American TV series, with their episodic narrative structure, are a huge hit in Germany. German public broadcaster ZDF is now launching “Blochin”, a series that’s supposed to rival its big role models. It was premiered at the Berlinale.
House of Cards, Homeland, True Detective, – you name it: American series with their horizontal narrative structure have captured the market in Germany, and ever since Breaking Bad, if not before, binge watching has become a widespread mainstream leisure time activity. German television networks are now bent on producing series of their own to rival their big role models. Public broadcaster ZDF (Second German Television) is now fielding director Matthias Glasner (Der freie Wille) with Blochin – The Living and the Dead, a police series premiering at the Berlinale.
Venal cops, easy women, private tragedy
Inspector Blochin is in a foul mood, a very foul mood. The highly explosive homicide case he’s been working on has just been snatched away from him by the Federal Criminal Police, an old friend is out to blackmail him, and his wife, stricken with multiple sclerosis, is getting worse and worse. Jürgen Vogel gives a forceful performance as the eponymous cop in Blochin, but after the first half hour you can’t help feeling the series does not live up to hopes that it might get German viewers so hooked they’d be dying to watch the next episode. The hackneyed ingredients Matthias Glasner is working with here are all too familiar: venal cops, easy women, a gloomy-looking inspector haunted by his own past, and a private tragedy at home. It’s all old hat, we’ve seen all this – or variations on the same – too many times before.
Whole first season available online even before TV broadcast
But little by little, the relationships between the characters are fleshed out, Blochin actually does draw you in, and suddenly it seems the art of spellbinding the audience with complex strands of intertwining plots and subplots that go on for several episodes exists in Germany, too. Allowing for the shift in audience preference towards streaming, ZDF is making the whole first season available online even before broadcasting it on television – a small-scale revolution for German TV.