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Salamander Shines Spotlight on Flemish Drama

As Flemish crime drama Salamander hits UK screens, Ilse Schooneknaep looks at some of the other Flemish shows sold to international markets in recent years.

Salamander hit British television screens this month, becoming the first major Flemish series to be shown by a mainstream UK broadcaster. Televised Saturday nights at 9pm on BBC Four, the 12-part thriller took the slot vacated by Danish dramas, The Killing and The Bridge, as it looked to emulate the success of Nordic Noir.

Matroesjka (Russian Dolls), part of a new wave of Flemish international hit dramas.

Matroesjka (Russian Dolls), part of a new wave of Flemish international hit dramas.

The BBC’s decision to acquire Salamander can be seen as a vote of confidence for Flanders’ efforts to develop television drama production over recent years with the establishment of Mediafonds (a television subsidy run by the Flemish Film Fund), tax shelter possibilities and the professionalism of local production companies.

Each year, 2 or 3 Flemish series score immensely high viewing figures. Salamander attracted 1.8 million viewers (almost one third of the Flemish population), partly due to its star-studded cast and prime-time Sunday evening slot. Its arrival was also highly anticipated in the local press after the production company, Skyline Entertainment, announced deals for a Canadian and US remake.

However, Salamander is not the only Flemish production to gain international acclaim in recent years. Clan, a classic ‘who-done-it’, is about to be remade in the US, the candid camera reality show Benidorm Bastards has become an internationally renowned format, and UK-based Company Pictures recently bought the rights to the comedy thriller, Crimi Clowns. Meanwhile, Vermist, De Smaak de Keyser and Matroesjka’s have been sold to several European and international broadcasters. BBC Four is not the first to discover Flemish drama.

And there are many more Flemish dramas in the pipeline looking for international success. Amongst them is In Flanders’ Fields, which follows the lives of a family trying to survive the First World War. With Europe about to mark 100 years since the start of the conflict, could Flanders’ next international hit be a historical drama?

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