Channel 4’s Walter Presents – the real Walter talks us through the 2017 batch of amazing foreign-language telly

Talking to Walter Iuzzolino about TV is a joy. The Italian-born curator of Channel 4’s foreign language TV library, Walter Presents, has an all-encompassing love for his specialist subject, and it’s contagious. Just over a year on from launching Walter Presents with Deutschland ’83, the project is going strong, and Walter is now in the middle of launching a new set of shows. Here’s his pick of the bunch for 2017.

1. Valkyrien

From: Norway
Walter says: 
It’s totally unlike anything I’ve seen before.

“In Norway it had a 60% audience share, which is unheard of. It’s so innovative – it’s the story of a surgeon whose wife is terminally ill and falls into a coma – the hospital wants to stop treating her because she’s a lost cause, so to the outside world they pretend she’s dead and stage the funeral, but in fact, he keeps her alive in a coma. And to do that, he creates a secret illegal hospital underneath an underground station called Valkyrien at the centre of Oslo. In there he experiments to try to bring her back to life, and to finance this, he cures criminals and immigrants in the underworld that have to stay off the grid.

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“It’s a fantastic thing: you’ve got this thriller – can the man save his wife? – and on the other hand he teams up with this doomsday prepper, who’s in charge of all the bunkers in the underground station beneath Oslo. It’s such a riveting thing because it doesn’t have a criminal, a victim, a policeman investigating – it’s a great thriller built around something bigger and bolder, and I think that’s all happening in Norway right now. They did Skam, they did Young and Promising – there’s an incredible creative renaissance there which is worth taking notice of.”

Launching: May

ValkyrienPress

2. Beauty and the Baker

From: Israel
Walter says: It’s a bit My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but much younger and much sexier.

“We launched season one last summer: it’s an Israeli love story. This super-hot baker without a penny to his name and an incredibly gorgeous young model who’s a multi-milliionaire come together and sparks fly. It’s a will-they-won’t-they, because everybody’s fighting against this union. How can they make it work? It’s really really good fun. Season one really was successful and it broke every record in Israel. It got over 50% of the audience share.”

Launching: Season two is coming soon.

Beauty and the BakerPress

3. Eyewitness

From: Norway
Walter says: It’s a really incredible crime thriller, but the premise is completely different from what you’ve seen before.

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“I think this is going to be really big. It’s about two teenage boys. It’s a really incredible crime thriller, but the premise is completely different from what you’ve seen before – it’s about prejudice and sexual identity and orientation. These two young boys are friends and schoolmates, and one night they hang out with each other, they talk about girls, they get drunk, and then they fumble with each other, they don’t know whether they are attracted to each other or not. And as they’re doing that, something terrible happens outside this little hut in the forest, they witness an incredibly violent shootout, and the killer sees them watching through the window.

“They manage to escape but they vow with each other never to reveal what they’ve seen, because if they reveal that, the village will know they were together. So it’s really interesting because their sexual tension comes in the way – they try to unsee what they have seen, but the murderer has seen them and he’s trying to hunt them down and kill them, because they are the only witnesses.

“It’s a thriller, and its’ about a murderer, but at the centre of that is a notion of literally teenage sexual identity and how that can shape a destiny. It’s a very bold premise and a very bold piece.”

Launching: End of March

4. Milk and Honey

From: Israel
Walter says: It’s Full Monty meets The Hangover

“It’s about a male escort agency: it’s sexy studs and hot girls in Israel. It’s fun, light-hearted and breezy.”

Launching: TBC

Milk & HoneyPress

5. Heartless

From: Denmark
Walter says: It’s an incredibly elegant vampire teen drama.

“Truckloads of young people love it but it’s so incredibly well-made and sophisticated that all the lovers of The Killing and The Bridge also watch it – it’s made by some of the creatives behind those shows. It’s about a brother and sister in a boarding school, a beautiful crumbling old palazzo in the middle of a forest in Denmark, and they have a curse whereby they’re almost like vampires. In order to survive they need to eat your soul. It’s incredibly sexual. It’s quite graphic and very full-on, and very violent, but it’s a sensation. It’s a really really great drama.”

Launching: Season one on WP now.

6. Fugitives

From: Chile
Walter says: It’s almost Grand Theft Auto in terms of its speed and violence – but it’s elegant.

“Purely because of how fast and furious and violent it is, it will absolutely become a point of reference. It’s an Emmy-nominated show from HBO. It’s about these four guys who were meant to transport a massive shipment of liquid cocaine across the border from Chile to Bolivia, but the shipment goes wrong – it blows up in flames – so they start running. They become the most wanted men in the country. They’re chased by the police and by the other criminals who’ve lost their money and it becomes a breathtaking, unstoppable thing.”

Launching: TBC

7. Spin

From: France
Walter says: It’s like a French House of Cards.

“It was shot this summer and it’s about the political elections in France so it’s going to be incredibly tight on that. It references Brexit – it’s about the political malaise in the western world, so it’s very fake news, manipulation, all that kind of stuff we’re reading.”

Launching: Late March

8. Young and Promising

From: Norway
Walter says: It’s like Girls meets The Inbetweeeners.

“This is a really interesting piece from the same Norwegian channel as Skam. I think it’s really interesting – any drama that challenges the stereotype that Scandi is just noir and murder, damaged detectives – that needs to be challenged. It’s about three girls – one wants to be a comedian, one a writer and one an actress. It’s just delightful. They try to succeed and they fail and they get drunk and have sex with their ex and they try and fail again. It’s very real, very funny, very sexy. It’s a show for 20-somethings.

Launching: Summer

9. Merciless

From: Brazil
Walter says: Everybody in it is 20-something and incredibly beautiful, and constantly naked.

“It’s a serial-killer story told from the point of view of the serial killer, so it’s quite innovative in that there’s this guy, who’s handsome, beautiful, rich, very successful, who works for the main politician in Rio, but what you don’t know behind the charming facade is that he’s a vicious, callous, calculating serial killer, and he kills women in a terrible way purely for pleasure.

“No one knows, and they’re desperately trying to find this man – and he plays this bizarre cat-and-mouse game where he deliberately asks the President to assign him to the police force to help them track down the killer. He’s in there amongst them, and they have no idea that this guy is actually the guy committing the crime. And because it’s Rio and it’s sunshine, it’s Brazilian, it feels incredibly sexy and dangerous and dark, and I think it’s going to resonate.

Launching: Summer

 

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