Belgium’s ‘creative wackiness’ makes thrilling TV, says Guardian


The UK’s Channel 4 is launching a season of Flemish drama series, noting that the British are falling for their ‘slightly surreal, weird quality’

Flanders in four

London’s Guardian newspaper yesterday splashed the headline: “Is Belgium’s drama the new Scandi-noir?” The extensive article offers a run-down of several new Flemish series set to air on Channel 4 this year.

After the success of Clan and Professor T in the UK, Channel 4 has signed on to airing more series – all of them Flemish – and first up is 13 Commandments. The series (pictured), which will also air with the original title 13 geboden on VTM this year, follows a serial killer in Aalst who becomes a social media sensation because he kills only those who are corrupt or cruel.

“I’m very, very excited about what’s coming out of Belgium,” Walter Iuzzolino, responsible for Channel 4’s foreign drama service, told the paper. “What I loved about those shows – which I think is a characteristic of Belgian TV – is the ability to mix genre and tone. It’s unpredictable. You often pretty much know what you’re going to get from a Scandinavian or French show. But there is something about the Belgians that means a show is never entirely straight.”

He goes on to describe Clan, which was renamed Out-laws in the UK, as “Desperate Housewives with a gun” and Professor T as “Ally McBeal-like musical and dream sequences alongside straight police procedural. Their definition of genre is not as narrow as in many TV cultures.”

Split personalities

Besides 13 Commandments, Channel 4 will show New Texas (which aired as Nieuw Texas in Flanders in 2015), Scratch My Back (Voor wat hoort wat from 2014) and Tabula Rasa, which aired here late last year.

New Texas finds four brothers forced to live together under one roof if they want to equally inherit it, while Scratch My Back is about juvenile delinquents assigned to community service at a rest home. The atmosphere-laden Tabula Rasa stars Veerle Baetens as a woman with a disturbing form of memory loss.

“Across the board, Belgian television maintains a slightly surreal, weird quality,” continues Iuzzolino. “And I think it’s because – culturally – the Belgians can never quite commit to only being one thing. There’s someone living a hundred metres away from them, who knocks on their door and is speaking a different language.”

Photo courtesy VTM