverpool on England’s north-west coast, the view stretches for miles across the Irish sea. But on this sunny spring day, the panorama is punctuated by the sight of eight men bobbing in the water.

A cameraman and a boom operator wade out into the sea to join them, stopping when the waves lap at their knees. Then, when preparations are set and the director calls action, the men – German submariners in military uniform – pull themselves on to their feet and run towards the shore. Once on the beach, they stop only when they reach the large dunes that run parallel to the coastline.

The actors are immediately wrapped in towels to stem the cold, although their costumes hide the layers of neoprene used to insulate them from the chilly water. Once they have caught their breath, they head back into the water for another take.

Further down the beach, large tents house the catering and costume areas and provide some respite from the windy conditions for the cast and crew of German wartime drama Das Boot, which is filming scenes for its second season. Quite how the U-boat crew ended up in the water is being kept secret, although it’s part of a plot that sees U-822 sent to the US to transport three saboteurs.

This is one of three dramatic storylines that make up the action of season two and aim to reveal how the human soul can become twisted by war. The action resumes in December 1942, six weeks after the conclusion of season one, when U-boat ace Johannes von Reinhartz (Clemens Schick) is handed a new secret mission, to carry the saboteurs to the US on board U-822. When his loyalty is questioned, U-612 (the vessel from season one) and its commanding officer Wrangel (Stefan Konarske) is sent in pursuit.

The beach at Formby doubles for the coast of Maine in Das Boot

Meanwhile, having escaped certain death out on the Atlantic, former U-612 CO Klaus Hoffmann (Rick Okon) finds shelter in New York with Sam Greenwood (Vincent Kartheiser), who owes his life to Hoffmann. There he meets sleazy German-born lawyer Berger (Thomas Kretschmann), but will Berger help Hoffmann to return home and clear his name?

Back in La Rochelle, France, Simone (Vicky Krieps) and her roommate Margot (Fleur Geffrier) battle to secure an escape route for a Jewish family, but Forster (Tom Wlaschiha), head of the Gestapo, is watching their every move.

With Formby beach doubling for the Maine coastline, a large 1940s diner called The Bay has also been constructed on the other side of the sand dune and tall grass. Inside, menus advertise eggs any style for 10¢, franks and beans at 25¢ and the intriguing Tropical Hut Special for 50¢.

A long bar runs the length of the building, with booths opposite, each with a view of the sandy surroundings. Postcards for sale stand in a rack in front of a wall-mounted map of Maine, the ‘Pine Tree State.’ The cast and crew also filmed in Prague, La Rochelle and Malta, with another English city, Manchester, standing in for New York.

On the beach, Okon is watching his co-stars rush in and out of the water and taking part in a game of frisbee while wearing full costume. “It’s great to be back on set and shooting in the UK,” he says. “My story in season two takes place in the US, especially in New York. I think that’s all I can say!”

Jazz singer Cassandra Lloyd (Rochelle Neil)  and U-boat captain Klaus Hoffmann (Rick Okon)

Season one saw Hoffmann bring Kartheiser’s Sam aboard U-612, much to the dismay of his crew, who later mutiny against him. Then, after apparently being left to die in the Atlantic, Hoffman inexplicably arrives at Sam’s New York office. “I helped him, and now he’s trying to help me,” Okon says of his character’s relationship with Sam. “And I help him again with some stuff he has going on. So it’s a hand-in-hand relationship. Hoffmann is in New York trying to figure things out and deciding what he’s going to do next. That’s basically his story.”

From the outset, Okon says he was immediately drawn to playing Hoffmann, an honourable but intense and inexperienced U-boat captain who is under pressure to keep his crew in line, and found himself delving into the history books once he was cast. A spell at boot camp and support from a naval advisor also helped to shape his performance.

However, nothing could quite prepare him for filming scenes onboard a submarine. “The real feeling to be underwater in a submarine is like being in a cage,” he says. “I don’t think we can imagine how it really felt for these people in the Second World War being underwater in a submarine. But it was claustrophobic. Sometimes we had 20 or 25 people in a very tiny place, but of course, we had the opportunity to step out and get some fresh air.”

Das Boot, inspired by both Lothar-Günther Buchheim’s 1973 novel and Wolfgang Petersen’s iconic 1981 film, proved to be a massive hit for Sky Deutschland when it debuted in 2018, going on to air in more than 100 countries around the world. Shows in their second seasons tend to return bigger and more ambitious, and Das Boot is no exception, with additional storylines, new characters and an extra U-boat all jostling for screen time. Bavaria Fiction and Sky Deutschland coproduce, with NBCUniversal Global Distribution handling international rights.

“The way the show goes forward is by ending with the end of the Second World War, naturally,” says Marcus Ammon, Sky Deutschland’s director of original production. “But we asked ourselves whether we wanted to continue with a story we established in season one and go on with the characters.

Filming in a claustrophobic submarine interior gave a taste of what life was like for U-boat crews

“We felt from the reaction of the audience that many of these characters became very popular. They fell in love with Vicky Krieps, playing Simone Strasser, and with our U-boat captain Klaus Hoffmann. These were clear signs for us to continue the story and add some new characters.”

But while the production team was, understandably, keen to honour the show’s source material and its reverential place in German culture in season one, did the first run’s success embolden them to take more risks this time around?

“We are bolder in season two, whether that’s just because of the success or the natural progression from one season to the other,” explains Bavaria Fiction executive producer Moritz Polter. “It’s also that we now have to compare ourselves to ourselves. The first season we were compared to the film and the second season will be compared to the first season, so to justify a second season we need to take it a step further. If we don’t, why are we doing it?

“This is a character-driven series, rather than an action or plot-driven series, so we feel it made absolute sense to continue the story because we want to know how they evolve, what [events in] the first season did to them, how they are now changed and can cope with what they go through.”

“We gained a lot of self-confidence,” Ammon continues of Sky Deutschland. “It was our second original production after [period crime drama] Babylon Berlin, which was a coproduction. This was our own thing. There was a lot of criticism in the beginning. ‘How can you possibly touch this huge brand, Das Boot? It will fail.’ There was a lot of stuff going on, and then it became this big success for us.

Thomas Kretschmann plays New York lawyer Berger

“Of course, that gives you some self-confidence that you’ve done the right thing, you’ve done something your audience loves and that was enough reason for us to keep going.”

