MHz Choice, the SVoD service for Euro TV in the US, is premiering loads of new titles and new episodes and seasons of viewer-favorite foreign-language series this year.
UPDATE: For the premiere dates of some of the shows listed below, read “MHz Choice: Nestor Burma, The Prey, New Nicolas Le Floch Among Winter/Spring 2016 Premieres.”
Blood of the Vine (Le sang de la vigne)
Based on stories in “The Winemaker Detective Series” of novels by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balan, the hit French mystery series Blood of the Vine returns for its fourth season with Pierre Arditi starring as professional enologist and amateur sleuth Benjamin Lebel. Vineyards in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Narbonne, and Cahors serve as the locations for family and wine-related dramas and, of course, murders. Claire Nebout reprises her role as Benjamin’s lady love France Pelletier, as do Yoann Denaive and Catherine Demaiffe as his assistants Silvère Dugain and Mathilde Delaunay, respectively.
Detective Montalbano (Il commissario Montalbano)
Euro TV fans’ favorite Sicilian cop returns to telly, as Luca Zingaretti reprises his role as Salvo Montalbano for two new episodes of Detective Montalbano. “The Pyramid of Mud” (“La piramide di fango“) is adapted from Andrea Camilleri‘s novel of the same name, and “A Delicate Matter” (“Una faccenda delicata“) is based on a short story in the collection A Month with Montalbano. Both costar Cesare Bocci and Peppino Mazzotta as Montalbano’s sidekicks Mimì Augello and Giuseppe Fazio, respectively, and fingers are crossed that Angelo Russo returns as Catarella. As for Salvo’s longtime girlfriend Livia, she is now played by Italian actress Sonia Bergamasco (The Family).
A French Village (Un village français)
Seasons 1 and 2 of this critically-acclaimed, award-winning period drama made my list of favorite Euro TV shows of 2015. MHz Choice began premiering the Season 3 episodes right before Christmas, and will debut the rest of them on the 12th, 19th, and 26th of January. The third season continues the stories of the Larcher, Schwartz, and other families, as well as others of the residents, and French and German authorities and military personnel, as they live side by side during the German occupation of (the fictional) French village of Villeneuve. Stay tuned for news about the remaining seasons, including the final one, due to premiere in France this year.
The Godless (Van god los)
Right, then. The first season of this anthology series of true-crime stories from the Netherlands freaked me out, as each of the nine tales inspired by actual police cases is disturbing in one way of another (some more upsetting than others). Season 2, which includes ten episodes shown in Dutch with English subtitles, features an array of young characters based on real people, from a drug addict and a drug dealer, to an ineffectual son and a former boxer, each of whom plays a role in the murder of someone they know.
Oh là là. When we last saw restaurateur Jacky Robert (Gilbert Melki) in the Season 1 finale, one of his trusted employees had just stolen his stash of cash and the Taliban had kidnapped him, no thanks to his big mouth and bad attitude. What happens in Season 2 of this award-winning French comedy? Well, let’s see. The CIA get involved in the reopening and running of Kaboul Kitchen, Colonel Amanullah’s (Simon Abkarian) daughter pulls a Sophie (Stéphanie Pasterkamp) and shows up in Kaboul, strippers are the newest, um, offerings at Jacky’s establishment, and he becomes a spy. Get ready for more hilarity.
Nicolas Le Floch
Pardon me if I swoon, but hey, I’m allowed, because Jérôme Robart will soon be back as the eponymous swashbuckling nobleman and police commissioner in the final season of Nicolas Le Floch. These last two episodes — “The English Corpse” (“Le cadavre anglais“) and “The Grand Canal Drowning” (Le noyé du Grand Canal) — nearly didn’t happen, but fans of the show, in true French fashion, revolted against the series’ cancellation, and voilà. Also returning to close out the series are Mathias Mlekuz as Le Floch’s right-hand man, Inspector Pierre Bourdeau, and François Caron as his powdered-wig-wearing boss, Antoine de Sartine.
The Young Montalbano (Il giovane Montalbano)
It’s a double case of “Yippee!” as Michele Riondino reprises his role as Salvo Montalbano in his early days as Vigata’s police chief, for the second season of this prequel to the hit series. In the six new episodes, Montalbano has settled in to leading his team of Augello (Alessio Vassallo), Catarella (Fabrizio Pizzuto), Gallo (Maurilio Leto), Paternó (Alessio Piazza), and the father and son Fazios, Carmine (Andrea Tidona) and Giuseppe (Beniamino Marcone). And in case you were wondering, Salvo and Livia (Sarah Felberbaum) have more drama in their relationship, too.
Anti-Drug Squad (Caccia al re – La narcotici)
This Italian crime drama centers on the work of a police narcotics squad, led by Daniele Piazza (Gedeon Burkhard, Inspector Rex). One of the major tasks of his team — which includes officers Daria Lucente (Raffaella Rea, Detective De Luca), Mila Cerin (Alina Nedelea, The Family Friend), Salvo “Conte” Sciarpa (Sergio Friscia, Corleone), Anselmo Rocca (Denis Fasolo, Don Matteo), and Paolo Corsi (Valentino Campitelli, Don’t Be Bad) — is to stop the sale of drugs to kids and take down the street dealers and their boss, Ivano Consanti (Stefano Dionisi, Inspector Nardone), aka the “Eighth King of Rome.”
Empire of Seduction (De ontmaskering van de Vastgoedfraude)
Inspired by the book De Vastgoedfraude, this legal thriller is a fictionalized telling of the infamous “Ivy Case” in the Netherlands. The four-parter follows Ger van Woerkom (Ian Bok, Bellicher Cel) and his uncle Theo Frijn (Jeroen Willems, Bellicher) — based on the real-life persons of Jan van Vlijmen and Nico Vijsma — who perpetrate a massive real estate fraud to pocket hundreds of millions in euros. The man who ultimately brings Ger and Theo to justice is Prosecutor Herman Muller (Ali Ben Horsting, The Godless, Baantjer Mysteries), who leads a series of stunning raids on a single November morning.
Mikael Persbrant (Beck, Medicine Man, Jadotville) stars as Swedish Security Service agent Carl Hamilton in the first two action-packed films of a crime thriller trilogy based on the “Coq Rouge” novels by Jan Guillou. Both are now streaming at MHz Choice. (The third film, Agent Hamilton: In Her Majesty’s Service, is slated for release in Sweden this year.)
In Agent Hamilton: In the Interest of the Nation (Hamilton: I nationens intresse), Hamilton goes undercover as a Russian to infiltrate a group of smugglers who are set to sell Swedish missiles to terrorists, until they are attacked by masked gunmen. Following his escape, Hamilton causes a tragedy and is sent to rescue a Swedish scientist being held hostage.
And in Agent Hamilton: But Not If It Concerns Your Daughter (Hamilton: Men inte om det gäller din dotter), the head of the Swedish Security Service, also the mother of Hamilton’s goddaughter Nathalie, dodges an assassination attempt by terrorists, who then kidnap the young girl. The plot thickens after Hamilton discovers who was behind the hit and where the abductee is being held, but gets no help from either the Swedish or British security services to retrieve her.
(FYI, before Persbrant took on the role of Hamilton, his Beck costar, Peter Haber, played the character in Enemy’s Enemy, as did Stefan Sauk in Vendetta, and Peter Stormare in Hamilton, all of which are currently streaming on MHz Choice.)
The Heavy Water War (aka The Saboteurs, Kampen om tungtvannet)
Another of my favorite new Euro TV series in 2015, this award-winning historical drama from Norway (which screened in the UK under the title The Saboteurs) tells the true story of how young Norwegian soldiers sabotaged the single heavy water manufacturing plant in Europe to prevent the Nazis from developing nuclear weapons during World War II.
The series stars Espen Klouman Høiner (Mammon) as Leif Tronstad, the Norwegian scientist who helped pioneer research into heavy water and became an intelligence officer for the British military; Christoph Bach (Tatort) as Werner Heisenberg, the German theoretical physicist and Nobel Prize winner whom the Nazis compelled to develop nuclear weapons for their war effort; Pip Torrens (Versailles) as Colonel John Skinner Wilson, who led Britain’s Special Operations Executive’s Scandinavian branch; and Anna Friel (Marcella) as (the fictional) British intelligence officer Julie Smith.
