Many shows have been recently filmed in Berlin, including those who have nothing to do with it, like The Queen’s Gambit, for example. As a filming location, Berlin is one of the most sought-after cities in recent decades.
Photo by: Babylon Berlin
From our conversations with those in a movie production business, we know that filming in Berlin is by far more affordable than in any other European city. That and the history on every corner make Berlin as a location peerless. We’ve already shared our list of favorite movies set in Berlin, now we turn to the TV series.
We start with the biggest and the most acclaimed TV production of the recent years – Babylon Berlin. A masterpiece born from the genius of Volker Kutscher's novels and Tom Tykwer's scripts, it immerses us in the lives of Berlin in the 1920s. If you haven’t seen it yet, we won’t spoil it, but the production of the 4th season is underway. Babylon Berlin co-creator Henk Handloegten shared that season 4 will be based on “Goldstein,” the third book in author Volker Kutsher’s series of Gereon Rath books. It focuses on “a divided city where two worlds are about to collide: the world of the American gangster and the expanding world of Nazism,” according to the book’s synopsis.
3 seasons of Charitéturn the spotlight on Berlin’s infamous hospital, the largest and oldest hospital in Germany, with four campuses taking up 540,000 m2 of land in Berlin. It’s been treating patients for over 3 centuries and also serving as a research facility for the country’s best and brightest doctors, including 8 Nobel Prize winners. The seasons (2017-2021) take us through different time periods: from late 19th century, when the future Nobel Prize winners (Emil von Behring, Robert Koch and Paul Ehrlich) were working side by side in one facility, to the WWII period, when the hospital struggled during the war and the Nazi regime (including against eugenic medical practices), and, finally, with the current season taking us to the days before the Berlin Wall went up overnight in 1961.
4 Blocks, an in-house production by TNT Serie, is a 3-seasons show about an Arab clan in Neukölln. It tells a story of Ali Hamady (played by Kida Khodr Ramadan), who is doing all he can to leave the clan and its criminal business behind for the sake of his family, which proves to be difficult. The cast includes the rappers Massiv and Veysel, whose presence makes this production very realistic and true to the street life of Berlin. Here’s an official video for 4 Blocks, featuring both singers.
The ZDF show Ku'damm 56 (Germany’s answer to Mad Men) is set in the 1950s and tells a story of rather conservative Frau Schöllack, owner of a dance school, who, after her husband disappears, does everything possible to marry off her three daughters Helga, Monica and Eva. The moral ideas of their mother's generation clash with the emancipation and self-liberation of the youth.By the way, this November, Ku’damm 56 comes to Berlin’s stage as the musical.
Dogs of Berlin begins with the murder of a German-Turkish national football player right before a major game. The investigation is spiraling out of control and reveals the dark sides of the city. While the show isn't based on a true story, it is based on very real issues that affect Berlin today, the tension between racial groups, far-right parties, politicians, and police. This 10-episode miniseries runs on Netflix.
Unorthodox is a German-American drama inspired by Deborah Feldman's autobiography and conceived by Berlin-based writers Anna Winger and Alexa Karolinski and movie director (and actress) Maria Schrader. Appraised with multiple Emmy nominations and awards, it tells a story of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish girl who runs away to Berlin from Brooklyn, rejecting her traditional life and conservative beliefs she grew up with. By the way, you can also visit the locations where Esty (main character) sets her foot in Berlin. We’re all hoping there will be a new season.
Another critically acclaimed series Deutschland consists of 3 seasons (you might know them separately as Deutschland 83/86/89). Even though this spy drama is set in the 80s, its creators have used history as a metaphor for contemporary politics. Co-created (as Unorthodox) by Anna Winger, who lives and works in Berlin, the story is about divided world, which is very relevant today. While the other two seasons in the trilogy keep their focus relatively tight on East and West Germany, Deutschland 86 expands its Cold War scope to visit places like Libya and Paris, where geopolitical tensions are manifesting in different ways but are still part of the same global story.
If you haven’t had enough yet, as an appetizer, we recommend The Adlon. A Family Saga, a 3-seasons show that was first broadcasted on German TV back in 2013. This series tells a story behind the infamous Berlin hotel and its family (partially fictional, partially documental), from the time when the hotel was being built in 1904 to its reopening in 1997. It covers various periods of German history, from the German Empire to the WWI, the “golden 20s,” national socialism, WWI and so on, up to the life in Berlin in the 90s. It’s a picturesque series to watch if you want to travel in time, as far as several decades, and cover somewhat recent Berlin’s history in one show.