Season one wasn’t even completed when Matthias Glasner (Blochin) was approached to direct season two alongside Rick Ostermann (Wolfskinder), taking over from Andreas Prochaska (Freud) who steered the first run.

“I was afraid if people hated season one they wouldn’t come back for season two, but I liked it, so I thought if I liked it, others will too,” says Glasner, who is also on writing duties alongside head writer Colin Teevan, Tim Loane and Laura Grace. “It was a relief when the first season was a success and people accepted it as a follow-up to Das Boot [the film].

“You want the whole thing to feel real, which is not always the case in Germany, so that impressed me. We will take that to the second season, so we will not have artificial lighting, artificial camera movements or have the actors playing over the top. We want to keep it real. It will be darker, because the war gets darker and darker and more and more people die. It’s the progression of the war and the natural progression of the show. The dark subtext of humanity is coming out in strange ways, so that’s where the show is heading to.”

Of the new characters, Schick (Casino Royale) joins the cast as renowned U-boat captain Johannes von Reinhartz, who has begun to doubt the war effort. When he is assigned to drop a ‘cargo’ of three SS men in America, he decides to defect, but his plans are discovered and Wrangel is sent after him, leading to a high-stakes race in which one captain tries to outsmart the other.

Clemens Schick (centre) as U-boat ace Johannes von Reinhartz

In the US, jazz singer Cassandra Lloyd (Rochelle Neil) is introduced as a member of the house band at real-life New York club Minton’s. Described as beautiful, self-possessed, confident and determined, she senses Sam is in love with her. But when she meets Hoffmann, she is instantly attracted to him. As their unlikely love story unfolds, Cassandra is unaware of Hoffmann’s true identity but slowly begins to learn the truth.

The introduction of Schick and Cassandra, plus seedy lawyer Berger, helped to shape the themes of the season, which deals with the loss of humanity and how characters are redefined by their actions.

“The war is an external influence, rather than an internal drive,” adds Polter. “What becomes more apparent and what is part of the second season is what is happening to the Jews and what Germany is capable of. That is very important because it puts our characters into the situation of actually understanding what they are fighting for.

“A lot of the people in the military didn’t know what was going on around them in that point. They were ‘fighting the good fight’ and once you understood the good fight was not a good fight – you were shooting down merchant ships and if there were civilians, you had to let them die, or what happened to the Jews who were being transported – that changed the perspective. How do you react to what is happening, and do you follow your orders? Those questions will be in the second season.”

For the characters of Das Boot, the horrors of war will truly be brought home, whether by land or sea.

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Bingeworthy box sets

As people around the world self-isolate and heed orders to stay at home amid the devastating coronavirus pandemic, DQ offers a selection of series from around the world to enjoy.

Babylon Berlin
From: Germany
Original broadcaster: Sky
Starring: Volker Bruch, Liv Lisa Fries, Peter Kurth, Matthias Brandt, Leonie Benesch, Severija Janušauskaitė, Ivan Shvedoff
Seasons: Three
This German noir has become a breakout hit for the country, immersing viewers in a visually intoxicating 1920s Berlin. Based on the crime novels by Volker Kitscher, it follows police inspector Gereon Rath, who is on a secret mission to expose an extortion ring, and Charlotte Ritter, a police clerk who aspires to be an inspector but at night is a flapper and occasional prostitute at the Mika Efti cabaret. The series is also lifted by the dramatic soundtrack, which features standout song Zu Asche, Zu Staub (To Ashes, To Dust), performed on the nightclub stage.

Badehotellet (Seaside Hotel)
From: Denmark
Original broadcaster: TV2
Starring: Amalie Dollerup, Lars Ranthe, Anne Louise Hassing, Merete Mærkedahl, Ulla Vejby, Jens Jacob Tychsen, Anette Støvelbæk, Birthe Neumann
Seasons: Seven
Downton Abbey by the seaside, this long-running Danish drama is one of the country’s most popular series, drawing audiences every year since 2013 to the trials and tribulations of the staff working a lavish hotel and the guests who visit them each summer from Copenhagen. Combining beautiful scenery with comedy drama and the clash of class and cultures that comes naturally from the upstairs/downstairs setting, it’s the perfect example of blue-sky Nordic drama.

Das Boot
From: Germany
Original broadcaster: Sky
Starring: Vicky Krieps, Tom Wlaschiha, August Wittgenstein, Lizzy Caplan, Rick Okon, Vincent Kartheiser
Seasons: Season two launches in Germany on April 24
Following a classic novel and iconic film is no easy feat, and critics were rightly sceptical that the ambition of this series could match what had come before. But from the first glimpse of a U-boat rising out of the Atlantic Ocean, this wartime drama serves up a compelling and technically stunning show. Set nine months after the Wolfgang Petersen film, the action opens in 1942, simultaneously following the crew of the claustrophobic U-612 and the Resistance in La Rochelle, France.

Delhi Crime
From: India
Original broadcaster: Netflix
Starring: Shefali Shah, Rasika Dugal, Aakash Dahiya, Adil Hussain, Rajesh Tailang
Seasons: One
While true crime dramas continue to dominate the broadcast and streaming schedules, buoyed by a similar wave of documentary series in the genre, this is one of the best. Based on the tragic true story of a 2012 gang rape in Delhi, the series follows the aftermath and the police investigation to find those responsible. Shah plays Vartika Chaturvedi, the deputy commissioner of police who drives the series forward and guides viewers through the sights and sounds of the city.

Fauda
From: Israel
Original broadcaster: Yes
Starring: Lior Raz, Itzik Cohen, Neta Garay, Rona-Lee Shim’on, Boaz Konforty, Doron Ben-David
Seasons: Three
Israel has become known as the home of some of the most original drama series in the world, leading to US remakes such as Homeland, Hostages, In Treatment and the upcoming Your Honor. Fauda might be the best of the bunch, drawing on the military experiences of creators Lior Raz (who also stars) and Avi Issacharoff. Set against the backdrop of the Israel-Palestine conflict, it follows the leader of an elite unit as they pursue a Hamas terrorist. Season three switches the action-packed story to the Gaza Strip.

