Telefonica’s Flagship Premium Series ‘The Plague’ Aims to Rewrite TV History

Variety | 9/22/2017 | John Hopewell
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Seville, circa 1580. Movistar Plus flagship series “The Plague” begins with the camera gliding near ground level alongside a doctor and a merchant who slop down a muddy lane past hovels and their soiled occupants. It is a shot of technical virtuosity, typical of the kinetic style of director Alberto Rodriguez, but more akin to the big screen than the small.

As the camera pulls back to reveal a shantytown outside a dazzling Seville, the viewer begins to realize the scale of “The Plague,” which makes its world premiere at Spain’s San Sebastian Film Festival later in September, the first TV series in the fest’s official selection.

World - Sales - Rights - Sky - Vision

With world sales rights handled by Sky Vision, “The Plague’s” scale also says much about the production and artistic ambitions of Movistar Plus, the pay TV unit of European telco giant Telefonica, whose 2016 revenues of €52 billion ($62.4 billion) were seven times that of Netflix ($8.83 billion).

Series creator Rodriguez and his long-time producer, José Antonio Felez at Madrid-based Atípica Films (“Unit 7,” “Marshland” and “Smoke and Mirrors”), had originally imagined “The Plague” as a “high-budget feature film,” Felez recalls.

Movistar - Plus - TV - Series

But when they talked to Movistar Plus, they decided to turn it into a TV series.

“We were able to aim for a story which in all senses — scripts, preparation, the shoot, post-production — was nearer to cinema than conventional TV,” he says.

Plague - Empire - Noir - Mateo - Pablo

“The Plague” is Spanish Empire noir, featuring Mateo (Pablo Molinero), a heretic condemned by the Inquisition to burn at the stake. But when an Inquisition member is found murdered in what seems like a demonic ritual, Mateo, a man of culture and deep deductive powers, is offered absolution if he catches the killer.

His investigations take him to Seville’s shanty town, brothels, markets, the palatial splendor of...
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