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Even before it became a primetime sensation last fall, Greek drama “The Beach” had all the elements of a smash hit. Set during the summer of free love in a hippie commune on the island of Crete, the sun-splashed series takes a dark turn with a mysterious murder, setting into motion events that have captivated Greek audiences across more than one hundred episodes to date.

For the creative team at Foss Productions, which co-produced the show with public broadcaster ERT, “The Beach” was an opportunity to push the envelope in a way that hadn’t been done before on Greek television.

“We thought, ‘Let’s try to approach a long-running show in the same way that we approach a mini-series,’” says Orestis Plakias, of the Athens-based outfit behind shows like the Netflix original series “Maestro in Blue” and 2023 Series Mania competition selection “Milky Way.”

“We wanted to introduce something different to the long-running shows,” he continues. “We tried to do it in the most cinematic way. That’s what we do. We love the movies, and we want to do shows that feel like a movie.”

“The Beach,” which is being sold by Beta Film at MipTV, begins on the shores of Crete in 1969 and follows a commune of free-loving hippies whose radical belief system sets it on a collision course with the neighboring island community, which still clings to a more traditional way of life.

That tension, says Vasilis Chrysanthopoulos, of Foss Productions, sets the stage for a series that isn’t simply a murder mystery, but an exploration of political and sexual identity, female emancipation and other themes that are still relevant today. “This series is a vehicle to speak about everything that is important and current right now through a story that was happening in the ’60s,” he says.

After launching on ERT in early September, “The Beach” more than doubled the public broadcaster’s average market share for the primetime slot, catapulting the channel into the top ranks nationwide. It attracted nearly one million viewers to its linear premiere and shattered records for ERTFLIX, the official VOD platform of the local commissioning broadcaster, where it’s garnered more than 20% of the streamer’s total views. Talks are now underway for a second season.

Ferdinand Dohna, executive VP of content for Beta, believes the same elements that made “The Beach” a runaway hit with Greek audiences will resonate with foreign viewers. “It’s a daily, it’s a soap, but it’s shot on location. It has incredible production value. It doesn’t have a period look,” he says. “They’re dealing with topics that are relevant for today.”

Oliver Bachert, chief distribution officer for the Munich-based production and distribution powerhouse, agrees.

“When we [boarded the show last fall], it wasn’t clear how much of a long-running success it would be,” he says. “Having 144 episodes is a different discussion. Now we’re pushing it in very different levels. We’re a little bit more aggressive about that, due to the fact that now we can be confident that this is a long-running success with the proven numbers from Greece.”

“The Beach” is directed by Stefanos Blatsos (“Love After”), Evi Vardaki (“Love After”) and Christos Zacharakis (“Under the Same Roof”). It’s written by Panos Iosifelis, Kostas Gerampinis and George Chrysovitsanos off an idea by Avgi Vagia and Pinelopi Kourtzi, whose book “The Girl With the Snail” inspired the show. The cast includes Danai Michalaki (“Wild Bees”), starring as Hypatia, a London-based doctor coming back to her hometown, where she meets Harry, played by Dimitris Mothonaios (“A Day in the Life of a Teddy Bear”).

“The Beach” has been a primetime sensation for Greek public broadcaster ERT.
Courtesy of Foss Productions

Following on the success of “Maestro in Blue” — which is set to bow its second season on Netflix on May 16 — and the buzzy critical response to “Milky Way” last year in Lille, Foss Productions is not only looking to broaden its slate but expand the possibilities for the burgeoning Greek TV industry.

That requires rethinking the way TV production in the small Mediterranean nation has typically been done. “As an independent production house coming from Greece, it’s not that easy,” says Plakias. “Right now, we’re building the first episodic co-production that starts off from Greece. This has never happened with episodic content.”

“This is the only way to produce big-budget, high-end series in Greece — through European co-productions,” adds the company’s CEO, Stelios Cotionis. “The budgets of Greek broadcasters are quite limited. The only way is to find more money from abroad.”

Partners like Beta Film will go a long way toward achieving that goal. But Dohna insists that the German giant brings a lot more than cash to the table for the burgeoning Greek biz.

“We don’t see our main role as giving financial contribution to Greek producers, but to share our expertise, to share our vision,” he says. “Beta is a company with a very international, European identity. We always operate out of the local markets and try to give a European perspective to different projects and shows. It’s really about collaboration on the project, on the development, right from the start. It’s sharing ideas and bringing people together.”

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