Freud
From: Austria
Original broadcasters: ORF, Netflix
Starring: Robert Finster, Ella Rumpf, Georg Friedrich, Christoph F Krutzler
Seasons: One
Having recently launched in Austria, this dark, gothic period drama from director Marvin Kren (4 Blocks) is set in 1890s Vienna, famous for its decadence and the dark underbelly of high society. Mysterious murders and political intrigue clash as young psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud (Finster), who finds strong opposition against his theories, becomes embroiled in a murderous conspiracy alongside a policeman and a notorious medium.

Herrens Veje (Ride Upon the Storm)
From: Denmark
Original broadcaster: DR
Starring: Lars Mikkelsen, Ann Eleonora Jørgensen, Simon Sears, Morten Hee Andersen
Seasons: Two
From the creator of hit Danish political drama Borgen comes this drama about a family of priests and the characters within it, as each follows their own path to a meaningful life. On the face of it, they are the epitome of respectability, but events that leave the family in crisis soon unfold.

La Casa de Papel (Money Heist)
From: Spain
Original broadcasters: Antenna 3, Netflix
Starring: Alvaro Morte, Itziar Ituño, Alba Flores, Esther Acebo, Pedro Alonso
Seasons: Three, with a fourth released on Netflix on April 3
If any series characterises Spain’s assent to global drama powerhouse, it is this thrilling and action-packed story of a mysterious man known only as El Profesor (The Professor), who brings together a band of criminals to carry out the biggest heist ever imagined: taking over the The Royal Mint of Spain and taking home 2.4 billion euros. In season three, they are forced to reunite to execute a more ambitious plan, this time targeting the Bank of Spain.

Line of Duty
From: UK
Original broadcaster: BBC
Starring: Martin Compston, Vicky McClure, Adrian Dunbar
Seasons: Five
With filming on season six interrupted as productions around the world shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, now is the chance to catch up creator Jed Mercurio’s nail-bitingly tense police thriller (also pictured top), which introduces the members of Anti-Corruption Unit 12, tasked with uncovering police wrongdoing. Each season features a host of guest stars, while a long-running conspiracy plays across the series. By the end, you’ll be asking, ‘Who is H?’

Mr Robot
From: US
Original broadcaster: USA Network
Starring: Rami Malek, Carl Chaikin, Portia Doubleday, Martin Wallström, Christian Slater
Seasons: Four
Turn off social media and be sure to pay attention to Mr Robot, a critically acclaimed psychological thriller that follows Elliot Anderson (Malek), a young man living in New York who works for cyber-security company Allsafe and whose struggles with social anxiety and depression mean he struggles with paranoia and delusion. Elliot’s hacking skills lead him to anarchist Mr Robot, who is planning to attack one of the biggest corporations in the world – and Allsafe’s biggest client.

Professor T
From: Belgium
Original broadcaster: Één
Starring: Koen De Bouw, Tanja Oostvogels, Goeie Derick, Carry Goossens, Herwig Ilegems
Seasons: Three
Belgium is certainly among the most ambitiously creative countries in the world when it comes to television drama, thanks in part to a financial system that demands fresh and original ideas. Set in Antwerp, this crime drama introduces the eponymous eccentric professor, who works alongside the police to solve crimes. What makes it stand out is the mixture of genres the series covers, from musical and comedy to tragedy and melodrama. The show has already been remade in France and Germany, and a UK version starring Ben Miller is now in the works for ITV.

Queen Sono
From: South Africa
Original broadcaster: Netflix
Starring: Pearl Thusi, Vuyo Dabula, Lois Maginga
Seasons: One
Recently launched on Netflix, this series marks the streamer’s first foray into original African scripted programming. Mixing thills, actions and character drama, it follows the titular character, a member of the Special Operations Group and daughter of an anti-apartheid leader, who tackles criminal operations while dealing with crises in her personal life.

Sex Education
From: UK
Original broadcaster: Netflix
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Gillian Anderson, Ncuti Gatwa, Emma Mackey, Connor Swindells, Kedar Williams-Stirling, Aimee Lou Wood, Tanya Reynolds, Patricia Allison
Seasons: Two
Ostensibly the story of a teenager who follows in his sex therapist mother’s footsteps by providing advice to his hormone-driven classmates, Sex Education matches an eclectic cast of characters with a visually vibrant take on the traditionally dour British school drama by blending the look of a US high school with a distinctly 80s vibe, all while mixing laugh-out-loud humour with discussions of serious subjects such as sexual assault, sexuality and sexually transmitted infections.

The Expanse
From: US
Original broadcaster: Syfy (now Amazon Prime Video)
Starring: Steven Strait, Cas Anvar, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Frankie Adams
Seasons: Four, with a fifth already ordered
For a sci-fi drama that’s out of this world, look no further than The Expanse. Based on the books by James SA Corey, the show’s future was in doubt when it was cancelled by Syfy after three seasons, before Amazon stepped in to save the series and order two further seasons. It opens hundreds of years in the future in a colonised Solar System, when the case of a missing girl brings together a hardened police detective, an Earth-based politician and a rogue ship captain, leading them to expose the greatest conspiracy in human history.

The Mandalorian
From: US
Original broadcaster: Disney+
Starring: Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Carl Weathers, Werner Herzog, Nick Nolte, Emily Swallow, Taika Waititi, Giancarlo Esposito, Omid Abtahi
Seasons: One
Those lucky enough to be in the US, Canada or the Netherlands may have already check out this Star Wars series, the flagship original drama on the new Disney+ streaming platform. But as the service reaches most of Europe tomorrow, millions of subscribers will no doubt be eagerly awaiting the opportunity to see this acclaimed show, which is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order, as seen in the most recent trilogy of Star Wars films. It’s here we meet a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy, far from the authority of the New Republic.

The Marvellous Mrs Maisel
From: US
Original broadcaster: Amazon Prime Video
Starring: Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Borstein, Michael Zegen, Marin Hinkle, Tony Shalhoub
Seasons: Three, with a fourth on the way
A comedy-drama that has plenty of both, The Marvellous Mrs Maisel sees Rachel Brosnahah turn in an Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning performance as the titular character, a housewife in 1950s New York who discovers a knack for stand-up after an impromptu set at a comedy club.

