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Odysseus - Full presentation (pictures, cast, trailer, etc.)

In this post I'll talk about a show I'm intrigued by, Odysseus. Its 12-episode first season will début tomorrow night.

It delves into the return of Ulysses to Ithaca 20 years after he left and the tensions that subsequently arise.

It's a Portuguese-Italian-French co-production that was shot entirely in French, but bear in mind it's possible it will come to other countries, as have great, successful French series over the last few years (Spiral, Braquo, Maison Close, Hard, and Les Revenants - which just had a successful launch on Channel 4 *).

This historical drama series stars :

- Niels Schneider (J'ai tué ma mère, Les amours imaginaires) as Télémaque (Telemachus).
- Caterina Murino (Les Bronzés 3, Casino Royale, La Proie) as Pénélope.
- Alessio Boni (La Meglio Gioventù, Guerre et paix) as Ulysses.
- Karina Testa (Frontière(s), Switch, Canal+'s Kaboul Kitchen) as Cléa.
- Bruno Todeschini (La Délicatesse, Ceux qui m'aiment prendront le train) as Léocrate (Leiocritus).
- Augustin Legrand (13 Tzameti, Les deux mondes) as Antinoos.
- Joseph Malerba (Mesrine: L'ennemi public n°1, Canal+'s Braquo) as Mentor.

Odysseus is created by Frédéric Azemar, writer on Un Village Français, a highly acclaimed historical drama series. It was filmed in studios in Portugal and it has a €12-13 million budget for all 12 episodes — that's $16-17 million - to put it in perspective, the first season of HBO's Rome cost $100-110 million.

Arte is a channel usually airing great/old films and documentaries. But for a few years now, they've started airing series, at first only historical ones, like The Tudors or The Hour, and also miniseries (Parade's End will air this month). But now, they're broadcasting Breaking Bad (after pay-cable channel Orange aired it first), Akta Manniskor (great show, by the way), Borgen, Hatufim, etc.

And after a few noble attempts to create original series (Les Invincibles, Xanadu), Arte got a breakout hit with Ainsi Soient-ils, last fall. It's a very good French show (renewed for a second season) set in the Ecclesiatic world, so you'll understand it's not a bestseller among foreign channels. But Odysseus, with its historical setting, might get more traction abroad.

Now, I'm very much looking forward to show, a lot, I'm glad Arte is producing this type of scripted series that cost them money they don't have a lot of compared to bigger French channels. But this trailer looks a bit cheap, don't you think? The CGI in the "aerial" shot was blatantly obvious, but I wish that was the only issue : in some moments, it kind of looked like it was shot on a stage between three rocks, ten extras and a few costumes. And as for the trailer in itself, just the editing/pacing of it seems a bit off, as well as the phrases appearing on screen in a very amateuristic way, and their use of music isn't very subtle either.

I truly hope it was an unfinished version (it was posted on 24th April) and that the post-production process allowed them to work on labial synchronization (I've noticed moments where it's plain off), and the photography (because the directing doesn't seem hugely inspired either). But it looks it is a false impression of mine since the first reviews have been quite positive. We'll know for sure next Thursday at 8:50pm.

Episode titles and airing dates :

1.01 (13th June) - De l'autre côté de la mer (On the Other Side of the Sea).
1.02 (13th June) - Le duel (The Duel).
1.03 (13th June) - Ulysse est vivant (Ulysses is Alive).
1.04 (20th June) - Faut-il tuer Télémaque ? (Does Telemachus have to be killed?).
1.05 (20th June) - La démocratie contre les barbares (Democracy against the Barbarians).
1.06 (20th June) - Le retour d'Ulysse (The Return of Ulysseus).
1.07 (27th June) - ?
1.08 (27th June) - ?
1.09 (3rd July) - ?
1.10 (3rd July) - ?
1.11 (11th July) - ?
1.12 (11th July) - ?

The 4-disc DVD set of Odysseus is to be released on 19th June, after only 3 of the 12 episodes have aired. Don't ask me why, Arte has also done that weird choice with Akta Manniskor and Hatufim. And neither three of these series are getting Blu-ray sets, sadly — thankfully, Breaking Bad has been released on Blu-ray, and it's impressive from Arte that they got season 5 to be released in France last week on June 5, the same day as in the US.

* Episode 1 of Les Revenants, "Camille", attracted 1.5 million viewers on Channel 4 last Saturday — best ratings for a subtitled program since 2002. It's worth pointing out that a commercial break during the show was composed entirely with ads in French and/or for French products, that's fun.

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