German TV series are finally taking off. Both historical drama and contemporary drama are red hot right now. Since GERMANY 83, a great Cold War spy drama based on the Able Archer NATO maneuver, all major streaming services have announced their own German productions: THE SAME SKY is an East German spy drama set in the 1970s. BABYLON BERLIN shows us the Roaring Twenties in a bipolar Berlin, torn between lavish parties and gruesome street violence. 4 BLOCKS is a gritty depiction of the present-day Neukölln mob. There is more: YOU ARE WANTED, DARK, CHARITÉ, EIGHT DAYS. Exciting times.
It would be unfair, however, to see these experiments as mere copies of American archetypes. As Carolin Ströbele states in this article for ZEIT ONLINE, 2017 could be a breakout year for German television. There is a tremendous hunger for good homegrown drama, but audiences in Germany have rejected ambitious series in the past - even by successful director-producers like Nico Hofmann. The talent is there, and many fantastic local and/or historical stories tend themselves to serial storytelling. Why not try to deal with European politicking in the Brussels engine room? Or deconstruct the development and human rights industry in exotic and faraway places? Why not make a cynical series on German arms exports, say, to South America? Or a series on German colonialism? The possibilities are endless.
The production value of German drama has steadily increased over the past few years, scripts have gotten much better and young actors such as Tom Schilling, Anna-Maria Lara or Matthias Schweighöfer are all the rage right now - now let's hope the TV nation at home and abroad will move away from the comfort, the mediocrity and cliché of the TATORT, and venture onto more treacherous, more exciting ground.