Big-budget TV drama seen making a comeback

5th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Lavish, high-end television dramas with star-studded casts are making a big comeback this year, many of them international co-productions which underline the global character of the genre, television industry experts say.

"We're seeing more very large TV drama productions with casts of well-known international stars," said Laurine Garaude, director of the television division at Reed Midem, which organizes the annual MIPTV audiovisual entertainment show trade show taking place in Cannes this week.

"This is a trend that is growing and people are really trying to create global stories that work everywhere in the world," Garaude told AFP.

Many of the new productions draw from history -- telling well-known stories that have fascinated people over the ages or casting a light on obscure or forgotten events that occurred not long ago.

The return of the big historical period drama was heralded by the success of the British fantasy drama "Merlin" and a remake of the Edwardian period saga "Upstairs Downstairs".

Both shows have been picked up around the world, with "Merlin" still casting its spell on audiences as production of series four gets underway for broadcast this autumn.

The big selection of dramas on offer in Cannes this year is attracting a lot of interest on the busy MIPTV market floor, where the real business of buying and selling TV programs is done during the four-day show.

Britain's ITV Studios is pitching a high-end version of the Titanic story in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the April 15, 1912 sinking of the mythical ocean liner.

A clutch of mini-series being premiered in Cannes this week is also generating a lot of excitement.

"Borgia", for instance, is a big-budget co-production between France's Canal+ and Germany's EOS Entertainment that chronicles the turbulent and violent reign of the Borgia family during the Italian Renaissance.

Starring John Doman of "The Wire", the costume drama cost 35 million dollars (25 million euros) to produce, making it the largest television series ever financed out of Europe.

The cast of an opulent 10-episode telling of "Camelot" meanwhile turned up in Cannes for the premiere of the Irish-Canadian co-production presented by GK-tv.

Joseph Fiennes of "Shakespeare in Love" fame, plays Merlin in this new take on the classic tale of King Arthur and his court.

Eva Green, a Bond girl in "Casino Royale" who plays Morgan le Fay in the series, also attended the premiere along with up-and-coming actor Jamie Campbell Bower who takes the role of the young, impetuous King Arthur.

"The Sinking of the Laconia" is an epic story about the September 1942 loss of an ocean liner on its way back to Britain from Egypt carrying British soldiers, Italian prisoners of war and a number of civilians.

The ship was torpedeod by a German U-boat, whose commander then instructed his crew to save as many lives as possible, then messaged the Allies to organize a rescue mission -- only for a US bomber to attack the submarine.

"Laconia" was five years in the making, FreemantleMedia executive Emmanuelle Namiech told AFP, highlighting the complexity of the co-production process.

"It's all about finding breakthrough pieces that are a combination of the best writing talent and marrying that with well known actors," Namiech noted.

Other new dramas series due to debut on screens shortly include "The Crimson Petal and the White" that is based on Michel Faber's international bestseller and "Exile" from award-winning writer and producer Paul Abbott.

© 2011 AFP

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