In these times of voracious television series consumption where platforms like Netflix insist on us watching the latest additions to their catalogue (even though they’re forgotten a week later), it’s more necessary than ever that we become advocates for series classics. They do exist. They’ve been around for decades and conjuring them up is imperative if we are to have a culture of series that goes beyond mere trends. The series classics are the notable deficiency on these platforms and their lack of availability is an obstacle to revisiting them as they deserve. As such, we find ourselves with situations like the release of a sequel to Das Boot without the previous 1985 mini-series (or the 1981 film) available from any platform, or the fact that they’re bringing back The Twilight Zone and the original is nowhere to be found either. Or, this year is the 50th anniversary of The Prisoner and it’s pointless to analyse its legacy if modern-day audiences don’t have access to recover it, either via streaming or on DVD (of course, the mediocre 2009 remake is out there).
In this context, it is especially gratifying that Filmin has recovered Berlin Alexanderplatz, which has been available for a few days now on the platform renowned for its firm commitment to the criterion of quality above all other considerations. This mini-series is R.W. Fassbinder’s television masterpiece. The director worked extensively in television in the early 70’s (like many directors of New German Cinema the ARD channel provided a platform for) and returned to TV in 1980 to make this adaptation of the novel by Alfred Döblin, which he had been obsessing over for years. Rumour has it that he became so engrossed with character of Franz Biberkopf, an ex-convict who leaves Tegel prison with the intention of becoming a “new man”, that he frequently argued with actor Günter Lamprecht who played the role. The mini-series captured the lumpen mood of the novel and the politically convulsive climate of the Weimar Republic Berlin perfectly and became a milestone in German television, which since this point they have been incapable of repeating, despite recent efforts like Babylon Berlin.