As the creator of such shows as The Bridge and Midnight Sun, Måns Mårlind has a pretty good lens on what makes a captivating, top-notch TV series. With his new thrilling series Shadowplay set to hit our screens on 4 March, Mårlind shares his personal formula for judging TV series and his top selections from the SBS On Demand platform.
Truth, Punk and the Shadow of Bamboo on Bamboo
"When I was asked to prepare this list, I was given 120 shows to choose from. I’d seen most of them but some I hadn’t seen so I watched them. Today there are so many TV shows produced that I think you must look further than just high concepts and great characters to single out the most interesting ones. I thought I’d share with you the parameters I use when I judge a show.
Truth. Does the show feel real? Do you cry when the characters bleed? Do you cry when they rejoice? Can you hear a voice or see a signature or is the show just a product of clever and faceless cynicism?
Punk. Does the show challenge? Does it try to break new ground, does it cut the edges? Does it dare to take you onto unknown paths?
Are there shadows of bamboo on bamboo in there? Are there hints of that unexplainable quality that in itself is undefinable, but that we know in our hearts when we see it. I think I’m trying to describe something that can’t be described, and I think that’s art in a way – I think art is something that by itself, it’s indescribable. To go a bit further, I don’t think that word should even exist because art is something indescribable so I think that when something is just so soft you can hardly put a name or a word to it, then it becomes mysterious but you know that it’s good if you feel it. That’s why I call it shadow of bamboo on bamboo, it’s something that’s very subtle and sensitive, sensual.
These seven shows deliver the above. I strongly recommend them all and wish you an intense experience."
I think Gomorrah is one of the best shows ever made. I eat up everything on screen so I can love hard core violent B movies but I can love arthouse as well. When it comes to gritty realism, I think that Gomorrah is the best. You feel like you’re in the south of Italy – and it’s not about The Godfather or any of that made up crap, it’s like this is real mafia, it’s the real thing, and therefore I think that Gomorrah is unsurpassed in TV.
Seasons 1–4 of Gomorrah are streaming now at SBS on Demand.
Just look at the first five minutes of this show, and you’re hooked. I think that every story in filmmaking, TV making, whatever, it’s the same, it’s all about transferring you to another place and making you believe that you are there. Through the storytelling and the relentlessness of the editing in Our Boys, it’s very uncompromising in a way that really brings me to that specific place and I believe every single scene. Both Our Boys and Gomorrah have that truth thing going from my formula.
Our Boys is streaming now at SBS On Demand.
It’s the same thing here – truth. This murder was a big, big thing in Sweden because this is a true crime story and it happened only four or so years ago. The family is still alive and the killer is in prison but he tried to escape – he was on the loose for a couple of hours but they caught him.
What makes this one of the most interesting cop stories ever told is because they never show the victim, they never show the perpetrator in the entire series and that is so tasteful and so ballsy. When I heard that they were doing it, I said ‘come on, that’s just not right, she’s not even cold yet’. But then the way they handled it was so tasteful and in the long extension of that, just intriguing. It’s like I want to kill them because I’m so jealous of how smart that was and how beautifully well done it was. And also, a big, big hats off to the guy who plays the lead (Soren Malling) – I have worked with all the Swedish actors in the series before because Sweden is such a small place, you know, but he is so perfect. He’s more Swedish than Danish in his way. He’s just fantastic.
The Investigation is streaming now at SBS On Demand.
This made me feel the same thing as Our Boys – it took me to another place and style. I mean I’m European, of course I’ve been to Belgium, of course I’ve been there, but I was really curious about the characters and also the way it was told, it was very fast and intriguing.
The Twelve is streaming now at SBS On Demand.
This is very punky, very fun. If you were to read the script, I think it might have failed a bit in [conveying what the show would be like]. It was like ‘oh we are going to be very sexy and we are going to talk about this and that’ but the way it is shot and the way it is made, I felt again that I really believed the characters. I really believed that I was taken to a part of London that I’d never been to and I felt, compared to the other ones, a lot of punk in this one which I think is really, really nice and fun.
Trigonometry is streaming now at SBS On Demand.
We Are Who We Are
Same thing here, I think there’s a lot of punk and Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name) is a terrific storyteller. He is so much more stylised and now we’re not talking about reality here. I think that he has a larger-than-life kind of style so therefore I thought it was nice to add that to this mix. He is the style version of our Europeans here in this list. While the other ones are gritty and real, he is much more like the fashion guy.
I love the way that he shoots and how he stays on shots for a very long time. I think that he’s very confident in his storytelling. The thing with punk is that sometimes it doesn’t work – but it doesn’t matter because if you want to be bold then you have to accept that it’s not perfect. Kubrick is the opposite of being punk and therefore sometimes I think his films are boring because they’re perfect – I can watch them and go ‘wow it’s amazing’ but do I feel anything? No, I don’t feel anything. I’d rather a film from Luca that is not perfect all the time so that, BOOM, I can feel something. So that’s why I chose this one.
We Are Who We Are is streaming now at SBS On Demand.
I don’t think this is as good as Gomorrah but it’s still the same sort of thing. I think ZeroZeroZero has a great concept but what I like about Gomorrah is that it doesn’t feel smart, it doesn’t feel ‘we have a great set-up’ which I think makes it pure – ZeroZeroZero has a little bit of that set-up. I can hear in my head how it was pitched and that’s a negative thing but because it’s so well done, I still want to know about all of these three different layers. So, I don’t have any problems with it because it is so well done.
ZeroZeroZero is streaming now at SBS On Demand.
Shadowplay premiered with a double episode Thursday 4 March on SBS. Episodes will continue weekly at 9:30pm from Thursday 11 March. New episodes will be available at SBS On Demand each week on the same day as broadcast. Shadowplay will also be subtitled in Simplified Chinese and Arabic, available to stream for free at SBS On Demand. Each subtitled episode will become available at the same time as broadcast. Start with episode 1: