Happy birthday, Walter Presents! The top 10 TV shows from its first year
Ivan Radford | On 03, Jan 2017Reading time: 8 mins
Today marks the first birthday of Walter Presents. All 4’s online channel, dedicated to finding foreign-language TV shows from around the world first opened its doors to the UK on 3rd January 2016.
The timing was perfect. Channel 4 has increasingly established itself as a destination for decent world drama, with a regular Friday night slot on More4 broadcasting shows such as The Saboteurs and Witnesses – and let’s not forget them bringing French hit The Returned to British screens. Indeed, thanks to the advent of online streming, foreign TV has rarely been so popular among British viewers.
“At first, I thought it was going to be a super local show and it wasn’t going to be interesting to anyone outside of Sweden!” writer Alex Haridi told us of his Swedish political thriller, Blue Eyes. “And then I get to Germany and I get to Paris and now London, and all around, everyone is relating to it.”
“As a creator, it’s amazing if shows from Scandinavia manage to reach out and build a following across the world. Maybe there’s an opportunity to do more niche shows. Like maybe there are only 2,000 people in Sweden who are interested in this, but it doesn’t matter, because there are 4,000 in Britain and 5,000 in France,” he added.
There’s undoubtedly a debt owed to Nordic Noir. Ever since Sarah Lund’s jumpers helped The Killing become a hit, we’ve had a growing appetite for telly with a dark, bleak or different perspective on the world. At a time when the UK is looking to shut borders and leave the European Union, it’s ironic that in TV land, we’ve been opening our eyes to the quality of culture available on the continent.
And therein lies the biggest achievement of Walter Presents: while Scandi shows are undeniably brilliant, head curator Walter Iuzzolino (the Chief Creative Officer of GSlobal Series Network, to be exact) has cast his eyes much, much wider, scouting out programmes from countries as wide-ranging as Brazil, the Czech Republic, Argentina, Switzerland, Belgium, Mexico, Poland and Chile. Last year, over 60 hours of Dutch drama and over 50 hours of German drama were on the cards. No wonder we were excited.
Its launch brought seven box sets with it: 10 (Switzerland), Pure Evil (Argentina), Match Day (France), Cenk Batu (Germany), Heartless (Denmark), Kabul Kitchen (France) and The Lens (Czech Republic). Within a month, that had jumped to 11 shows and it had racked up 1.1 million streams, led by the hugely popular Deutschland 83.
That pace put the site on track for 13.2 million views by the end of 2016, but by the time it reached October, Walter Presents had already clocked up 15 million views. Now, at just one year old, it’s on 17.5 million views, almost 1.5 million a month.
The result is perhaps the best thing to happen in the world of TV last year: a collection of shows that, without Walter, we would simply never have seen. Mafiosa, one of the site’s best, was a huge success in its home country of France, but that was 10 years ago – why had nobody ever thought to bring it across the English Channel sooner? We all know about US TV and the impressive quality of Netflix, Amazon and HBO productions. But who knew that Israel could produce a romantic comedy as charming (and funny) as Beauty and the Baker? That Switzerland had a cracking poker thriller up its sleeve? Or that Denmark was rivalling Twilight with its vampire series, Heartless?
Even more exciting is that this is just the start, with a whole heap of more shows (including a lot more Norwegian hits) on the way – and the others all still available to stream too. So while you check our guide to what’s coming soon in 2017, here’s a look back at our top 10 Walter Presents shows from 2016:
Walter Presents: Our 2016 Top 10
1. Beauty and the Baker
“The Hebrew-language series is a romantic comedy about a young baker from a Tel Aviv suburb, who falls for a famous model. He’s up to his armpits in pitta. She’s heading to Hollywood. It’s like Notting Hill with naan bread (sort of). This love story is bewitching, appetising stuff. You’ll be eight episodes in before you know it, but as Phil Collins says, you can’t hurry love. And this delectable rom-com deserves to be savoured, every last morsel.”
“Gangster dramas are nothing new on our screens, of course, even from the perspective of the bad guys – The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and their ilk are now a familiar presence in modern TV. Mafiosa, however, has one thing in its advantage: its antihero is a woman. This gripping French series took 10 years to land on UK screens – it’s more than worth the wait.”
3. Deutchsland 83
“The first German drama to hit UK screens in many a year, critical acclaim abounded, with the consolidated figures for the first episode hitting 2.5 million. It turned out to be just up the British public’s alley, a heady mixture of nostalgia for a bygone era and modern production values gave us much to smile wryly about, as our hero Martin Rauch navigates a world where the walkman is a technological miracle and floppy discs are futuristic.
4. Blue Eyes
“Although it was made in 2014, Blue Eyes, the latest Nordic noir to hit our screens, seems more prescient with each passing day. Dealing with a world of extremist violence and the divisions in society such violence can breed, the 10-part series mixes the world of domestic terrorism with contemporary politics, adds the mysterious disappearance of a government worker, and will appeal to fans of Borgen and the Killing alike.”
5. The Out-Laws
“‘Oh, I could kill him!’ It’s one of the easiest things to say in the heat of the moment, but while murders happen all the time in TV-land, The Out-Laws (Walter Presents’ new Belgian series on More4) shows us just how hard homicide really is. Sounds dark? You’ve not heard the half of it. Created by Malin-Sarah Gozin, the 2012 comedy (formerly titled Clan in its original country) is a wonderfully wicked affair, as we meet the Goethals sisters in the small town of Vredegem. The five of them are close, but there’s one thing threatening to push them apart: Jean-Claude Delcorps, the husband of Goedele. The problem? He’s so despicably horrible that the other four decide that the only thing to do is murder him.”
“Dicte, Crime Reporter features a newly-divorced heroine harbouring her own secrets, who has a habit of getting very involved in the grisly and dark investigations she reports on. So far, so Nordic noir. Yet this series bucks the expectations of die-hard fans of The Killing, The Bridge, et al., by being an altogether lighter and frothier affair. It has, in fact, more in common with Murder, She Wrote than any of its other, more obvious, bedfellows.”
7. Tony’s Revenge
“We’re all familiar with the revenge thriller. A staple of crime drama since the dawn of the genre, it generally involves our hero, or anti-hero, settling old scores in one bloody, violent last hurrah. Yet despite its title, Tony’s Revenge is less concerned with retribution than it is with portraying one man’s rise and fall, his losses and regrets, the people he loved and allowed to slip away. It becomes the deeply affecting story of “Mad Tony” Roucas, a requiem that charts both his life and the bygone era in which he grew to infamy.”
8. Kabul Kitchen
“Say “Afghanistan” to most people and they won’t immediately think of the word “comedy”, but Kabul Kitchen isn’t like most TV shows. That immediately becomes apparent from its setting: a bar in the Afghan capital, which has become the go-to place for expats. Within minutes, we’ve seen people drinking, girls dancing – and a large, naked man jump into a pool. If that’s not the kind of thing you’d expect to see on your TV screen, that’s exactly what makes Kabul such a fun watch.”
“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… 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.”
10. Magnifica 70
“Channel 4’s Walter Presents just might be the best thing to happen to UK TV screens since Netflix. For proof, look no further than Magnifica 70, a Brazilian TV series about sex, lies and video tapes. It’s the kind of thing that would never turn up in the weeknight ITV schedules, but here it is: the tale of a film censor, Vicente (Marcos Winter), who finds himself besotted with a porn star. It’s a reminder of just how broad the on-demand site’s horizons have become – and a seductive piece of TV in its own right.”
What’s your favourite TV show on Walter Presents? Let us know below!