This Is Us
From: US
Original broadcaster: NBC
Starring: Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K Brown, Chrissy Metz, Justin Hartley
Seasons: Four
For heartwarming comedy and emotional family drama, this smash hit US drama ticks all the boxes. It follows the members of the Pearson family – mum Rebecca, dad Jack and siblings Kevin, Kate and Randall – mostly in the present day but flashing back to the past and into the future, focusing on their individual relationships and how their lives and experiences have been experienced by their childhood. Last year, following its third season, the show received the rare honour of being renewed for an additional three seasons.

Top Boy
From: UK
Original broadcasters: Channel 4, Netflix
Starring: Ashley Walters, Kane Robinson, Shane Romulus, Malcolm Kamulete, Sharon Duncan Brewster
Seasons: Three
British crime drama Top Boy first aired in 2011, with a second season running in 2013 on Channel 4. But thanks to the support of rapper Drake, Netflix revived the series this year. Set in East London, it introduces a group of friends and gang members fighting for survival on fictional crime-riddled estate Summerhouse. The series has been praised for its tough characters and its realistic portray of the world the story is set in.

Watchmen
From: US
Original broadcaster: HBO
Starring: Regina King, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Tim Mison, Sara Vickers, Jeremy Irons, Andrew Howard, Louis Gossett Jr
Seasons: One
This might be described as a superhero drama, but it can’t be compared to anything produced by Marvel (The Avengers) or DC (Batman) in recent years. From Lost creator Damon Lindelof and described as a “remix” of the iconic graphic novel created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, this alternate-history series takes place 34 years after the original story and follows a detective (Regina King) as she investigates a murder, in a world where police officers are forced to conceal their identities in an ongoing battle against a white-supremacist group. King’s standout performance and stunning filmmaking ally with topical themes and a powerful soundtrack created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross from Nine Inch Nails.

Westworld
From: US
Original broadcaster: HBO
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Tessa Thompson, Aaron Paul, Vincent Cassel, Lena Waithe
Seasons: Season three is now airing
As visually striking and imaginative as ever, this science-fiction series continues to be one of the most ambitious and complex stories on television. Based on Michael Crichton’s 1973 film, it introduces the eponymous Wild West-themed resort where guests can entertain their wildest – and often most villainous – fantasies alongside the android ‘hosts’ that populate the park. Naturally, things don’t go as expected when some hosts begin to gain sentience and search for a way to leave the park and join the real world.

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All at sea

Inspired by Wolfgang Petersen’s iconic film and Lothar-Günther Buchheim’s bestselling novel, Das Boot brings the reality of the Second World War to life with two storylines running parallel on land and sea.

In autumn 1942 in occupied France, U-612 is ready for its maiden voyage, preparing to head into the increasingly brutal battle with its young crewmen, including new commander Klaus Hoffmann (Rick Okon).

Meanwhile, at the port of La Rochelle, the world of Simone Strasser spirals out of control as she is engulfed in a dangerous liaison and forbidden love, torn between her loyalty to Germany and the Resistance, and causing her to question everything.

In this DQTV interview, Okon (Tatort) and Tom Wlaschiha (Game of Thrones) set the scene for the story and how it reinterprets Petersen’s movie.

They also discuss the mental and physical challenges of filming in claustrophobic conditions, and explain why they believe this is an exciting time for actors in international television.

Das Boot is coproduced by Bavaria Fiction, broadcaster Sky Deutschland and distributor Sonar Entertainment, which has sold the series into more than 100 territories worldwide.

The drama debuts on Sky in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the UK and Ireland tomorrow and in Italy in December. It will air in the US on Hulu.

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War on the waves

Thought working with children and animals was hard? Try a U-Boat. DQ lifts the hatch on forthcoming war drama Das Boot to find out how the series was built, more than 30 years after the iconic film that inspired it.

When HBO miniseries Band of Brothers first aired in 2001, it revolutionised the way war stories were realised on television. From executive producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, it encapsulated the nerve-shredding tension and dynamic sound and visuals seen in their earlier big-screen collaboration, 1998’s Saving Private Ryan.

More than a decade later, another series is set to change the way we watch war on television all over again. Enter Das Boot, inspired by the Oscar- and Golden Globe-nominated film by Wolfgang Petersen, which was based on Lothar-Günther Buchheim’s bestselling novel of the same name.

“This is a very big statement but I think Das Boot could potentially do the same for us now,” Bavaria Fiction’s executive producer Moritz Polter says. “Again and again, you need to reach audiences and show them what war is really like and also show them different aspects of war that one was not able to portray 10 years ago.

“One of the great things about the original movie is it showed Germans as human beings rather than just villains, and that’s something that hasn’t really been done on an international level in the television world ever since.”

Das Boot the series opens in occupied France in autumn 1942. Submarine U-612 is now ready for its maiden voyage, preparing to head into the increasingly brutal conflict with its young crewmen, including new commander Klaus Hoffmann. As the 40 young men take on their first mission, they struggle with the cramped and claustrophobic conditions of life below the surface, and their personalities are pushed to the limit as tensions rise and loyalties begin to shatter.

A scene unfolds within the claustrophobic conditions of the U-boat interior

Meanwhile, at the port of La Rochelle, navy translator Simone Strasser’s world spirals out of control as she is engulfed in a dangerous liaison and forbidden love, torn between the Resistance and her loyalty to Germany.

The origins of the Das Boot series can be traced back to Bavaria Fiction’s decision to mine some of parent company Bavaria Film’s IP. The classic 1981 movie immediately stood out, but then it was a question of how it could possibly be brought to the small screen. With ambitions to tell a serialised story set six months after the film, a pay TV partner was the natural choice and Marcus Ammon, Sky Deutschland’s senior VP of film and entertainment, was “overjoyed” at the prospect of a Das Boot drama.

“We know our history and we are aware of what happened. We are very conscious of our heritage and knew we needed to be very careful with the story we are telling, and we were from day one,” Ammon says. “But Das Boot was a perfect fit for Sky’s European drama strategy, which seeks out properties that are bold enough to play across Germany, Italy and the UK.”

Backing was then sought from an international partner that could also provide a non-German editorial voice, with Sonar Entertainment quick to sign up and put both its production and distribution capabilities into the mix.

Sonar’s David Ellender, president of global distribution and coproductions, counts the Das Boot film among the top 10 Second World War movies of all time. He admits part of the challenge in making the series was to create something new while respecting the heritage of the original feature. “Going into this project of eight hours and two parallel storylines, one 100% German-language and the other story split between French and English, it had to feel really authentic,” he says. “That’s the only way it could be done.”

