Parallels between HBO’s masterpiece The Wire and Croatian drama The Paper were first made in the local press, with local film critic Jurica Pavicicć noting that every episode opens with a line that a character will later utter – a direct homage to David Simon’s series.
They don’t stop there, though. Besides being set primarily in a newsroom (Wire fans will remember the Baltimore Sun scenes of season five), the series lays out the discord between the characters, their lives and aspirations, and the political and social structures that keep them from growing and progressing.
The Paper is set in a busy news organisation of the same name that has been acquired by an influential and politically conservative building contractor from a powerful family, who wishes for a domestic scandal to be kept out of the headlines and for the left-wing title to endorse a right-wing political candidate.
Some staff members fight for their editorial integrity, while others have their own corrupt connections and internal demons that conflict and compromise them.
“Journalists are usually presented either as saints or hate figures, but this news room is stuck between money and big politics,” says Nebojsa Taraba, partner and content producer at the twelve-part series’ production company, Drugi Plan. “The characters are at the boil and are lost in the politics. They don’t know what to do – they’re stuck with expectations of the public, the profession and their families. Can they react, or is the battle already lost?”
Just as The Wire is considered a radical piece of filmmaking, The Paper has caused uproar in Croatia, where it is scheduled to play on a public television network, HRT1, which is not used to such openly provocative programming. Both the government and HRT management have changed since the series was commissioned in January, meaning a local debut date has not emerged.
Taraba, who created the 12x50mins show with writer Ivica Dikić and Miodrag Sila, says the situation locally means it is all the important the series performs internationally. Keshet International has the global distribution rights, and is planning to pitch an American remake that would involve its Keshet Studios arm.