First PSA of the year, and lots to cover. The BBC kicks 2016 off with a big-budget six-part adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, co-produced with The Weinstein Company and BBC Worldwide, written by Andrew Davies, and starring Paul Dano, Jim Broadbent, Gillian Anderson, Stephen Rea, and Brian Cox, among others. Advance word has been good, but in a sense it has to be: if you have a large public service broadcaster shows like this are part of its raison d’être, so I guess no-one wants to see it fail (tonight, BBC 1, 9pm).
ITV fights back, on a more modest scale, with a thirteen-part adaptation of epic poem Beowulf. Grégory Fitoussi is in it, as it David Harewood, William Hurt, Joanne Whalley, and others (tonight, ITV 1, 7pm).
Channel 4, meantime, joins the battle with the launch of its new on-demand world TV service, Walter Presents, so named because Channel 4 want to emphasise that the selection of shows wasn’t just picked; like everything else these days, it was curated. By a curator. Using his curatorial skills. Our curator is Walter Iuzzolino, chief creative officer of Global Series Network, which has partnered with Channel 4 for this venture. For now, most of the shows will only be available – I think I’ve got this right, but will happily stand corrected – through Channel 4’s online portal, and not through on-demand TV providers such as Virgin and Sky, although Walter is working on it.
However, one or two of the Walter shows will be shown on TV, and those will thereafter be available through the normal catch-up facilities. (I think.) And the first of these is Deutschland 83, a Cold War-themed German drama, which has already been shown in the US and attracted excellent reviews. It looks as if it’s covering some of the same ground as The Americans, a show I love, so I might just be giving this a go (tonight, Channel 4, 9pm).
As for the rest of Walter Presents’s opening slate of shows: we’ll have a bit more to say (hashtag Fitoussi) about French political drama Spin later in the week, as it too is being shown on TV. In the meantime, you can see that and some others at Walter Presents, where your choices include Pure Evil (Argentinian crime thriller), Kabul Kitchen (French comedy set in Afghanistan), Ten (Swiss poker miniseries), Heartless (Danish supernatural sibling chiller), Match Day (French policier about a murder at a football game), and Cenk Batu (German drama, featuring a Turkish-German undercover agent).
Walter Presents is an exciting initiative and I hope it succeeds, even if it’s adding yet more top-quality TV to the FOMO pile.