Hollywood actor Lizzy Caplan is part of the international cast

So at the start of development, the biggest question concerned the relationship between the film and the US$32.8m series. “We thought long and hard about whether we wanted to do a remake, a sequel or something in the vein of Fargo, where basically the series is set in the same world as the film,” Polter says. “We were conscious of the fact it’s a beloved property and, especially for a German audience, it’s iconic and is part of our cultural heritage. So we didn’t want to do a remake; we wanted to create something in the world that would create a buzz for the people who know the film. They will find themselves in the world but they will not compare it to the exact characters of the movie.”

That task was handed to co-head writers Tony Saint (The Interceptor) and Johannes W Betz (Die Cleveren), who agreed they would have been “on a hiding to nothing” had they tried to emulate Petersen’s film.

“We had several thoughts [about the story],” says Betz. “We wanted to start the show in the time when the war changes, 1941/42, before the Battle of Stalingrad, the golden time of U-boat warfare. Then things changed and we wanted to set it in that crisis. And because Das Boot is a man’s movie somewhat, we were also thinking about female characters, as there are no female characters on the boat. So we tried to create a connection between the boat and the town of La Rochelle.”

The action within the story takes place over just a few weeks. But the eight-hour runtime afforded the writers the chance to point the series in new directions that couldn’t be explored in a feature film.

“The thing we grappled with a lot and then embraced was the reality of the U-boat situation,” reveals Saint, who describes his joy at writing ‘Ext – U-boat’ for the first time. “There is absolutely no contact between a U-boat and the people it leaves behind, so when you’re first struck with that reality, trying to construct a drama, you think, ‘What do we do here?’ Then that becomes the USP. These people cannot contact each other. So the fact they have no understanding of the other side of the story means it becomes about hope and fear and all those exciting, dramatic things we like to exploit.”

On set during a torpedo-loading scene

The connection between the two storylines is the relationship between Simone, played by Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread) and her brother, who is aboard U-612. They grew up together in Alsace, a region that has historically changed hands between France and Germany over many years, leading the series to raise questions over nationality that will likely strike a chord with modern-day audiences.

The Resistance storyline also confronts the dilemma of who to trust in a world of fake news and propaganda – another contemporary theme. And as with any war drama, Das Boot also serves as a warning to the audience that global conflicts should never be repeated.

“Every good and serious war movie is a big warning to everyone that this should never happen again, particularly for a younger audience represented by our crew on board,” Ammon notes. “They were young and full of enthusiasm, they had their whole lives in front of them and went to a war that couldn’t be won. This is the big warning for young audiences and young people.”

Alongside Krieps, the international cast from Germany, France, UK and the US includes Tom Wlaschiha (Game of Thrones), Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex), Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men) and James D’Arcy (Marvel’s Agent Carter). Rick Okon (Tatort) plays Captain Hoffmann.

Arguably the biggest star, however, is the sub itself. Across a 105-day shoot, filming took place in Prague and Munich, with scenes featuring the U-boat shot in the harbour at La Rochelle and in Malta.

Game of Thrones’ Tom Wlaschiha in Das Boot

The internal U-Boat set, which was based in Prague and brought to life with hydraulics, took 15 weeks to build. The 45 metre-long set comprised a control room, radio room, torpedo room, petty officer’s bunks, diesel and electric engine rooms, galley, hydrophone room, conning tower and captain’s quarters. The U-boat itself, weighing 240 tonnes, took two months to refurbish before it could take to the water, with scenes off the Mediterranean coast of Malta doubling for the Atlantic Ocean.

Unsurprisingly, these scenes were the most challenging part of the production. At sea, a supply boat with a crane and a drone shadowed the submarine, which itself was wrapped with a frame to support the camera crew on board. “There were different structures on the sub so that we could move around with the handheld camera,” director Andreas Prochaska explains. “But it had to be precisely planned because we couldn’t change it once we were out at sea. We also had a mock-up [of the submarine] in a water tank at the studio in Malta. It was 40 metres long, with the stern, tower and gun for scenes where the submarine was being refuelled and given supplies from a support ship.”

If filming inside a U-boat was challenging, the production team found the right director in Prochaska, who has experience filming in confined spaces. His International Emmy-winning TV movie Das Wunder von Kärnten (A Day for a Miracle) spent its 90-minute running time inside an operating theatre.

To prepare for that film, Prochaska reveals, he researched a lot of submarine movies. But the director says going on to film in an actual sub was “a completely different cup of tea,” due to having 25 actors, a camera and lots of fog in a very confined space.

“I can be honest and say it brought me to my limits in every way,” he says. “It was challenging and rewarding; exhausting and adventurous. When I agreed to do it, I knew it would be long and rough and adventurous but I was willing to do it. Taking this challenge was simply one I had to do.”

Directing all eight episodes, Prochaska created a visual language for the two different storylines, with the scenes in La Rochelle drawing on Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo, Psycho) and Paul Greengrass (the Jason Bourne movies) inspiring the action aboard the U-boat. “It was very physical, almost like a documentary,” he says of scenes on the submarine. “We tried to keep it as authentic as possible. In La Rochelle, there was much more psychological tension.”

The course Das Boot has set means it could return for a second season, either as a continuation of the story from season one or as a new story set in the same ‘universe.’ The series will premiere at the end of this year in Sky territories Germany, Austria, Italy, the UK and Ireland, with Sonar selling to the rest of the world.

Ammon concludes: “There is a story that is told to the end so there won’t be any question marks or a prompt desire to keep going. But, of course, as in every Second World War story, there are different options on the table. We are discussing that but no decision has been made yet.”

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Sky Deutschland bets big on original drama

Stefan Ruzowitzky

European pay TV broadcaster Sky has been investing in original scripted content for a few years now, but the last 12 months have undoubtedly seen the company increase its ambition in German-speaking territories. This week, for example, it announced an order for eight-episode drama Eight Days.

Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky (The Counterfeiters), the limited series focuses on the reaction to the news that an asteroid is hurtling toward Earth and is predicted to crash somewhere in Europe in eight days’ time. It follows a German family as they live through what they expect will be the last eight days of humanity.

