Flemish crime drama Salamander was a hit in its native Belgium. But the initial audience reaction following its UK debut this month has been more mixed, according to Huw D Jones.
Following the phenomenal success of Scandi crime dramas The Killing and The Bridge, BBC Four (UK) this month unveiled its latest foreign language import, Salamander.
Set in Brussels, the 12-part thriller follows Paul Gerardi (Filip Peeters), a police inspector whose investigation into a bank robbery uncovers a complex conspiracy. Soon, Gerardi finds himself pursued both by criminals and the authorities and must learn the truth about the sinister organisation Salamander.
Salamander thrilled audiences when it was released in its native Belgium in December 2012, reaching over a 56% market share. However, initial UK reaction has been more mixed. Over 1m viewers (4.8% audience share) caught the first two episodes, broadcast 9pm and 9.45pm on Saturday 8 February, beating Channel 4’s US drama Hostages and putting the series on a par with the first episodes of The Killing and political drama, Borgen.
But critics seemed unimpressed. The Independent’s Ellen E Jones called the opening episode “dull and clichéd”. The Telegraph’s Ben Lawarence thought the drama started promisingly before becoming a “standard [police] procedural” once inspector Gerardi entered the plot. He suggested UK audiences may be tiring with the “low lighting [and] no-nonsense direction” of European TV drama. There were complaints on Twitter from some viewers about the absence of strong female characters, in comparison to The Killing and The Bridge.
British audiences still seem hungry for foreign language crime dramas, but only if these continue to push boundaries.