- 02 Feb 21
If you’ve watched one Vera repeat too many, why not treat yourself to a Senegalese cocktail of X-Files and Miami Vice or a Russian take on Gossip Girl? Stuart Clark checks in with Walter Iuzzolino, the man on a mission to make your TV viewing more exciting in 2021!
Life can be so bloody unfair. Having missed the deadline for the Ben & Jerry taster gig – 50k a year plus all the Cherry Garcia you can scoff – I’m now being forced to spend an afternoon with a man who gets paid even more handsomely for watching killer foreign TV shows all day.
The lucky so-and-so in question is Walter Iuzzolino, the capo dei capi of Channel4.com’s free-to-view Walter Presents strand, which when launching five years ago promised to be “the HBO of subtitles” and has duly delivered.
A man who positively lives and breathes his work – “It’s a bit like mining for gold; you never know what you’ll unearth next,” he enthuses – Walter’s televisual net has been cast as far as Brazil, Israel, Afghanistan, Russia and Senegal, more of which anon.
Formerly a senior exec with the global Endemol group whose numerous self-produced hits include Big Brother, Peaky Blinders, Black Mirror, MasterChef and Deal Or No Deal, he’s recently presided over the roll out of new Walter Presents platforms in Russia, New Zealand, Australia, Belgium and Italy.
He wishes that neither of them had happened, but Walter’s is one of the few businesses, which has enjoyed both a Covid and Brexit bonus.
“We can’t get on a plane and go to Italy or Spain at the moment but we can watch a TV show from there; it’s a sort of vicarious travelling,” he reflects. “Also, in a post-Brexit world, there’s a sense in the UK that we really need to keep in touch with and belong to Europe.”
Walter’s biggest show by far has been the Deutschland 83/86/89 trilogy, the last part of which premieres here on February 26.
“That’s been the brand-defining show for us,” he nods. “I like to think we’ve also done a lot for Deutschland with its terrestrial Channel 4 slot and the big outdoor poster campaign, which is something that’s never been done to that extent in the UK for a non-English drama. We’ve created an amplifier for the show outside of Germany, which has led to it winning Emmy Awards and all that other stuff. When I saw the first 83 series, I remember talking to its creators, Joerg and Anna, and loving their clarity of vision, which was it being a three season piece that would leave you wanting more rather than outstaying its welcome. It’s the undercover-y sort of Stasi thing we all know and love, but which extracts the Cold War from its German borders by setting much of the second season in South Africa, and now deals quite brilliantly with the aftermath of the wall coming down. I won’t give any spoilers except to say that season three is the most spectacular yet.”
Having chain-watched all six episodes the night before talking to him, I can confirm that Walter is spot on. We’ve had our own chat with Joerg and Anna who’s also the creator of Netflix’s much-garlanded Unorthodox, which will be appearing in our February issue.
As for what else Walter Presents has up its 2021 sleeve, we’ll hand-over to the man himself who also picks a few of his personal favourites from the past twelve months, all of which await your bingeing pleasure. Take it away, Walter…
Bullets (January 29)
“Scandi fans will be excited to hear that this ten-parter is from the same team as The Killing and Borgen, both of which were Danish produced and really started the whole thing off. From there it expanded into Sweden with The Bridge and into Norway with shows like Valkyrian and Mammon, which had their own unique feel. Next with Trapped and Case was Iceland. Now, with Bullets and All The Sins (January 24), the spotlight is on Finland. Bullets is about an intelligence officer going undercover to befriend an asylum seeker and All The Sins immerses itself in a religious community rocked to its core by two brutal murders.”
Ride Upon The Storm (available now)
“As I said to its star, Lars Mikkelsen, it’s the show that reinvented Danish drama. It dispenses completely with the whodunit logic and goes on an almost psychedelic trip into the meaning of faith, morality and family. Who would have thought that the unraveling of a church pastor could be as riveting as The Killing?”
Deliver Us (February 5)
“Another dark morality tale that asks ‘how far would you go?’ in seeking retribution. When a boy living in a small Danish town dies in an accident, the locals take justice into their own hands by killing the person responsible. The subtext being, ‘When you play God it’s easy to end up as the Devil.’ It’s such a great premise.”
Sakho And Mangane (available now)
“A Senegalese cocktail of X-Files and Miami Vice, which I’d have bought on the strength of the title sequence alone! Set in Dakar, we get to meet the most dysfunctional lone wolf cop south of the Sahara. It’s warm and witty and a bit dark. The dynamic between the two leads is sensational and their boss is brilliant. Quality-wise it’s as impeccable as anything you’ll find on HBO but has a real local original flavour.”
Raven (April 30)
“We’re also going big this year on Poland where the drama is elegant and cinematic yet has an emotional roughness to it that you don’t find anywhere else in Europe. This one is about a damaged cop and his sidekick investigating a scandal in an orphanage. Gradually you realise that the sidekick is actually the ghost of his childhood friend who was shockingly killed. It’s a masterpiece of writing and directing. We’ve another Polish series I can’t name yet that could easily be a Scorsese film.”
Gold Diggers (July 16)
“A sort of Russian Gossip Girl but better! There are elements too of Sex In The City and Dynasty. You could also describe it as a dystopian Cinderella with a country girl attracted to Moscow by the thought of oligarch bling. She becomes totally corrupt and immersed in this world of murder, money, sex and Joan Collins shoulder pads.”
Amsterdam Vice (March 19)
“Holland is great at those Endemol-y game shows but has only in the past couple of years started competing in the scripted drama department. The first to put its head above the parapet, which we have four seasons of, is a sort of female lead character Sopranos, Black Widow. Another that Ricky Gervais did a mini-podcast on – and which we have a new season of in June – is Blood Pact. He’s also going to love Amsterdam Vice, which is an interesting blend of comedy and seriousness set in the 1980s. It’s dark and violent but also very sexy.”
The Hunter (April 16)
“If you’re into brutal yet beautifully shot drama like Gomorrah, you’ll love this high-octane piece about a Mafia hunter based on a real late ‘80s/early ‘90s story. Before that we have Rocco Schiavone: Ice Cold Murders (April 23), which is a comfort-piece akin to Inspector Montelbano but edgier.”
Sect (available now)
“A very dark Russian piece about the deprogramming of a cult member who is deeply resistant to change. Another I’d thoroughly recommend, especially if you’re fan of films like Gorky Park, is Moscow Noir.”