Comparing TV series

If you've read any of the previous entries in this blog you will know I like European drama. I've blogged about a number of shows like the Bridge, 1864, the Killing, Salamander, Unit One, the Protectors and others.

Well some more have been in my viewing crosshairs of late. And I'm going to compare a couple of cross border shows; Crossing Lines and the Last Panthers.

We watched the first two seasons of Crossing Lines in good binge watch style and the show was fantastic. The show featured a pan European team featuring members from France, Italy, Germany, Holland, the UK and the USA. Each week they took on a crime with cross border elements and headed off for another part of Europe (or the USA). Okay, not entirely fair; there are some two parters in there and a bit of a running thread running through the whole.

This second series, the Last Panthers, is a little different in one key regard. It's less of a crime of the week type show instead doing the Killing style single story across a season. The Panthers are a group of criminals whose day is very much behind them; they are mostly dead or imprisoned. One of them is still at large and forms a new group to carry out one more heist - stealing diamonds in France and heading back to Serbia.

Now the basic story is good. The acting is good. The locations are good. The only problem I have regards its focus.

In Crossing Lines the focus is on the cops and the characters that make up the Squad are sympathetic. You care for them. You invest in them. You want them to succeed. And you want to keep watching them.

In the Last Panthers the focus is more heavily skewed towards the diamond thieves; and one of them in particular. Now I'm not against the idea of focussing on the bad guys in a story; it's a perfectly valid angle for a story. It just has to be done well and this isn't done well enough. It's certainly not done well enough for me to want to root for the bad guys.

So we turn to the good guys and they come in two flavours. Firstly we have the French police, and one you policeman in particular. The character is a familiar one; the young cop keen to try anything to solve a case and rubbing an older cop up the wrong way in the process. But it's done in a way that doesn't feel too contrived. The actor playing him is good too. I'd like to see him do something else. My problem is he's just not on screen long enough for me to be able to connect with him well enough.

And this is because there is another set of investigators - these being from the insurance company (or so it seems from the point of view of where I've watched up to. It wouldn't surprise me if they turned out to be something different.)

Now the lead character, a former UN peacekeeping soldier form the flashbacks is played completely unsympathetically. Neither of us liked her character in any way. Even the brief scenes with John Hurt, as brilliant as he was (as ever), rescued this bunch. I don't like them. I would have far preferred a two pronged attack to the story - thieves vs cops. With three it just felt unbalanced. As a result we've stopped watching it (in very disappointed mood).

Boo! Hiss!

There are a couple of ups though to viewing. Because not only are all the regular shows in the process of coming back in (Grimm, Elementary, Arrow, Agent Cater, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. etc) but there's another European crime show on - 100 Code. And this time it's spot on; even the cross border element is done brilliantly.

Essentially a New York cop has chased a serial killer to Sweden. The New York cop is an irascible bugger and not at all inclined to playing nice with the locals. He wants their help but he doesn't want to share with them. Of course it changes and we head into the usual buddy-buddy cop story on the trail of a serious sicko.

Now this show does have characters you can sympathise with - even if it is essentially the cop bromance story from the first Lethal Weapon film. I need to see more of this.

So here's the point; a lesson I guess. If you want to make a cop show focus on the good guys and their inter-relationships. If you want to make a story focussed on the bad guys do it Sopranos style. Don't stop somewhere between the two - not if you want me to watch passed episode two in any case.


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