Asteroids are a well-worn theme in the movies but Frank Jastfelder, director of drama production at Sky Deutschland, said this project was different: “We were excited about Eight Days because everyone asked themselves the same question: How would I react in such a situation? In response to this question, Eight Days delivers emotional, always surprising and highly dramatic answers – and steers clear of all the Hollywood clichés.”

Eight Days will begin production midway through next year, by which time Sky Deutschland will have aired another of its big drama investments, Babylon Berlin. Directed by Tom Tykwer, Hendrik Handloegten and Achim von Borries, this US$45m show is a coproduction between Sky Deutschland, ARD Degeto, X Filme and Beta Film. It follows Gereon Rath, a police inspector in 1929 Berlin, a hotbed of politics, art, extremism and drugs.

Babylon Berlin stars Volker Bruch and Liv Lisa Frise

Two seasons (16 episodes in total) of Babylon Berlin have been set up so far, though there is potential for the franchise to run and run because it is based on a popular book series by Volker Kutscher. So far, Kutscher has written six Gereon Rath books but only the first forms the basis of the first two seasons of Babylon Berlin.

Another ambitious project in the works is Das Boot, a €25m (US$26m) coproduction between Sky Deutschland and German producer Bavaria Film adapted from Lothar-Günther Buchheim’s classic 1973 novel of the same name. Based on the wartime experiences of a German U-boat crew, this series will air in 2018 across all the Sky territories: Germany, Austria, the UK, Ireland and Italy.

Sky Deutschland’s investment in new drama is also being backed by the acquisition of international titles. Earlier in December, the company acquired all five seasons of FremantleMedia International’s hit prison drama Wentworth. The deal marks the first time Wentworth will be available to German-speaking viewers. Season one premiered on Sky Deutschland’s recently launched flagship channel Sky1 on December 7.

Trapped represented a breakthrough in terms of French backing for Nordic drama

Elsewhere in the world of European TV drama, YLE Finland and Mediapro of Spain are joining forces to make a Nordic noir drama called The Paradise. The project is the first time that a Spanish production company has collaborated with a Finnish channel.

The Paradise is a thriller set among the Finnish community living on the Costa del Sol. Their peaceful existence is interrupted by a series of crimes that can only be solved by a joint collaboration between the Finnish and Spanish police forces.

The show is being developed by YLE head of drama Jarmo Lampela and Bordertown writer Matti Laine alongside Mediapro’s Ran Tellem and David Troncoso. Although it is the first Finnish/Spanish collaboration, it is part of a much broader trend towards Nordic partnerships with other European countries. The trend was really kicked off by German broadcasters, the first to spot the international appeal of Nordic drama. The Brits then got interested, first in Wallander and more recently Marcella.

A key breakthrough came last year when France TV came on board Icelandic thriller Trapped. Further French backing for Nordic drama has been evident in the cases of Midnight Sun and Bordertown, a YLE crime series coproduced with Federation Entertainment. That show was a hit on YLE1, with a record 1.1 million viewers and a renewal. That bodes well for The Paradise.

Turkey’s Elif has now been sold into 16 territories

Also this week, The Mark Gordon Company and its parent company Entertainment One (eOne) have joined forces with Xavier Marchand’s newly established UK-based production outfit Moonriver Content.

Under the Moonriver banner, Marchand will acquire, develop and produce film and TV projects with a focus on UK and European stories and talent. The move is expected to increase the volume of UK and European projects coming to Mark Gordon and eOne for financing, coproducing and distributing.

Marchand said: “In partnership with Mark Gordon and his superb team, and with the backing of eOne, I look forward to building on existing relationships and fostering new ones in film and TV.”

On the distribution front, Eccho Rights has revealed that two new broadcasters have picked up hit Turkish drama Elif, which airs on Kanal 7 in its home market. Bangladeshi network Deepto TV and Georgian broadcaster Imedi TV take total sales for the show 16 territories including Chile, where it recently debuted on TVN. Produced by Green Yapim, the show’s third season aired in September – with a total run of 250 45-minute episodes.

A spin-off from How I Met Your Mother is likely

Also this week, SVoD service Hulu picked up the US rights to UK drama National Treasure from All3Media International. Written by Jack Thorne, National Treasure follows a popular comedian, played by Robbie Coltrane, whose life is turned upside down when he is charged with sexual assaults alleged to have taken place 20 years ago. The four-parter first aired on Channel 4 in the UK and will debut as a Hulu original series on March 1 next year.

Finally, there are exciting reports for fans of cult CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother. According to Deadline, a spin-off entitled How I Met Your Father is now in the works with This Is Us co-executive producers Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger in charge. HIMYM ran for nine seasons between 2005 and 2014 racking up 208 episodes. The final episode included a controversial twist ending that didn’t go down well with a lot of fans. But it still attracted an audience of more than 13 million.

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Williams brothers plot deceitful drama

The Williams brothers
The Williams brothers’ Liars is coming to ITV

Harry and Jack Williams burst onto the international drama scene in 2014 with The Missing, a compelling crime drama for the BBC in the UK. So successful was the show that the BBC ordered a second season of what has morphed into an anthology scripted series.

Now, the Williams brothers have been commissioned to write a series for UK commercial broadcaster ITV via their indie company Two Brothers Pictures.

The new six-part drama is called Liar and will explore the consequences of deceit. Starring Joanne Froggatt and Ioan Gruffudd, it tells the story of a teacher and a surgeon who start seeing each other, neither realising the consequences that their meeting will have for each other or their families.

Commenting on the show, ITV head of drama Polly Hill said Jack and Harry Williams “are brilliant storytellers who have written a gripping thriller that doesn’t shy away from exploring a powerful subject. I’m thrilled we’ve commissioned Liar for ITV.”

The Missing saw premium pay TV network Starz come on board as US partner, so it’s no real surprise to see that Liar has also managed to secure a US partner in the shape of AMC sister channel SundanceTV.

Das Boot is being adapted as a television series
Das Boot is being adapted as a television series

Sundance has previously come on board high-profile European dramas such as The Honourable Woman and The Last Panthers.

Joel Stillerman, president of original programming and development for AMC and SundanceTV, said: “Liar is that rare combination of a thoughtful and emotional exploration of the human condition, and a page-turner. The Williams brothers have created something relevant and compelling – attributes our audience respects and embraces.”

As for the brothers, they said: “This story deals with highly emotional and important subject matter, exploring gender politics through the lens of a character-driven emotional thriller. We couldn’t be happier with the calibre of the team working on this.”

All3Media International, which handled distribution on The Missing, did the SundanceTV deal and is handling TV sales on Liar.

Another high-profile US/European partnership to hit the headlines this week is Das Boot, a TV drama that will be a sequel to the classic 1981 movie (itself based on a 1973 novel).

Previously announced by Germany’s Bavaria Fernsehproduktion, the show has now added Sonar Entertainment as global distributor. The only territories Sonar will not manage are Germany, Austria, the UK, Ireland and Italy, since these have already been secured by pay-TV broadcaster Sky (a coproducer on the production).

The Heart Goes Last
Rights to The Heart Goes Last have been picked up by MGM Television

The eight-part, €25m (US$28m) series will be set in 1942 and will focus on Second World War submarine warfare, primarily from the point of view of the Germans.

David Ellender, president of global distribution and coproductions at Sonar, said: “This project reflects Sonar’s ongoing strategic commitment to pursue fully integrated creative and commercial collaborations with top tier global partners to develop and distribute high-end content. Das Boot is a property with broad-based appeal to networks and broadcasters worldwide and will play exceptionally well.”

Outside these two projects, it has been a busy and varied week in terms of scripted series development. US studio MGM Television, for example, has announced that it is extending its relationship with Canadian author Margaret Atwood by securing TV rights to her novel The Heart Goes Last. The book, published last year, tells the story of a young couple who have been hit by job losses and bankruptcy in the midst of a nationwide economic collapse.

MGM and Atwood have already worked together on a TV adaptation of the author’s classic novel The Handmaid’s Tale, which is set to launch on Hulu next year.

This show will also be part of MGM’s Mipcom line-up later this month, alongside new TV adaptations of classic movies Get Shorty and Three Days of the Condor. These join MGM’s ongoing movie-to-TV franchises Fargo and Vikings.

Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock’s works will be reimagined in Welcome to Hitchcock

Another interesting project to break cover this week is Welcome to Hitchcock, a new anthology series from Universal Cable Productions (UCP) that will reimagine Alfred Hitchcock classics.

The show was made possible following a deal between UCP and rights holder Alfred Hitchcock Estate. “Long after his death, Alfred Hitchcock continues to be one of the most celebrated directors and visionaries in the world, a master manipulator of the macabre,” said Dawn Olmstead, executive VP of development at UCP. “We’re honoured that The Hitchcock Estate has put its trust in our studio to pay homage to his work.”

Meanwhile, The scramble for rebootable franchises looks like it will also result in a new version of iconic TV series Dynasty. US network The CW has reportedly asked Gossip Girl creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage to breathe life back into the franchise.

The original series aired on ABC from 1981 to 1989 and was a hit for the network. There’s no guarantee the new version will catch fire, however. TNT’s recent reboot of fellow classic US glamour soap Dallas only managed three seasons before it was taken off air.

Another interesting link-up this week sees The Weinstein Company join forces with rapper Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter to produce TV and film projects. Jay-Z has already been involved in films including the 2014 Annie remake and Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, while DQ also recently reported that he is involved in an HBO project centred on the US civil rights movement.

Dynasty
Dynasty is set to be reborn on The CW

Outside the US, DQ sister publication C21 reports that South African producer Ants Multimedia is developing a Zulu drama based on a 1986 novel by the late Kenneth Bhengu. The novel tells the story of a Zulu man who is sent to woo a princess on behalf of his king, but decides to court her for himself and so faces the wrath of the ruler. Bhengu was a prolific Zulu-language writer who published 18 novels and novellas.

This week also saw New Zealand pubcaster TVNZ unveil a broad-based slate of shows for 2017. On the drama front, it highlighted Screentime NZ’s five-part drama Dear Murderer, which stars Mark Mitchinson in a saga based on colourful, larger-than-life barrister Mike Bungay. Among TVNZ’s acquisitions for next year are dramas Victoria, Cold Feet and One of Us from the UK. US imports include Time After Time and 24: Legacy.

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YouTube takes scripted Step

Channing Tatum and wife Jenna Dewan Tatum in the Step Up movie
Channing Tatum and wife Jenna Dewan Tatum in the Step Up movie

The scripted TV business received another boost this week with the news that YouTube has moved into original scripted programming for the first time.

Unveiling a slate of six shows across a range of genres, it revealed that its paid-for service YouTube Red has ordered a TV adaptation of Step Up, the popular street dance movie franchise that featured Channing Tatum.

The series, to be made by Lionsgate TV, will follow dancers in a contemporary performing arts school. Tatum and Jenna Dewan Tatum, who starred in the original movie, will executive produce.

So far, the US$10-per-month service has focused on shows starring top YouTubers such as Felix Kjellberg, aka PewDiePie. However, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has given a strong indication that scripted content will play an increasingly big part in her plans.

Unveiling the slate, which also included a scripted comedy called Rhett & Link’s Buddy System, she said original series and movies are one of the leading drivers of YouTube Red subscriptions, “with viewership that rivals similar cable shows.” Interestingly, more than half of people watching Red originals are doing so via mobile phones – suggesting there may be a future for vertical video.

The Frankenstein Chronicles stars Sean Bean (centre)
ITV Encore’s The Frankenstein Chronicles stars Sean Bean (centre)

Still in the world of streamers, SVoD behemoth Netflix announced that it is backing a true crime drama based on Margaret Atwood’s novel Alias Grace.

The novel follows Grace Marks, a poor Irish immigrant and domestic servant living in Canada who, along with stablehand James McDermott, was convicted in 1843 of murdering her employers. The six-part miniseries will be written and produced by Sarah Polley and will air on Canadian public broadcaster CBC in Canada. Netflix will stream it worldwide.

Also this week, JJ Abrams’ production company Bad Robot has linked up with US talkshow host Tavis Smiley on a miniseries about the death of music icon Michael Jackson.

The series is based on Smiley’s book Before You Judge Me: The Triumph and Tragedy of Michael Jackson’s Last Days. Abrams and Smiley are also working on a TV version of the Smiley’s 2014 book Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s Final Year.

Elsewhere, it has been a busy week for ITV’s pay TV channel ITV Encore, which has announced a series renewal and a miniseries commission. The renewal is for Rainmark Films’ well-received period drama The Frankenstein Chronicles, which stars Sean Bean and was created by Benjamin Ross and Barry Langford.

Billed as a “thrilling and terrifying reimaging of the Frankenstein story,” the first season followed detective John Marlott, a veteran of the Battle of Waterloo who was battling his own demons and is haunted by the loss of his wife and child. In pursuit of a chilling and diabolical killer, Marlott’s investigation took him into the most exalted rooms and darkest corners of Georgian London, a world of body snatchers, anatomists and scientists whose interests came together in the market for dead bodies.

The new series has been commissioned for ITV by controller of drama Victoria Fea and commissioning editor Sarah Conroy. Production is set to begin in Northern Ireland in January 2017.

Suffer the Children is being adapted into a series called Dark Heart
Suffer the Children is being adapted into a series called Dark Heart

“We are thrilled to be working once more with Sean Bean in the role of John Marlott, who is a returning hero like no other,” said executive producer Tracey Scoffield. “With the continued support of ITV and (the show’s distributor) Endemol Shine International we want to be more ambitious than ever.”

ITV also announced a new two-hour crime thriller for ITV Encore entitled Dark Heart. In this production, Tom Riley (Da Vinci’s Demon, Monroe) plays Will Wagstaffe, a workaholic detective leading the investigation into the deaths of two unconvicted paedophiles.

The two-hour drama, set in London, is written by acclaimed writer Chris Lang (Unforgotten, A Mother’s Son) and based on the novel Suffer the Children by Adam Creed.

Dark Heart is an ITV Studios production for ITV Encore. It is executive produced by Lang, Kate Bartlett (Jericho, Vera) and Michael Dawson (Vera, Holby City). The producer is Chris Clough (The Missing, Stan Lee’s Lucky Man) and the director is Colin Teague (Jekyll & Hyde, Da Vinci’s Demons).

ITV Studios’ Bartlett said: “Chris Lang has written a truly compelling and atmospheric script. Adam Creed created a fascinating character in Will Wagstaffe with so many layers, and Chris has brilliantly brought him to screen. We’re thrilled Tom Riley is playing him.”

Still on the subject of novel adaptations, there are reports this week that Endemol Shine-owned drama label Kudos has picked up the rights to Robert Harris’s best-selling Ancient Rome-based Cicero Trilogy, which comprises the novels Imperium, Lustrum and Dictator. No broadcaster is attached and Kudos is yet to decide on the format of the adaptation, but the project is likely to attract interest given the calibre of those involved.

Das Boot the movie was released in 1981
Das Boot the movie was released in 1981

In a busy week for new production announcements, pan-European satellite broadcaster Sky and Germany’s Bavaria Film announced that they are developing a €25m (US$27.5m) TV series based on the classic wartime submariner novels Das Boot and Die Festung by Lothar-Günther Buchheim. The series is being set up as a sequel to the 1981 film version of Buchmein’s novels.

Set in 1942 during the Second World War, the eight-hour series will focus mainly on the German point of view as submarine warfare became increasingly ferocious. Tony Saint (Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk to Finchley, The Interceptor) and Johannes W Betz (The Tunnel, The Spiegel Affair) have been signed up as head writers, while Oliver Vogel and Moritz Polter are attached as executive producers.

Christian Franckenstein, CEO of Bavaria Film, said: “The 1981 film Das Boot is unique, and we are approaching our work with the greatest of respect for this masterpiece. We want to build on the strong brand of Das Boot, telling the story in a contemporary manner by making use of every filmmaking and storytelling technique available to us.”

Still in Germany, UFA Fiction has just unveiled plans to make a film biopic based on the lives of magicians Siegfried and Roy, two of the few truly global celebrities Germany has ever produced.

Siegfried & Roy
Siegfried & Roy

The film, which will likely be extended into a miniseries for television, will be directed by Philipp Stölzl (Winnetou, Young Goethe in Love, North Face) and scripted by Jan Berger.

Nico Hofmann, UFA producer and co-CEO, commented: “The prospect of working with Siegfried and Roy is the fulfilment of a long-held dream. It’s not only the story of two Germans who became world famous but a plunge into the world of magic and illusion. The lifework of Siegfried and Roy derives from an almost inexhaustible store of energy and creativity. This is the story of two men who set new, never repeated standards in the tough world of show business.”

Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Uwe Horn met on a cruise ship in 1960, where they developed their first joint show, driven by their shared passion for the art of magic and illusion. They had their international breakthrough in 1966 at a charity show in Monte Carlo. From 1990, they had their own show at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas featuring white tigers, which became their trademark. The spectacular Siegfried and Roy Show was one of the most elaborate stage shows ever. On October 3, 2003, however, the artists’ unique career was brought to an abrupt halt when Roy was critically injured by his favourite tiger, Montecore.

Alongside all of the above production activity, it has also been a busy week for distributors. ITV’s Maigret has been sold by distributor BBC Worldwide to broadcasters including Channel One in Russia, NRK in Norway, TVNZ in New Zealand, RTÉ in Ireland, Finland’s YLE and Prima TV in the Czech Republic. Simultaneously, StudioCanal has sold Section Zéro to Channel One Russia.

AMC’s international network AMC Global, meanwhile, today announced that it has acquired the upcoming anthology drama series The Terror, an adaption of the bestselling novel by Dan Simmons. Scott Free, Emjag Productions and Entertainment 360 are producing the 10-episode drama, which will premiere globally within minutes of its broadcast on AMC in the US.

Is there still hope for Hannibal?
Is there still hope for Hannibal?

Written for TV by David Kajganich, the series is set in 1847, when a Royal Naval expedition crew searching for the Northwest Passage is attacked by a mysterious predator that stalks the ships and their crew in a desperate game of survival.

“We’re very excited to bring this gripping dramatic story to AMC Global,” commented Harold Gronenthal,  exec VP of programming and operations for AMC and Sundance Channel Global. “With a distinctive combination of science fiction and historical non-fiction, The Terror will complement AMC Global series as Fear the Walking Dead, Humans and Into the Badlands.”

Finally, there are reports this week that showrunner Bryan Fuller is still hoping to revive serial killer drama Hannibal. The show was cancelled by NBC after three seasons but Fuller said there might be room for a revival in late 2017 – once he has dealt with the small matter of a Star Trek reboot for CBS and Starz’ American Gods.

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