The Little Murders of Agatha Christie (Les petits meurtres d’Agatha Christie)
Seven episodes of this series, stylized and sexified adaptations of mystery titles penned by Agatha Christie, have been streaming for a few years in the US, but MHz Choice has acquired the lot. Episodes feature one or the other of two sets of lead characters: Commissioner Larosière (Antoine Duléry, La boule noire) and his sidekick Inspector Émile Lampion (Marius Colucci, Interventions), or Commissioner Swan Laurence (Samuel Labarthe, The Conquest) and journalist Alice Avril (Blandine Bellavoir, Maison Close).
Mary Higgins Clark Mysteries
Similar to The Little Murders of Agatha Christie and the Georges Simenon Mysteries, Europacorp and public broadcaster France Télévision have (loosely) adapted three titles by prolific American author Mary Higgins Clark into made-for-TV movies.
The novel Two Little Girls in Blue is the source material for Deux petites filles en bleu, which centers on the kidnapping of six-month-old twins. It stars Christine Citti (Blood of the Vine) as Stéphanie, the detective in charge of the case; Marie Guillard (The Passenger, see below) as Julie Malherbe, the children’s mother; and Lizzie Brocheré (Braquo) as Séverine, one of the abductors who looks after the abductees.
The author consented to all of the changes made to Where Are You Now?, including its ending, for Où es-tu maintenant? (so don’t say I didn’t warn you, if you’ve read the book). The movie revolves around Mathieu Delmas (Hugo Becker, Gossip Girl), who disappeared without a trace a decade ago, yet calls his mum Olivia (Ludmila Mikaël, Braquo) every year on her birthday, but without saying a word before quickly hanging up. Olivia has been in anguish waiting for his return, then suffers a stroke after believing she saw Mathieu. This prompts her daughter Caroline (Louise Monot, Girl on a Bicycle) to search for her brother and put an end to the family ordeal. Here’s the rub: Mathieu is suspected of murdering two young women who went missing during those ten years.
And Toi que j’aimais tant (literal translation: You Whom I Loved So Much) is based on Daddy’s Little Girl, only the telefilm’s main characters are Raphael (Pierre Perrier, The Returned), released after serving 15 years in prison for the murder of his girlfriend Pauline, and the victim’s sister Lisa (Marie Denarnaud, Malaterra). She wants Raphael, who’s still proclaiming his innocence, back behind bars, but the inquiry into the review of his trial leads her to question his guilt, particularly since neighbor Manu (Cyril Guei, Détectives) had always been in love with Pauline.
The Passenger (Le passager)
Adapted from the novel Le Passager by Jean-Christophe Grangé (whose Blood-Red Rivers is being adapted for a TV series), The Passenger follows psychiatrist Mathias Freire (Jean-Hugues Anglade, Braquo) and Police Captain Anaïs Chatelet (Raphaëlle Agogué, Le Chef), as they try to find a serial killer who is inspired by Greek mythology and recreates macabre paintings that evoke the Minotaur, Icarus, Oedipus, Prometheus. After an amnesiac is found unconscious at the scene of the first crime and becomes Mathias’ patient, the doctor tries to help the man recover his memories and ends up identifying with him, as well.
The Undertaker (Der Bestatter)
This Swiss German-language crime drama from Switzerland stars Mike Müller (Tell) as Luc Conrad, a former cop turned undertaker whose work with corpses brings out the investigator in him when he suspects death wasn’t due to natural causes. As he comforts bereaved family members, he also gets them to reveal things, such as the skeletons in their closets, that they wouldn’t to the police, which causes headaches and then some for Inspector Anna-Maria Giovanoli (Barbara Terpoorten-Maurer, Vicious Winter).
The Weissensee Saga (Germany)
Weissensee is a bit like Romeo and Juliet meets Deutschland 83 meets The Legacy. Set behind the Berlin Wall against the backdrop of changing times, this award-winning German family saga follows the story of the forbidden love between young police officer Martin Kupfer (Florian Lukas, Crime Scene Cleaner) and the rebellious Julia Hausmann (Hannah Hersprung, The Reader). His family, including father Hans (Uwe Kockisch, Donna Leon’s Commisario Brunetti), who works for the Ministry of State Security, is loyal to the Party, while her family, including singer mum Dunja (Katrin Saß, Bukow and König), are dissidents. And in the divided city of Weissensee, home of the notorious Hohenschönhausen prison run by the Stasi secret police, the young lovers struggle against social, political, and familial prejudices as conflicting loyalties, love, hope, faith, and betrayal swirl in their midst.
Stay tuned for updates about when these series will premiere on MHz Choice.
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