Already seen Spin? Click here for our spoiler-filled review of Season 1.
The success of Borgen took many of us by surprise. Who could have guessed that a drama about the Danish political system could be so popular? And yet the travails of charismatic fictional leader Birgitte Nyborg had close to a million viewers tuning in week after week, with everyone from Stephen King to Nicola Sturgeon outing themselves as fans.
That series gave us a character who was pragmatic yet idealistic, and focussed on the political and personal compromises she had to make, first as a candidate and then as a leader. What sounds like a rather dry premise was enthralling. When the final episodes screened, viewers were left satisfied but bereft.
Enter new French political drama Spin, the first two episodes of which will be screened back to back tonight (Friday) on More4.
Like Borgen, Spin examines the seats of power and the planets orbiting them, from the press and PR advisors to the police and security agencies. Opening with tense scenes of a suicide bomber targeting the French President as he visits an ailing factory, it examines the machinations behind the political apparatus when a constitutional void is exposed. Even as the President is undergoing surgery, the vultures are circling, taking meetings about how best to profit from the power vacuum he has left behind. Cynical contenders for his replacement gather round large tables debating how best to manipulate the attack for their own ends, discussing his chances of recovery in terms of who will succeed him, while hypocritically playing up for the media: “For now, let’s all look sad, the President is still alive.” And as they do so, they exploit the fear and panic of a nation that feels it has been the victim of a lethal terrorist attack. (The programme was made in France in 2012, but its Paris setting makes it seem even more relevant today.)
Into this toxic mess steps Simon Kapita (Bruno Wolkowitch), the President’s crack spin doctor and close, personal friend, who left France to pursue a successful career in New York. His temporary homecoming has a mixed reception, from both his family and his professional peers, most of whom would be happy without him coming back to complicate things.
Inevitably drawn in to the political schemings at work, Kapita is privy to some sensitive information about the attack, and his disgust at the behaviour of the politicians who are capitalising on it for their own ends leads him to consider staying in France and helping with the campaign against his arch enemy, the power-hungry Philippe Deleuvre (Philippe Magnan).
In a scene reminiscent of Michael Mann’s Heat, where Neil McAuley makes a fatal decision to turn away from his escape to take his revenge on the villain of the piece, Kapita is heading to the airport, free and clear, when he makes his choice: “I want to get him once and for all,” he admits. His decision sees old friendships tested and new alliances form as the right wing Deleuvre is pitted against Kapita’s candidate, the centrist Anne Visage (Nathalie Baye).
Add to this Kapita’s complicated inter-personal affairs (separated from his wife yet drawn back to her despite his many extra-curricular sexual activities) and his faltering relationship with the man he mentored, Ludovic Desmeuze (Grégory Fitoussi, whom regular French drama viewers will recognise as lawyer Pierre Clément from Spiral), and you have a complex and intriguing hero, even if he is essentially that most loathed of professions – a spin doctor.
And so the scene is set for a series that promises to examine diverse political agendas and generational differences between politicians and the press and the communications advisors who guide them. While Spiral gave us the gritty Paris of police stations and the less salubrious neighbourhoods, the Paris here is presented as all large airy apartments and modern glass offices; the grand interiors of the chambers of the President and the government. There are passionate, Gallic arguments about the dark art of PR, complicated affairs of the heart, and rifts both personally and politically. While being a rather more male, macho affair than its Danish counterpart, it is just thing thing to fill that Borgen-shaped hole in your life.
Spin: Season 1 is available on All 4’s Walter Presents. For more information on the other foreign-language shows available, see our Walter Presents TV preview guide.
What is Walter Presents? Click here for everything you need to know about All 4’s new VOD service.