Babylon Berlin, Germany’s Break into Prestige Television

A new German television show, Babylon Berlin, the most expensive television series ever filmed in Germany, looks to be a breakout hit both at home and abroad.

Set in 1929 Berlin just before the Great Depression and at the end of the Weimar Republic, the show premiered on October 13 in Germany and will be broadcasted by Sky Atlantic in Great Britain starting this November.

The show is an adaption of the 2007 book Babylon Berlin by German author Volker Kutscher, and, according to producers, is part of a series of historically accurate detective novels set at the end of the Weimar Republic.

According to The Guardian, Babylon Berlin is the most expensive German television series, costing 38 million Euros to produce.

Comparable shows and miniseries such as Generation War or Deutschland 83 do not compare.

Generation War, for example, only cost 10 million euros, roughly one-fourth the cost of Babylon Berlin.

The sheer scale of producing Babylon Berlin required 5,000 extras and 300 different locations during the 180 days of filming in Berlin.

Babylon Berlin seems to be a turning point in the German television industry, which has historically been underrated in comparison to Nordic and British television internationally.    

According to the Financial Times, Babylon Berlin is not the first TV hit to be exported from Germany, it represents a historic shift in the strength of the German TV industry.

While shows such as Deutschland 83 or Generation War were also successful German exports, Babylon Berlin, as aforementioned, establishes a new category due to its record-breaking cost and complexity.

According to The New York Times, 1.2 million people watched Babylon Berlin on its premiere night, a figure only beat by popular HBO series Game of Thrones in Germany.

In addition, Babylon Berlin discusses themes that other German shows have not touched on.

According to The Guardian, “Everything leads to and everyone is going to Berlin, heart of the Weimar Republic. It might be both the best and the worst place, and certainly the most interesting place, in the world between the wars.”

Being set in Berlin, it showcases the various extremes of the end of the Weimar era before the rise of Nazi Germany and the end of Weimar Republic freedoms. Previous shows typically focused on the Cold War period of German history.

Babylon Berlin breaks new ground for German television, not only in production, but also in content, covering an era overlooked by many in the German television industry. Only time will tell if German television will follow in the footsteps of British television with its international reach and acclaim.

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